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I am conscious that I do not want ATW to be seen as a site that always complains about things and never expresses appreciation. So I wanted to bring you this story about a Royal Marine who threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades’ lives and who is to receive the George Cross.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 24, from Solihull, in the West
Midlands triggered a trip wire in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in
February. He immediately dropped to the ground and lay across the grenade, being blown into the air as it went off.  The George Cross is one of the highest decorations that can be awarded for acts of gallantry. L/Cpl Croucher said: “All I could do in the moment was shout out ‘grenade’ before diving on top of it.” His bag was crammed with equipment which cushioned the
explosion. His three comrades suffered just cuts and bruises while
L/Cpl Croucher was thrown in the air.

Amazingly Matthew did not die, or even suffer severe injuries. In that moment, when he realised that the grenade was to detonate most likely killing him and his colleagues, he acted in an incredibly courageous manner. I salute him, you too I hope – he typifies the BEST of British.

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41 thoughts on “THE BEST OF BRITISH…

  1. I really love stories like this….brave men in uniform doing heroic things in the line of duty.

    Run more of these David.

  2. David –

    A fine post to come home to. Good to see that long-suffering Blighty can still produce the best of’em.

    Seamus –

    The Victoria Cross wouldn’t be appropriate. The VC is awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy". The George Cross is of equal status to the VC and awarded for valour "not in the face of the enemy".

    The VC takes precedence and is worn first, but they are of equal status for valour.

  3. I always thought the George Cross was an award for civilian acts of valour in wartime. However, whatever cross he has been awarded he truely deserves it. Perhaps he could also be introduced to those Portsmouth coincillors mentioned in another post today…

  4. His bravery shines especially when you consider the likes of this:

    Staff Sergeant Mark McKay (35) made profits of more than £200,000 in just 12 weeks by selling alcohol to thousands of Coalition colleagues serving in Iraq, a court has heard.

    The trial was told Mr McKay kept £100,175 of his “profits” in a terracotta plant pot outside his front door in Ballykelly.

    He set up his personal “retail facility” in 2003 when attached to the SAS during the Gulf War.

  5. Colm –

    The picture is grey rather than black and white. The GC is a civilian honour, which is awarded to military personnel in appropriate circumstances. The VC may be awarded to civilians acting under military command. The circumstances, whether or not the act was committed "in the face of the enemy", dictate the award.

  6. GOSH!

    What relevence does that story have to this post. And anyway frankly the soldier whome you mention in that comment seems to me to be quite an entreprenurial individual.

  7. I always thought that the George’s Cross was a Civilian Award at all times and a Military Award during peace time. I feel the fact that the Government are awarding the George’s Cross instead of the Victoria Cross is just to make sure that no one thinks fighting Terrorism is a war.

  8. Was the grenade from Coalition Forces or from the Taliban? Because if it was from the Taliban then surely it is valour in the face of the enemy.

  9. Colm the post is titled the best of British. And I agree and said ‘especially when you consider this’, which was an example of the worst of British. A soldier who stole money (£100K) of military funds.

  10. Gosh!

    Ah that’s bit more information there. The bit you posted didn’t mention anything about him stealing money. Besdies, isn’t it abit churlish to spoil a tribute to a genuinely brave and selfless man by mentioning those who are the opposite.

  11. Hey Daphne!

    I’m back, bronzed and bloated. And if I don’t get back to work soon I’ll be broke too. The holiday was lovely thanks, the sun shone and I did nothing but laze about. I even managed to bag a row of seats to myself on the flight back, and travelling from Malaga to Stansted in the summer, that’s a bonus you don’t expect.

    Anyway, that’s summer done with, bring on the snow.

  12. I don’t think so. It certainly wasn’t done in that spirit. Quite the opposite.

  13. Pete- Bet you’re looking fine and handsome. I’m glad you’re home, I’ve missed your scathing and pithy commentary.

  14. One of my shameless favorite movies is Zulu, which details the events involved in the awarding of 13 (?) Victoria Crosses.

  15. Daphne: LOL. The Zulus are actually treated with dignity in the movie which has many lines about their bravery and admiration for their culture. Fantastic cast, and great Men of Harleth moment with singing Welshmen.

    Perhaps I am merely a closet colonialist.

  16. Charles – I understand our invasion of the Old World will be in two landings. Too bad we could have met at Hadrian’s Wall. I smile at the thought of you unreconstructed confederate self being called a Yank for your whole trip.

    My dad turned me on to the movie years ago.

  17. Mahons, not since 1066 will such tidings be seen in those isles. My London intinery is shaping up nicely, but as Alison said, my net worth will drop by half when I step off at Heathrow!

  18. Charles: Too true, I face the Euro in Ireland and the pound in Scotland and Debtor’s Prison upon my return home. You’ll love London – it is impossible not to.

  19. Way to go L/Cpl Croucher! You exemplify all that’s good about the youth of the free world.

    The U.S. Marine Corps has a saying:

    "When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend."

  20. Mahons –

    Eleven VCs were awarded after Rorke’s Drift, when 150 fine chaps of the 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot passed a pleasant afternoon and evening with 4000 zulus ("Zulus, sir! Fahsands of ’em!").

    This was at a time when they weren’t awarded posthumously. No doubt about being in the face of the enemy there.

  21. Thanks Pete, I thought 13 was an unlucky number. Thanks to you I also have Flashman’s account.

  22. Now that is one fine photograph.

    Lance Corporal Croucher is playing with house money for the rest of his life.

    Semper fi.

  23. It’s even better when a soldier gets a medal that is not posthumously awarded.

    Johnson BeHarry survived in Iraq to received the VC only three years ago; the first for 20 years.

    Before him it was Colonel H Jones. (somewhat controversially some say).

    Brave men all.

  24. This was an heroic act. I would like to think the Lance Corporal will not be a Lance Corporal for much longer. Promote him!

    Private William McFadzean – a native of Lurgan, Co Armagh – died in identical circumstances in a trench at Thiepval, France on 1st July 1916. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

    ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.’

  25. Interesting comparison Lurgan Man – Your opinion of the treatment by Unionists in NI ofthe only NI VC winner in WWII?

    "For the benefit of those who never read my book, they need to understand the historical mythology of working class mindset of Protestant Belfast, were heroism is based on Orange military romanticism, from the 1690 Boyne, the 1798 rebellion to the 36th Ulster Division’s VC heroes of WW1 and the 1916 Battle of the Somme. That is one of the cliches of Ulster’s Protestant culture re-acted out annually by 3000 Orange parades during the marching season. *We are the heroes, we are the best and we always win, no surrender* Having a Catholic hero who won the only VC since the state was formed in 1922 did not fit that image. So Belfast’s only WW2 VC hero James Magennis a Catholic, born in West Belfast was politically airbrushed out of history and forgotten since the early 1950’s. I intended to change that myth, first by writing ‘Magennis VC’ and secondly campaigning for an official memorial to the VC navy hero"


    The best of British?

  26. Over three hours later and still no response?

    Things have got awfully quiet on this thread !

  27. I was fascinated by Magennis’ story when I heard of it years ago. Lots of detail here.

    A tip of the cap to Megennis, and also to those who painted the mural in Tullycarnet.


  28. Hello Phantom my friend, nice to speak with you again.

    As a native of the West of the city I have to say that I’m not aware of any mural in the east re James Maggenis VC but I’ll bow to your supeior knowledge, suffice to say I think that it’s a tad overdue.

    If you want to know about the heroism and hardships of Maggenis’s life I strongly reccomend George Fleming’s book

  29. "When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend."

    Having handled the odd grenade or two in my time i think a better version of the above might be….

    "When the pin is pulled, RUN !"

  30. Paul

    I don’t remember where I first heard of this story. I had thought it was in the NY Times, but I can’t find it.

    I may well look for the book.

    Cheers to mahons, probably in the air to Ireland as we speak.

  31. Paul,

    I could not get on the computer again last night – kids!

    I mentioned McFadzean because of the Lurgan connection.

    I salute James Magennis equally!

    ‘At the going down of the sun we will remember them – Protestant and Roman Catholic alike.’

    What more can I say?

  32. I raise my hat to him too!


    "I was fascinated by Magennis’ story when I heard of it years ago. Lots of detail here.

    A tip of the cap to Megennis, and also to those who painted the mural in Tullycarnet.


    I remember on another forum someone talking about this and the excitement arround it and the delight when it finally came to pass – great stuff!!

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