UNIFORMED services students at Yorkshire Coast College were treated to an inspirational talk by Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry – the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in over 30 years.
The visit was organised following a college trip to Leeds Royal Armouries and tutor Gary Taylor said the youngsters had really been looking forward to it.
LCpl Beharry, of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was awarded the Victoria Cross in March 2005 for saving members of his unit from ambushes on two separate occasions at Al-Amarah, Iraq.
He sustained serious head injuries and at the time was only given a one per cent chance of survival.
To a standing-room-only audience, the 32 year old soldier gave an amazing account of how he had come from a humble background in Grenada and – after a somewhat misspent youth – joined the army in an attempt to turn his life around.
LCpl Beharry told students about the two occasions his unit was ambushed in Iraq and his actions which led to him receiving the Victoria Cross.
He said he can remember everything about the first incident, which happened on May 1, 2004, but nothing about the second.
LCpl Beharry and his unit had taken an alternative route due to a roadblock and found themselves in the middle of an ambush.
He said: “We got hit by an Iraqi grenade and we were under machine gun fire.
“The vehicle was on fire and I didn’t know if the other guys in the vehicle were alive.”
The smoke was making it almost impossible to see, so LCpl Beharry opened the hatch in the middle of the attack, drove through a wall, over a mine and carried on until the road was clear.
He said: “When I saw the bullets coming, the only way I can describe it is like the Matrix movie.
“Everything slowed down and every second seemed like an hour.”
Despite being injured, LCpl Beharry carried all members of his unit to safety. He then got back into the burning Warrior vehicle to disable the intelligence and weaponry on board, to make sure it did not fall into enemy hands.
During the second incident, on June 11, 2004, a rocket propelled grenade hit the Warrior vehicle he was travelling in, six inches from his head, he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain and at one point his aunt was flown over from the UK to turn off his life support.
But following a brain operation and reconstructive surgery on his face, LCpl Beharry learnt to walk, speak and eat again.
Since then he has appeared on Dancing on Ice, met Barack Obama and had lunch with the Queen on more than one occasion. LCpl Beharry now travels the world as a public figure representing the British Army and gives regular talks to young people. “Today I have the most amazing life,” he said.