I'd do it again says George Cross Marine

Click to follow

A Royal Marine receiving the George Cross for throwing himself on an exploding grenade said today he would "definitely do it again".

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 24, from Solihull, Birmingham, said he believed he was going to die at least 12 times during his service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Croucher initially jumped on his front when he triggered a trip wire during a mission in Helmand province.

He said: "But I knew I would definitely die, I had to flip on to my back."

L/Cpl Croucher, a bachelor whose father and grandparents were in the armed forces, added: "Of course I would do this again - I believed I was going to die on many other occasions, probably at least 12."

L/Cpl Croucher has served twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan.

Remembering the incident in February this year, he told how he only had a split second to warn his comrades.

He said: "I felt the trip wire hit my shins. You know immediately what that means. 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.

He added: "It was incredible. I escaped with only a nose bleed and a headache.

"Afterwards, as I was receiving treatment, I remembered an episode of (TV series) Soldier Soldier when I was a teenager.

"One of them had to do exactly the same as what I had done. I don't think they came off as well as I did."

He described his award, which ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for acts of gallantry, as the most "overwhelming honour".

His parents Margaret, 55, and Richard, 57, said they had no idea what had happened until their son returned to the UK in April.

Mrs Croucher, a teacher from Birmingham, said she received three text messages while he was away, one of which read: "Being put forward for a citation, might meet the Queen."

She said: "Obviously I was very intrigued but we didn't get the full story until he got back and we read about it in the papers. I am obviously immensely proud but it was a typical act from him. It was not the first time he had put his life at risk."

His father described him as a very "lucky man".

Mr Croucher added: "You could say he is jammy - we have since been told about a series of other incidents when his life has been on the line.

"It is hard to believe he is still only 24."

L/Cpl Croucher, who will receive the GC from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the autumn, said there was a four to five-second wait as he lay on top of the device.

He said: "It was the most agonising wait of my life. I just had to hope that my bag was packed properly to cushion the explosion."

L/Cpl Croucher, a reservist who runs his own risk assessment business, said he does not know when he is likely to return to action.

He added: "I am ready and willing."

L/Cpl Croucher, serving with the Commando Reconnaissance Force based out of Forward Operating Base Robinson, was leading a group of four officers searching for Taliban explosives when he triggered the device on February 9.

After he leapt on the grenade, the blast was absorbed by his bag, which was almost completely destroyed, including a large battery which "set off like a flare".

The MoD said his colleagues would almost certainly have died had it not been for his actions.

Describing the act as the most "extraordinary" piece of heroism, Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, said: "He acted to save his comrades in the almost certain knowledge that he would not himself survive. His exemplary behaviour and supreme heroism are fully deserving of the nation's highest recognition."

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said: "The Royal Marines continue to conduct themselves with exemplary professionalism and bravery in Afghanistan.

"The extraordinary action by L/Cpl Matthew Croucher epitomises the ethos of selfless devotion to duty, courage and comradeship that prevails with the Royal Marines.

"This was an exceptional act of outstanding bravery that undoubtedly saved lives of his fellow Marines."

The MoD said he was the first reservist to receive either a Victoria Cross or George Cross since current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

He was deployed to Afghanistan attached to Taunton-based 40 Commando Royal Marines last autumn.

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Birrell, the unit's commanding officer, said: "This was a magnificent act which absolutely typified the highest traditions of commando service."