A Royal Marine is to receive the highest award for gallantry after jumping on a hand grenade to save the lives of three of his comrades.
Royal Marine who jumped on grenade awarded George Cross
Royal Marine Matthew Croucher who jumped on grenade awarded George Cross
Royal Marine Matthew Croucher, from Birmingham, 'fully expected' to lose a limb but was willing to make the sacrifice 'if I could keep my torso and head intact'
By Thomas Harding Defence Correspondent 5:37PM BST 22 Jul 2008
L/Cpl Matthew Croucher will become part of a select of group of just 20 living George Cross holders when the Queen awards him the medal, which is given for acts showing the same level of heroism as the Victoria Cross.
The Marine had less than seven seconds to make up his mind on whether to risk sacrificing his own life to save his friends when the hand grenade rolled onto the ground during an operation in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Without hesitating he chose to chance death and save his three fellow Royal Marines.
Now he has been awarded the George Cross, the highest decoration for bravery while not in the face of the enemy, which is surpassed only by the award of the Victoria Cross for thehighest level of bravery in the face of the enemy.
"It was a case of either having four of us as fatalities or badly wounded-or one," he said after the incident last February in Helmand province
Hero marine 'would jump on grenade again' 23 Jul 2008
The George Cross 22 Jul 2008
Council turns down soldiers' charity 22 Jul 2008
L/Cpl Croucher, 24, was part of a company of 40 Commando sent to investigate a suspected Taliban bomb-making factory near the town of Sangin when he set off the trip-wire booby-trap that unleashed the deadly grenade.
"I thought, 'I've set this bloody thing off and I'm going to do whatever it takes to protect the others,'" he said.
The Marine then shouted "Grenade. Take cover" to three men close to the bomb.
"I knew a grenade like this has a killing circumference of about five metres," he said. "I'd been through this scenario in my mind and realised there was nowhere to take cover-there's no point running off because you're going to catch shrapnel.
"The lads behind me would have caught a lot too."
The serviceman, from Birmingham, "fully expected" to lose a limb but was willing to make the sacrifice "if I could keep my torso and head intact".
He dived onto the floor, rolled over and used his backpack - containing a 66mm rocket, a large lithium battery and medical kit - to cover the lethal shrapnel fragments from the coming blast.
When the bang went off he was thrown through the air and suffered just a nose bleed.
"It took 30 seconds before I realised I was definitely not dead," he said.
The astonished Marines looked on as L/Cpl Croucher's body armour and backpack shielded everyone from the blast which caused a few cuts and bruises.
L/Cpl Croucher was examined by a medic who recommended he should be evacuated but the Marine, who has completed three tours of Iraq, was determined to stay to fight the Taliban and within an hour had shot an insurgent approaching their position.
In an earlier instance of bravery the Marine attended a comrade shot in the chest preventing his lungs from collapsing while under fire for 45 minutes.
"Bullets were landing everywhere and at one stage a rocket-propelled grenade landed three metres from us. It injured four other guys," he later said.
L/Cpl Croucher has kept his backpack as a trophy of the day he "beat the grim reaper".
"When I see it I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am," he said.
Published December 6, 2017