Dr Johnson Gideon Beharry VC
Dr Johnson Gideon Beharry VC (born 26 July 1979(1979-07-26), in Grenada), of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, is a British Army soldier who, on 18 March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour in the British and Commonwealth armed forces, for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes on 1 May and again on 11 June 2004 at Al-Amarah, Iraq. He sustained serious head injuries in the latter engagement. Beharry was formally invested with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on 27 April 2005. Beharry is the first recipient of the Victoria Cross since the posthumous awards to Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay for service in the Falklands War in 1982. He is the first living recipient of the VC since Keith Payne and Rayene Stewart Simpson, both Australian, for actions in Vietnam in 1969, and the first living recipient of the VC in the British Army since Rambahadur Limbu, a Gurkha, in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965. He is one of only six living recipients of the VC, and the youngest.
Beharry joined the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in August 2001. After training at Catterick, he became a driver of Warrior armoured vehicles in C Company, 1st Battalion. Prior to Iraq, he served for six months in Kosovo and three months in Northern Ireland.
Actions in Iraq
On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior Tracked Armoured Vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Pte. Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior vehicle of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets hit the vehicle incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering when he was awarded the VC in March 2005. He suggested on at least one occasion that he would return to military service if physically able.
The full citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 18 March 2005 and commented, “Private Beharry carried out two individual acts of great heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades. Both were in direct face of the enemy, under intense fire, at great personal risk to himself (one leading to him sustaining very serious injuries). ... Beharry displayed repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action.”
Johnson Beharry is still serving in the British Army and is currently employed as a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) in a recruiting role.
On 26 September 2006 it was reported that he has been promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.
In February 2007 his portrait was presented to the National Portrait Gallery in London by the artist Emma Wesley (born the same year as Beharry) and has since become part of the gallery’s collection.
On 19 May 2007 Beharry brought the FA Cup onto the field at the new Wembley Stadium before the final between Chelsea and Manchester United.
On 11 November 2008 Beharry acted as an escort to 110 year-old Harry Patch, one of only three British survivors (on that date) of World War I, at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended that conflict. On 11 November 2009, Beharry, and Mark Donaldson—the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia—handed a wreath to the Queen during a service in Westminster Abbey which marked the deaths in 2009 of the last three veterans of World War I resident in the United Kingdom, Bill Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch. The wreath was then laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.