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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 20:45 GMT
Teenage hero wins bravery award
By Margaret Ryan
BBC News Online

A 19-year-old has become one of the youngest recipients of the George Cross for his courage during a "friendly fire" attack in the Iraq war.

Trooper Christopher Finney received the honour for gallantry after he rescued one of his troop and tried in vain to reach another soldier when their two armoured vehicles were mistakenly hit by US warplanes around 25 miles (40km) north of Basra.

Trooper Christopher Finney
Trooper Finney: Numb at winning accolade
The young soldier, of the Blues and Royals, was only 18 with less than a year's army experience at the time of the incident.

He is one of more than 374 servicemen and women who has been honoured by the Queen for their courage during the war.

More than 50 civilians have also been given awards for their contribution.

Trooper Finney, from Marple, Greater Manchester, recalled how adrenalin took over as he responded to his and another vehicle being hit by the American A-10 warplanes as he drove along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in March.

"I didn't know what had happened. The gunner was screaming."

First aid

He reversed the Scimitar but hit the vehicle behind.

He tried to get his rifle but his vehicle was engulfed in flames.

The soldier's next thought was to get his colleague out of the turret where he was trapped.

He gave first aid to the gunner, who had been injured in the head, and dragged him to safety, despite being struck himself by shrapnel in his buttocks and legs.

Trooper Finney then returned to the burning vehicle.

"I got the headsets, banged them on and gave a situation report," he said.

POSTHUMOUS AWARDS
Lieutenant Anthony King, Royal Navy
Lance Corporal Barry Stephens - Black Watch
Fusilier Kelan Turrington - Royal Regiment of Fusiliers

Trooper Finney tried to reach Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull who was in the other vehicle but was beaten back by smoke, and exploding ammunition.

"I was gutted because he was a friend but there was nothing I could do."

Asked if he would do it all again, he said: "I wouldn't like to be in the same position again."

American pilot

Still numb with shock at receiving the accolade, the trooper, who was with the Household Cavalry Regiment, said he knew it was a "friendly fire incident" but added: "These things happen."

But asked if he had an opinion of the American pilot, he replied: "I do, but it would be unfair to say."

Senior aircraftsman Christian Tobin
Everything went quiet. It was quite surreal
Senior aircraftsman Christian Tobin
Senior aircraftsman Christian Tobin, from RAF St Mawgan near Newquay, was also commended for his bravery after he rescued one of his best friends.

The 23-year-old was on a reconnaissance mission when one of his patrol's Land Rovers hit an anti-tank mine after they mistakenly entered an Iraqi minefield.

The driver of that Land Rover was thrown out of the vehicle and his passenger struck by shrapnel.

Mr Tobin told BBC News Online how he acted to help his friend, senior aircraftsman Nathan Huddy, who had suffered shrapnel wounds and fractured his left ankle.

"Everything went quiet. It was quite surreal. I got onto the radio straight away."

Proud soldier

He also crossed the minefield to reach the vehicle's driver and give him first aid.

Mr Tobin, originally from Eastbourne, said he was proud to have been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

"But I was on leave and got a call to come back into the office and wondered what I had done wrong," he said.

OTHER AWARDS
Lieutenant Commander Phil Ireland
Lieutenant Commander Phil Ireland (above) HMS Brocklesby - Distinguished Service Cross
Air Chief Marshal Brian Burridge Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB)
Colonel Tim Collins Royal Irish Regiment - OBE
Lance Corporal Justin Thomas 40 Commando, Royal Marines - Conspicuous Gallantry Cross
Colonel Mike Riddell-Webster Black Watch - Distinguished Service Order
Lieutenant Commander Phil Ireland was the commanding officer of HMS Brocklesby when the ship helped clear the waterways of mines to allow humanitarian aid into the port of Umm Qasr.

"The weather for 24 hours was atrocious.

"The waters were badly charted. The wind was 60 knots," he told BBC News Online.

In the course of clearing the mines, he also rescued two sailors trapped in high winds.

But he did not feel fear throughout the operation.

The father-of-three, originally from Renfrewshire, in Scotland, said: "You spend so long training for this you are ready to do your job."

The 40-year-old said receiving the the Distinguished Service Cross was fantastic for the ship's crew, but he added: "I accept it humbly because people died in the war. It is not something I am going to have a party about."

Mortar attack

Captain Paul Lynch, who won the Military Cross, for his courage during a night assault on the Al-Faw peninsula put his team's success down to training and luck.

As a commanding officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines, he came under enemy mortar attack for the first time in his military career.

The 29-year-old's troop found itself in the thick of the action when they were ambushed in the peninsula assault.

The newly-wed, who married his wife Juliet in August, said that despite his troop being set upon by rocket propelled grenades, no one was seriously injured.

"One bloke's helmet was hit and flew off.

"It was a combination of being well trained, being aggressive and being lucky," he said.




SEE ALSO:
Iraqis protest at US 'terrorism'
10 Oct 03  |  Middle East


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