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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 12:21 GMT
George Cross for Iraq bomb hero
Captain Peter Norton with wife Sue
Capt Norton's wife said she was 'very proud'
An army bomb disposal officer credited with saving seven lives by instructing troops as he lay wounded from a bomb blast has been given the George Cross.

Capt Peter Norton, 43, of Gloucester, lost a leg in the blast near Baghdad in July, and later part of an arm.

But as he lay seriously injured he continued to instruct his team on where they could move - a further bomb was discovered 10m away and made safe.

The George Cross is the highest medal for bravery with the enemy not present.

It ranks alongside the Victoria Cross, given for an act in the presence of an enemy.

Capt Norton, confined to a wheelchair following the incident, is only the 22nd British armed forces member to receive the George Cross since 1945.

In command

On 24 July last year, he was leading a team at the scene of an earlier blast, in the Al Bayaa district near Baghdad, which killed four members of a three-vehicle US patrol.

I could have relaxed and died but then my wife and kids came to mind
Capt Peter Norton

Having been briefed about the threat of further explosions, Captain Norton, of the Royal Logistics Corps, alone went forward to confirm whether a wire to more explosives was present.

His citation reads: "With a complete understanding of the potential hazard to himself and knowing that the insurgents had used secondary devices before in the particularly dangerous part of Iraq, Capt Norton instructed his team and the US forces present in the area to remain with their vehicle while he alone went forward to confirm whether a command wire was present."

An explosion shortly afterwards caused extensive injuries to his legs, arms and lower abdomen.

But he continued to instruct his team - even before he allowed them to administer first aid.

Find out more about Britain's bravery medals

"Despite having sustained grievous injuries he remained in command and coolly directed the follow-up actions.

"It is typical of the man that he ignored his injuries and regarded the safety of his men as paramount as they administered life-saving first aid to him," the citation says.

Capt Norton's actions prevented the deaths of at least seven soldiers, said his commanding officer, Lt Col Robert Seddon.

Lt Col Seddon disabled the bomb subsequently found nearby and has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

'Life or death'

Capt Norton, a married father-of-two who lives at RAF Innsworth in Gloucester, broke down in tears as he recalled the events.

"I remember stepping on the device and flying through the air before calling out for a medic," he said.

"After I hit the ground it was really life or death for me. I could have relaxed and died but then my wife and kids came to mind."

Capt Norton's actions have been exemplary in every respect and he thoroughly deserves this award
General Sir Mike Jackson
He told BBC News: "I was not aware of any great feeling of pain - a numbness, feeling that things were not quite right, but apart from that, still able to function.

"I could talk and hear the guys around me, see them. I was just able to keep going."

Capt Norton's wife Sue said she was "very proud" of her husband, and that their sons - Thomas, three, and one-year-old Toby - considered their father a hero.

"Initially I couldn't take the boys to see him because he was in intensive care but now we have come to deal with what has happened," she said.

Capt Norton with Lt Col Robert Seddon (left) and Capt Simon Bratcher
Several medal recipients served in Iraq
The head of the British army, General Sir Mike Jackson, said: "His actions have been exemplary in every respect and he thoroughly deserves this splendid award of the George Cross."

Capt Norton is among 70 members of the armed forces being given medals for their role in operations around the world.

The roll of honour includes women and men who served in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Defence Secretary John Reid said: "These individuals have shown outstanding courage, bravery and tenacity in the face of the enemy or in particularly dangerous circumstances.

"They have shown exceptional commitment to their country and their heroic actions fill me with a great sense of humility and pride."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Captain Norton talks about how he lost his leg



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