Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 11:48 UK

Soldier loses beauty queen battle

Katrina Hodge
Katrina Hodge is a part-time model and a soldier in the British Army

A serving female soldier from Kent has missed out on the top prize at the Miss England final.

L/Cpl Katrina Hodge, 21, from Tunbridge Wells, was nicknamed Combat Barbie after being commended for her bravery in Iraq.

Miss Derby, 22-year-old graduate Laura Coleman, was crowned Miss England in the final of the beauty competition.

L/Cpl Hodge said that taking to the catwalk was more nerve-wracking than going to a war-zone.

Collecting her prize, she said: "I am an ambassador for the whole of the armed forces.

"Obviously, I have had a bit of stick from the lads.

"I have been to Iraq and there is nothing scarier than walking on this stage."

Family tradition

L/Cpl Hodge was given a bravery commendation in 2005 for saving the lives of members of her Hampshire-based regiment in Iraq.

They were held at gunpoint when their vehicle overturned but L/Cpl Hodge punched the gunman and took his rifles.

Miss Coleman said it was her "dream" to win the title.

"It's great to support Derby and do my parents proud," she said.

Winner Laura Coleman
Winner Laura Coleman comes from a family of beauty queens

"My mum and my grandmother are both beauty queens so it's a family tradition. It really is my dream to do this."

She received the crown and flowers from Georgia Horsley, last year's victor.

Miss Surrey, Chloe Marshall, 17, from Cranleigh - the first size 16 girl to reach this final of the competition - won second place.

Before the final, the trainee opera singer said she wanted to enter the competition "to show everyone that you can be beautiful no matter what size you are and that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes".

The judging panel included Hollyoaks actor Chris Fountain and actress Ravi Singh.

Miss Coleman will go on to represent England at the Miss World competition in Kiev, Ukraine, in October.

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