Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 12:00 UK

Grenade hero awarded George Cross

L/Cpl Matthew Croucher with his ripped backpack
L/Cpl Matthew Croucher with his backpack, torn by the grenade

A Royal Marine who threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades' lives is to receive the George Cross.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 24, from Solihull, in the West Midlands triggered a trip wire in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in February.

He immediately dropped to the ground and lay across the grenade, being blown into the air as it went off.

The George Cross is one of the highest decorations that can be awarded for acts of gallantry.

L/Cpl Croucher said: "All I could do in the moment was shout out 'grenade' before diving on top of it."

His bag was crammed with equipment which cushioned the explosion. His three comrades suffered just cuts and bruises while L/Cpl Croucher was thrown in the air.

He acted to save his comrades in the most certain knowledge that he would not himself survive
Sir Jock Stirrup

He added: "It was incredible. I escaped with only a nose bleed and a headache."

L/Cpl Croucher, a reservist, is one of 20 living recipients of the award.

Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup said: "He acted to save his comrades in the most certain knowledge that he would not himself survive.

"His exemplary behaviour and extreme heroism are fully deserving of the nation's highest recognition."

His parents said they had had no idea what had happened to him.

'Might meet Queen'

His mother Margaret Croucher, 55, a teacher in Birmingham, said she got three text messages from him while he was away, one of which read: "Being put forward for a citation, might meet the Queen."

She said: "Obviously I was very intrigued but we didn't get the full story until he got back and we read about it in the papers.

"I am obviously immensely proud but it was a typical act from him. It was not the first time he had put his life at risk."

His father, Richard, 57, described him as a very "lucky man".

L/Cpl Croucher is expected to receive his honour from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the autumn.

He was deployed to Afghanistan attached to Taunton-based 40 Commando Royal Marines last autumn.

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Birrell, the unit's commanding officer, said: "This was a magnificent act which absolutely typified the highest traditions of commando service."


L/Cpl Matthew Croucher explains how he felt as the grenade went off

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