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Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 11:48 UK
Soldier tells of picking up Military Cross
By Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Matthew Turrall
Matthew Turrall received his Military Cross at Buckingham Palace on Friday, 2 July

"I felt good about myself that I have done something. It made me think about home and obviously my children."

That was how a soldier from the Irish Guards felt after rescuing four children and an old man from a fire fight in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Matthew Turrall will pick up his Military Cross on Friday, 2 July at Buckingham Palace.

His wife Michelle is going with him and spoke to BBC Radio Berkshire's Andrew Peach on the morning of the event.

She said: "I'm very excited but haven't got long to get ready."

Joy, Matthew and Michelle Turrall
Matthew took his mother Joy and wife Michelle to the ceremony

"The make-up doesn't take too long to do on Matt," she laughed.

Matt spoke to BBC Radio Berkshire on the day he found out he won the award for bravery.

He was at a patrol base with the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan in May 2009 when his team were fired on by gunmen.

Fire fight

They were asked to go forward to clear Bashran, north of Lashkar Gahand, and were in a fire fight where civilians were involved.

Sgt Turrall who is 28 years old, made a decision which would serve to save their lives.

"We were going to be attacked by heavy guns, so we all stood to the walls and as we were about to start fighting a car pulled up with four young children and an old man," he said.

"As they got out of the car [the gunmen] started firing at us and [the civilians] were caught in the cross fire.

From my position I could see all this and the kids were getting down on the floor and the old man was crying trying to get the kids into him.
Sgt Matthew Turrall

"From my position I could see all this and the kids were getting down on the floor and the old man was crying trying to get the kids into him.

"They were outside the base, 100 metres away; they were all on the floor. So I went out and grabbed them and dragged them into the patrol base, the old man grabbed two and I grabbed two.

"There was a gully and I got them into that and started fighting forward to get them.

"When I got to them, I got them into the gully and pushed back with them. It was minutes but it felt like a long time."

All the time guns were being fired over their heads and once the four boys, aged between three and 10, were safe it was only then Sgt Turrall could reflect.

Butterflies and shivers

"I got butterflies and shivers and that excited feeling because you don't realise until you get back, then it sort of hits you what you just done.

"I felt good about myself that I have done something. It made me think about home and obviously my children.

"One of the lads had a cut on his back and my mates came out and gave him some water and food and calmed him down a bit.

"They gave them toys - footballs and books. I put them in one of the rooms and got the medics to give them some food and water.

Sergeant Matthew Turrall has been awarded a Military Cross for bravery
Sgt Matthew Turrall talks to BBC Radio Berkshire's Faye Harland in Kenya

"I had to go back to the fire fight and I haven't seen them again."

For his bravery he has been awarded the Military Cross.

"It's a bit surreal. When I mention it, I smile. It's exciting and I'm proud of myself but a little bit embarrassed as it's quite surreal."

Sgt Turrall, who joined the army in 1999, said: "I've told the wife to go get a dress and a hat."

On the day he was told he got the award, Sgt Turrall admitted he hadn't told many people.

"I don't want to start bragging about it. My boss knows and he is proud as punch.

"You get a citation written by an officer and that gets put up to your company commander.

"Then its gets sent off to somebody and they decide what it warrants - I've warranted a Military Cross."

Military history

Military historian Richard Holmes explained how the Army is not "easy with medals".

"They are not chucked out like confetti," he said. "The Military Cross is very hard to get.

"One of the good things about being hard on medals is that they do mean things.

"The minute you see that purple and white ribbon on someone's chest - they have done the business."

Across the British Forces, 16 Military Cross awards were given out last year.

Sgt Turrall who has two children, Oliver, aged two, and Izabel, aged six months, explained his motivation to rescue the civilians in Bashran.

They were screaming and crying, I've got a kid myself so that's why I did it - I just got the fatherly urge to do it.
Sgt Matthew Turrall

"They were screaming and crying, I've got a kid myself so that's why I did it - I just got the fatherly urge to do it."

Sgt Turrall who went out into the fire fight on his own said his wife Michelle wasn't too pleased with his act of bravery.

"She called me stupid," he said. "When you're in that situation it's different. I've got a lot of time for old people and obviously with children it's just straight into it, you just don't think about it."

Michelle said she is proud of her husband and recalled the moment he told her.

"I do remember. He gave me a call and dropped it into the conversation," she said.

"He just mentioned we had to do this today, but I do remember him doing that.

"That's Matt for you. He does things for others."

Michelle, who was three months pregnant with their second child, admitted she was worried about it.

"I was a little bit because we have our two little children at home. But he did it and everything was ok.

"It is a little hard going but you get through it day by day."

Matthew, who is from Manchester, but is based in Windsor was on his first visit to Afghanistan and had toured Iraq twice.

Faye Harland in Kenya
Faye Harland with children in Kenya

While on training in Kenya, he explained to BBC Radio Berkshire's Faye Harland the feeling of going on tour and coming home again.

"You feel nervous. It's like a lottery. If you come back it's like winning the lottery.

"You're excited and looking forward to it, but at the same time - it's the wife and children.

"It's what I'm paid to do, it's my job. She doesn't want me to go, she would rather I stay at home with the children which I would rather do.

"But it's a good job, it's a secure job and it's what I'm here to do.

"You don't know what's around the corner. Things change, you don't know what's going to happen but at the minute I'm happy and looking forward to it [going back on tour]."

Back on tour

On the day he was to pick up his medal he told BBC Radio Berkshire he is looking forward to going to Afghanistan again in September.

"The hardest thing about being a solider is leaving a family, we look forward to it, but leaving the children and wife and its the hardest things any soldier can go through," he said.

"Michelle said: "You just get on with it, he'll soon be back, it will be fine, it will fly by.

"It is difficult, day by day, but you're busy and just do things every day."


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