UK

Tales of bravery behind the armed forces' medals

More than 130 UK service personnel have been honoured in the armed forces' Operational Awards List. Here are some of the more extraordinary tales of bravery behind the latest clutch of gallantry medals.

L/Cpl James McKie - Conspicuous Gallantry Cross

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Media captionL/Cpl James McKie recalls throwing a grenade out of harm's way

The New Zealand-born soldier, from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, saved the lives of two of his comrades in a moment of "utter selflessness".

The 29-year-old was under attack by insurgents on the roof of an outhouse in Sangin, northern Helmand, in March when a grenade landed nearby.

Reacting in a split second, he lunged forward, picked it up and threw it back at the enemy, saving the lives of Capt Graeme Kerr and Rifleman Matthew Holkham.

The heavy grenade exploded moments after leaving his hand, inflicting shrapnel wounds to his face and right arm, and seriously injuring Capt Kerr.

'Singular gallantry'

L/Cpl McKie, originally from Porirua, north of Wellington, said he made a conscious decision to put himself between the device and his colleagues.

He was honoured for his act of "singular gallantry and utter selflessness" in the face of an enemy attack.

"There were so many dangerous situations out there, so many times when I could have died. I don't dwell on it," he said.

"Some people did some great things out there and aren't being recognised. But I've come to realise that the medal is a celebration of what we did out there - it's for everyone, it's not just for me."

Flt Lt Ian Fortune - Distinguished Flying Cross

The RAF pilot had just taken off from Garmsir in Helmand province with six injured men on board his Chinook helicopter when a bullet flew through the windscreen, shattering the visor of his helmet.

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Media captionFlight Lieutenant Ian Fortune: "A round hit my helmet"

The 28-year-old survived, saved by the metal rail on his night vision goggles, but was still bleeding heavily from cuts to his cheek.

Despite the insurgents hitting the Chinook eight times, leaving it badly damaged, he refused to hand over the controls to his co-pilot, who had other problems to deal with.

The helicopter's stabilisation system was disabled, making it much more difficult to control, but he still managed to land safely at a field hospital. All his wounded colleagues survived.

The pilot, from Kingston, Surrey, said the medal was a "great personal honour".

He said: "I'm filled with an enormous sense of pride and truly humbled to be joining those who have gone before me."

Cpl Ricky Furgusson - Military Cross

Image caption Cpl Furgusson is walking on stilts until he receives his prosthetic legs

Cpl Furgusson has been honoured for going to the aid of soldiers wounded by improvised bombs four times before he was caught himself in a blast and badly injured.

The 25-year-old, who serves with 4th Battalion The Rifles, was on patrol in Sangin district last October when his squad was hit by a huge blast.

With no regard for his own safety, he rushed to assist a stricken comrade and helped save his life.

A month later, he helped two more colleagues from a nearby patrol when they were hit by another bomb, and at the end of the year he stabilised and rescued yet another bomb victim, although they later died from their injuries.

Buckingham Palace

On 13 January Cpl Furgusson was himself hit. He lost both legs, his left eye and fingers from both hands, and has scars to his face.

His citation states that he bravely ignored the ever-present threat of bombs to dash to the aid of wounded men, rally his soldiers and save lives.

Cpl Furgusson, from Telford, Shropshire, said: "I'm very pleased. I had a slight inkling I might get an award but an MC was totally out of the window and I wasn't expecting that at all.

"I don't think it has quite sunk in at all and it won't until I walk into Buckingham Palace."

He has spent four months recovering in a Birmingham hospital and says he hopes to get walking on his new prosthetic legs when they arrive in the next couple of weeks.

Pc Amanda Henderson - Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service

Image caption Pc Henderson co-ordinated the training of female officers in Helmand

The Ministry of Defence officer was honoured for her "dedication and determination" in training female police officers in Afghanistan.

She spent six months improving the status of women police officers to ensure they were equipped to work as equals alongside their male colleagues.

Her work was considered crucial to the development of the Afghan National Police in Helmand province.

She is the only civilian to receive such an honour in this year's awards.

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