31/10/2003

Queen recognises armed forces for courage in Iraq

Over 350 servicemen and women have been honoured by the Queen today for their "courage and professionalism" during recent hostilities in Iraq.

All ranks and services are represented in the list. Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Michael Walker said that the nation "should be proud of every one of them".

He added: "The men and women who serve in Britain's Armed Forces never fail to draw the admiration of people all over the world. Those honoured today represent all that is finest in their willingness to take on the toughest tasks, to face many dangers, and to make sacrifices."

Conspicuous among those recognised today was 19-year-old Trooper Christopher Finney of the Blues and Royals, who becomes the youngest soldier to be awarded the George Cross for gallantry – which is second only to the Victoria Cross in merit.

Chris Finney, aged 18 at the time of the incident, was recognised for his conduct during a friendly fire incident near Basra on March 28 when his column of Scimitar armoured vehicles were attacked by US AH-10 aircraft. Trooper Finney escaped his burning vehicle, taking a badly injured colleague with him.

His citation read: "During these attacks and their horrifying aftermath, Trooper Finney displayed clear-headed courage and devotion to his comrades which was out of all proportion to his age and experience. Acting with complete disregard for his own safety even when wounded, his bravery was of the highest order throughout."

Other honours include a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for Lance Corporal Justin Thomas of 40 Commando, Royal Marines.

On 30 March the Royal Marines came under heavy enemy fire during a battle in the Abu-al-Khasib area near Basrah. Realising his comrades were exposed, Lance Corporal Thomas climbed onto his vehicle to man a machine gun where he single-handedly returned fire against the enemy.

There were also 53 awards in the civilian list – 28 awards were for members of the Home Civil Service and non-State servants and the remaining 25 were for members of the Diplomatic Service.

The honours have been awarded to those who had been engaged in, or had supported, the recent and continuing military operation in Iraq.

(gmcg)

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