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Armed Forces bravery recognised with gallantry honours

Private Bryan Johnson, aged 24, whose Military Cross is announced today, had been a trained soldier for less a year when he displayed immense…

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Private Bryan Johnson, aged 24, whose Military Cross is announced today, had been a trained soldier for less a year when he displayed immense courage to drag his wounded comrade away from a fire fight and deliver lifesaving first aid.

Out on patrol with fellow soldiers from the Canterbury-based Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), during their deployment to Afghanistan between October 2010 and March 2011, Private Johnson sprang into action when they came under attack.

Two grenades were launched at the patrol, detonating just a few yards away, then a burst of accurate automatic gunfire was unleashed on them.

Without hesitation, Private Johnson turned towards the threat, scrambling across a narrow footbridge over a canal, with other colleagues following behind. As he and another soldier burst through a compound door, they found themselves in an open courtyard, facing two insurgents wielding AK-47 rifles.

A vicious engagement ensued, during which one of Private Johnson’s fellow soldiers was shot and collapsed. Despite continuing to come under fire from close range, Private Johnson dragged his wounded colleague out of the compound and into cover to administer first aid.

He then opened fire again on the enemy, enabling the remainder of the patrol to begin extracting the casualty.

Also amongst those recognised today is young officer Second Lieutenant Paul McFarland, aged 28, from The Royal Irish Regiment, who is being awarded a Military Cross for his actions in saving the life of one of his men by throwing himself in front of an exploding grenade.

Second Lieutenant McFarland’s act of gallantry came after a grenade sailed over the wall of his compound, landing next to one of his corporals who would have been in the direct path of its shrapnel.

Acting immediately and decisively, Second Lieutenant McFarland grabbed the corporal by his body armour and spun him around, throwing him against the wall. In the same motion, he turned his back on the grenade, diving on top of the other soldier as the grenade exploded.

Without pausing, Second Lieutenant McFarland then leapt up and ran out of the compound in pursuit of the perpetrator, but he had already managed to get away. Second Lieutenant McFarland’s actions displayed decisive courage, selflessness and split-second decision-making.

Private Johnson’s and Second Lieutenant McFarland’s honours are just two of more than 140 awards for gallantry and meritorious service included in Operational Honours and Awards List 37, which covers the period 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2011.

Many of those recognised served with 16 Air Assault Brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan in September 2010, but awards also go to others involved in operations in Afghanistan, elsewhere overseas and in the UK.

The majority of award recipients are Army personnel but the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are also represented.

Chinook helicopter pilot Flight Lieutenant Michael Anderson earns a Distinguished Flying Cross for captaining a dangerous mission in which six seriously injured Afghan children were rescued, under fire, from deep within a contested part of Helmand’s ‘Green Zone’.

Operational Honours and Awards List 37, which can be found at Related News, also includes recognition of meritorious service in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, said:

Britain has the best, most professional Armed Forces in the world - and for evidence of that one need look no further than the citations for these awards.

The people recognised today are amongst the bravest of the brave. They make me incredibly proud and should make everyone in the country equally proud of the Armed Forces that represent them.

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Published 29 September 2011