GRENADE HERO'S STORY- NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS- APRIL 2008

This incredible story of how lance corporal Matthew Croucher saved three colleagues by diving on a grenade first appeared News of the World newspaper.

 

The story was given to publicist Jonathan Hartley who runs our sister website www.publicityagent.co.uk.

 

Jonathan was contacted by a friend of Matt's who wanted the world to know what a hero he was.

 

The story was followed up by dozens of news outlets and appears in most of the national newspapers, TV and radio stations last week.

 

Matt did not receive any payment for his story.

 

Read the full story in the News of the World below

 

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HERO MARINE UP FOR VC.

 

NEWS OF THE WORLD NEWSPAPER

 

A CHILL ran up Commando Matthew Croucher's spine as his foot brushed a hidden tripwire in the black silence of the Taliban compound.

In a split second came the tell-tale ping of a pin being pulled from a booby-trap GRENADE.

The young Lance Corporal frantically scanned the ground through his night vision goggles. And there it lay. He and his three comrades had SEVEN SECONDS to live...

What brave Matt did next could make him the first Royal Marine since 1945 to win a VICTORIA CROSS.

In an astonishing act of self sacrifice he FLUNG himself at the grenade, FLIPPED on his side next to it and lay there with only his backpack for protection as he prepared to SAVE his pals by SMOTHERING the blast with his body.

Matt, 24, recalled: "I thought, 'I've set this bloody thing off and I'm going to do whatever it takes to protect the others'.

"So I got down with my back to the grenade and used my body as a shield. It was a case of either having four of us as fatalities or badly wounded—or one. I brought my legs up to my chest in the brace position and waited for the explosion.

"When it went off the bang was the loudest I've ever heard. There was a flash of light and a big plume of smoke and orange sparks jetted into the air.

"I was flung through the air. My head was ringing. Blood was streaming from my nose. It took 30 seconds before I realised I was definitely not dead."

Mission

Amazingly Matt's backpack and body armour absorbed the full impact of the blast—and they ALL escaped with just a few cuts and bruises.

Soon the story of his heroics was the talk of his comrades back at base.

He smiles: "The two behind me at the time were convinced they would have died, as they were facing the grenade with their necks exposed. It only takes a little bit of shrapnel to sever an artery, and you're a goner.

"It's a pretty unusual thing but the lads put me forward for the VC themselves. It's entirely out of my hands. But if it was to happen it would be a massive honour not just for me but for the regiment and all my comrades."

Friends have revealed his citation has been passed up the chain to the Commanding Officer of 40 Commando, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Birrell. It will now go to the powerful committee who decide on the awarding of VCs.

If Matt is given the top bravery award it will be very rare. Just nine have been handed to Brits since World War II and only two in this century.

The amazing drama began on February 11 as Birmingham lad Matt—who modestly dismisses talk of a VC as "out of my hands"—took part in a mission to uncover a suspected Taliban bomb-making factory in a compound in the notorious Helmand province.

He said: "I was in a group of 32 soldiers from 40 Commando that set out about midnight for the compound. We needed to be in and out under cover of darkness before the Taliban could spot us.

"We travelled on foot, wearing our body armour, helmets and carrying about 400 rounds for our SA80s."

Two hundred yards from the bomb factory, experienced Matt—who has toured Iraq three times—was sent in as part of a team of four elite soldiers from 40 Commando and Mountain Leaders to recce the area.

"We had night vision goggles on. Everything we could see glowed green," said Matt. "There was one main building, the size of a two-storey house. We used heat-seeking thermal scopes to check for bodies in the building.

"Within five minutes we'd found 200kg of fertiliser in 50kg bags which they were using for bombs. So we pressed deeper into the compound."

But as they moved in together, Matt's foot brushed a wire. He shuddered: "I felt it on my shins and saw the four metre wire. The grenade was stuck to a stick with tape behind a tree two feet from me.

"It was a pineapple type like the ones you see in the old World War Two films. The force of the pin coming out knocked the grenade off its stick and I saw it fall right by my feet.

"I was pretty threaders (Marine slang for very worried). I shouted 'GRENADE TAKE COVER'. Two of the guys were two metres behind me and the other a little further.

"I knew a grenade like this has a killing circumference of about five metres. I'd been through this scenario in my mind and realised there was nowhere to take cover—there's no point running off cos you're gonna catch shrapnel.

"The lads behind me would have caught a lot too. I'm very tight with the other three guys. There have been a few times when they've saved my bacon. So I went down next to the grenade.

"I figured that if I could keep my torso and head intact I'd probably survive any other injuries — although I fully expected to lose a limb."

His backpack— filled with a medical pack, shoulder-launched 66mm rocket and radio equipment—took the full force of the blast.

"It was blown straight off my back. The blast shunted me a full metre. The lithium battery for my communication equipment took the brunt of the shrapnel—it landed 10 metres away with sparks and flames flying from it.

"I was completely disorientated. The shockwave had exploded the blood vessels in my nose. All I could hear was a loud ringing and the faint sound of people shouting 'Are you ok? Are you ok?'

"Then I felt one of the lads giving me a top to toe check. A minute later someone said 'you were f****** lucky'. They were like 'what are you doing, you nutter?' But you could feel their relief."

Amazingly Matt—who is single—was back on his feet in minutes as fears grew that the Taliban would soon be rushing in.

He said: "We patrolled back to where our Captain was. He was told what happened and just looked at me with a little smile in his eyes and said, 'That was a bit crazy, Croucher'.

"I was checked over by a medic who wanted to evacuate me—but I wanted to stay. We knew the Taliban would want to come and see what had happened."

Matt and his team settled into a nearby ditch and waited. "Within an hour or so our team spotted a guy with an AK47 approaching our position. He was in his early 30s and wearing traditional Afghan dress.

"I don't know for sure if he spotted us but when he lifted his weapon as if to shoot in our direction we opened up. I'm more or less certain I shot him. For all I knew this guy had set the booby trap. He was my 10th or 11th kill in five months in Afghanistan."

Matt's human shield action was his SECOND act of bravery in four months. In November his patrol was ambushed by 30 Taliban near Putay in Helmand.

He had to look after a lad shot through the chest. He said:"I patched him up under fire for 45 minutes. I put chest seals over the bullet wounds so his lungs wouldn't collapse and ran a drip into his arm.

"Bullets were landing everywhere and at one stage a rocket propelled grenade landed three metres from us. It injured four other guys." They were saved when three Apache gunships arrived and laid down covering fire so they could get away.

Matt will learn if he is to receive the VC later this year. Meanwhile, he has kept his backpack as a trophy from his brave brush with death. It's a reminder of the day I beat the grim reaper," he says.

"It looks like it's been through a shredding machine now. When I see it I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am."



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