British soldier awarded rare Victoria Cross

British soldier, 25, becomes first living recipient of Victoria Cross in 40 years for twice saving comrades from ambush in Iraq.

A 25-year-old British soldier who twice saved his crew from ambush in Iraq – once while he was suffering from a serious head wound – has become the first living person in 40 years to win Britain's top military honour.

Pte. Johnson Beharry of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment is the first person to be awarded the Victoria Cross since 1982 and the first living recipient since 1965.

Beharry, who emigrated to Britain from Grenada, was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades in May 2004 and managed to drive away and get his wounded comrades out of his vehicle while he was under fire.

Six weeks later, his vehicle again came under rocket attack. Beharry, who received a serious head injury in the attack, drove his commander and other troops to safety. He drove until he lost consciousness, the Defence Ministry said.

Britain's chief of defence staff, Sir Mike Jackson, praised Beharry's "selfless heroism" that saved 30 people.

"For his repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action, Pte. Beharry deserves the highest possible recognition," Beharry's citation said.

Beharry, who is recovering from brain surgery for his injury, said he was just doing his job.

"Maybe I was brave, I don't know. I think anyone else could do the same thing," Beharry said.

"I don't think anyone could be as proud as I'm feeling right now," said his wife, Lynthia.

Beharry is one of only 13 living recipients of the award. Most are veterans of the Second World War, including Ernest (Smokey) Smith, Canada's last living recipient.

Queen Victoria awarded the first Victoria Cross in 1857 for bravery during the Crimean War.