A Solihull Royal Marine who threw himself on an exploding grenade to save his comrades has been awarded the George Cross by the Queen.
Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher of 40 Commando took a split second decision to shield his fellow servicemen from the explosion after stepping on a trip wire during a night-time reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan.
The 24-year-old was presented with the medal – the highest honour for bravery without the enemy present – during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
He said: “It is a great honour. I don’t really think about what I did. I don’t tend to dwell on it.
“There is a lot of other people in Afghanistan who have done similarly courageous acts who haven’t been recognised.
“When you are in the heat of a gun battle there are always people doing heroic things and they don’t always get picked out for it. They are just doing their job.”
L/Cpl Croucher was taking part in a mission to uncover a suspected Taliban bomb-making factory in Helmand Province in February when he triggered the device.
He threw himself on the floor and twisted his back hoping his rucksack packed of full equipment would absorb some of the impact.
Even then the soldier said he “fully expected to lose a limb”. Miraculously, however, despite being thrown in the air, he managed to escape with just a nose bleed and a headache.
A medic recommended he should be evacuated, but the brave soldier insisted on staying with his comrades and continuing the fight against the Taliban.
L/Cpl Croucher is one of only a handful of living people to hold the George Cross. He has already been awarded an Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Solihull for his bravery.
The status, which dates back to medieval times, is only awarded to local people who have achieved something outstanding. Mayor of Solihull Coun David Bell said the soldier epitomised the “very best qualities of our armed forces and young people”.