The Daily Telegraph reports on a commemoration to mark the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross:
Ranging in age from 89 to 26, these special men all said that they merely represented the 1,343 other VCs who had died, either in the act of winning the medal, or since. “We are just the ones fortunate enough to be recognised in this way, and who are still here,” Sir Tasker Watkins, VC, said as he waited for the ceremony to begin…Next to him stood the ramrod figure of Pte Johnson Beharry, 26, scars still visible in his close-cropped hair.Pte Beharry became the first man to be awarded the VC in 20 years when he was gazetted in 2005 for rescuing colleagues under fire, despite suffering heavy wounds at al-Amarah, Iraq, in 2004.”It is wonderful for me to be able to listen to the stories of these men,” he said, gesturing to the collection of stooped but fiercely proud figures who were busy renewing old comradeships all around him… And across the aisle from the eight Victoria Cross winners were 22 of the 24 living holders of the George Cross, the nation’s highest award for those exhibiting gallantry away from an immediate field of battle.Among them were Col Stuart Archer, 91, the chairman of the association, who won his GC for continuous acts of bravery in defusing enemy bombs in South Wales during 1940. He was seated a few feet from L/Cpl Christopher Finney of the Blues and Royals, 20, who was awarded his GC for saving his comrade L/Cpl Alan Tudball from their armoured vehicle after they were attacked by mistake by an Allied aircraft in Iraq in March 2003. “It’s really cool being here but this is just a bit of metal and the real reward is that Alan is still alive and that last week he and his wife had a little boy,” L/Cpl Finney said…The quiet heroes swapped stories and bonhomie before the ceremonial, which was to be capped by a reception hosted by the prince at St James’s Square.”How do you keep looking so good?” one VC-wearing old soldier asked his Royal Navy buddy among the GCs.”Guinness,” replied the sailor, “that’s my secret: lots of Guinness.” “I’m a Viagra man myself,” laughed the soldier, his chest heaving so that those “bits of metal” tinkled merrily.