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HONOURS FOR HEROES OF ARMED FORCES; 'I am very proud of my Military Cross but I'd swap it to have those who died out there with me any day' - L Cpl Oliver Scott RUECKER Military Cross for rescuing injured comrade under fire.

Byline: By CHRIS HUGHES Security Correspondent

A SOLDIER honoured today with a top award for bravery has dedicated it to his comrades lost in action in Afghanistan.

Military Cross winner Lance Corporal Oliver Scott Ruecker, 21, braved a hail of bullets to rescue a terribly injured comrade from a burning vehicle.

Seconds earlier, he shot dead a Taliban fighter in a face-to-face confrontation as the fanatic prepared to shoot British soldiers.

L Cpl Ruecker is among 184 servicemen and women to receive a gong for their courage.

The Royal Anglian soldier said: "I am very proud of the Military Cross. But I'd swap it to have those who died out there with me any day. The award is for the battalion."

Today's awards are the biggest collection of bravery gongs given out since the 2003 Iraq invasion. The 184 awards include five Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, five Distinguished Service Orders, 28 Military Crosses and three Distinguished Flying Crosses.

Among those honoured was Captain David Hicks who died in Helmand.

He was with one of the most embattled battalions, 1 Royal Anglian, which won six Military Crosses. They repeatedly fought hardcore enemy, launching daring foot patrols into "bandit" country.

Nicknamed the Vikings, their exploits were revealed after a Daily Mirror team was embedded with them.

The citation to Capt Hicks read: "His conduct was well beyond that which would be expected, repeatedly leading the fight against a determined enemy, and putting himself in the centre of the action."

His father Alun said: "This helps us realise David died doing what he was trained for. We get comfort knowing the sacrifice he made fighting out in Afghanistan has been recognised."

Major Dominic Biddick - another Royal Anglian - received a Military Cross for repeatedly proving his tactical skills and fearlessness under-fire.

The 33-year-old said: "When you have bullets whistling right past your head, it reminds you that even as a commander, you are not invincible."

Major Mick Aston won an MC for his bravery in the field, repeatedly leading his company into battle in the Helmand River Valley. Corporal Robert William Moore also won an MC.

He was shot in the right arm, losing a large part of his muscle, but he remaining in command.

Another Viking MC winner was Lance Corporal Levi David Ashby who rescued five colleagues blown up in a rocket attack.

Brigadier John Lorimer, who commanded 12 Mechanized Brigade of the Royal Anglian battle group, won the Distinguished Service Order, as did the battalion's commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Carver for "exemplary leadership".

Brig Lorimer said: "The sacrifices our servicemen and women make need to be publicly recognised.

"I feel extremely proud to accept this honour today but it is tribute to the hard work and fantastic achievements of the whole of the brigade."

The Mercian Regiment was also highly honoured. Private Luke Cole, 22, received the Military Cross after he carried on fighting despite being shot twice and losing part of his leg.

His six-man patrol was ambushed in Garmsir. But he carried on firing even when a second bullet ripped open his stomach. He tucked his shirt in to hold his maimed body together.

Bomb disposal expert Warrant Officer class 2 James Wadsworth, of the Royal Logistic Corps, received a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for making safe by hand one of the largest roadside bombs found during the Iraq campaign.

He defused and recovered the 55kg device outside Basra hospital. He said: "It is a massive honour. But any other ammo technician would have done exactly the same."

Rifleman Mark Lunn, of The Rifles, was awarded the Military Cross after he was shot in the heaviest fighting in Basra since 2003 and rescued three mates under fire.

The second posthumous Military Cross went to Corporal Craig Brelsford of the Mercian Regiment. He was in Afghanistan when four soldiers were injured. He put his body between the Taliban and his wounded comrades to save them, taking fire which killed him.

General Sir David Richards, commander in chief of British land forces, presented awards at Larkhill Army camp on Salisbury Plain, Wilts.

He said: "These very brave soldiers have won some of the highest and most coveted awards for outstanding courage, bravery and tenacity."

Captain David HICKS

Posthumous Military Cross ..killed leading fight against Taliban at Helmand base

Major Dominic BIDDICK

Military Cross for tactical skills and fearlessness under enemy fire

Brigadier John LORIMER

Distinguished Service Order for exemplary leadership of 12 Mechanised Brigade

Corporal Craig BRELSFORD

Posthumous Military Cross ..died protecting wounded comrades from Taliban

W/O James WADSWORTH

Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for defusing biggest ever bomb used in Iraq

L/Cpl Levi David ASHBY

Military Cross for rescue of five colleagues blown up in rocket attack

Pte Luke COLE

Military Cross for fighting on after being shot twice and losing part of his leg

Rifleman Mark LUNN

Military Cross for rescuing three comrades under fire after being shot himself

Major Mick ASTON

Military Cross for bravery in the field after repeatedly leading men against enemy

Lt Col Stuart CARVER

Distinguished Service Order for exemplary leadership of his men

Cpl Robert William MOORE

Military Cross for staying in command despite serious injuries to arm

c.hughes@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

COURAGE: Ruecker takes aim in Afghanistan; Captain David HICKS; Major Dominic BIDDICK; Brigadier John LORIMER; Corporal Craig BRELSFORD; W/O James WADSWORTH; L/Cpl Levi David ASHBY; Pte Luke COLE; Rifleman Mark LUNN; Major Mick ASTON; Lt Col Stuart CARVER; Cpl Robert William MOORE
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 7, 2008
Words:914
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