Valor Friday

| September 23, 2022 | 14 Comments

Matthew Croucher, GC

Most Americans, when they hear of the British Royal Marines probably think they are comparable to the US Marine Corps. The United States, in their earliest days, modeled their new Marine Corps on their British counterparts. Since the 18th Century, while the US Marines maintained their positions as “soldiers of the sea” and developed a specialty in amphibious warfare, the Royal Marines specialized even further.

The Royal Marines (RM), also known as Royal Marine Commandos, are an elite fighting force of roughly only 7,000 men. Their training is more akin to what we Yanks would recognize as special operations training. RM recruits go through a rigorous 36 weeks of basic infantry training (officers undergo 60 weeks).

The Royal Marines as a service are more akin to US Marine Force Recon (known more recently as Marine Raiders) than to the USMC as a whole. While the US Marines are fond of saying “Every Marine is a rifleman”, literally every Royal Marine is an infantryman. Only after serving two years as a general duty Marine can they seek out other career fields within the RM.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the Royal Marines have many brave and valiant heroes within their ranks. Nine Royal Marines have received the Victoria Cross. Four Royal Marines have received the closely related George Cross.

In the complicated system of British awards and decorations the Victoria and George Crosses rank above all other honors, including any knighthoods. The Victoria Cross (VC) is strictly a military award, and is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery…in the presence of the enemy.” The George Cross (GC), which ranks with but just below the VC, is awarded for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.”

The GC is awarded to those who exhibit the same levels of bravery as the VC, but not in the presence of the enemy. The GC is also not limited to military recipients, but about half the awards are to military personnel.

Matthew Croucher is a Royal Marine Reservist who earned the George Cross for bravery while serving in Afghanistan. He is one of four Royal Marines to have received the honor, the first since 1919, and one of only 22 living recipients (out of 409 total awards).

Croucher’s George Cross was gazetted (announced in the London Gazette, which is how such awards are announced and published) on 23 July 2008. It reads;

Throughout December 2007 and January 2008, forward Operating Base ROBINSON, an International Security Assistance Force/Afghanistan National Army location situated 10km to the south of Sangin, had been targeted relentlessly by an enemy seeking to inflict death and grievous injury on Coalition Forces. Complex and highly effective improvised explosive devices had been deployed by the Taliban throughout the Forward Operating Base’s area of responsibility with deadly success. Movement around the Forward Operating Bast location was fraught with danger and exceptionally high risk for troops, whether vehicle borne or operating on foot. Tasked with conducting both overt and covert patrolling to disrupt and interdict enemy forces, 40 Commando Battle Group was determined to regain the initiative.

Lance Corporal Croucher was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan as a reconnaissance operator in 40 Commando Group’s Commando Reconnaissance Force, elements of which were operating from Forward Operating Base ROBINSON.

On 9th February 2008, the Commando Reconnaissance Force was tasked to conduct reconnaissance of a compound in which it was suspected that Taliban fighters manufactured Improvised Explosive Devices. Lance Corporal Croucher’s section was deployed on this highly dangerous and challenging operation. In the early hours, utilising night vision devices and under constant threat of attack from Improvised Explosive Devices or enemy ambush, the Commando Reconnaissance Force successfully negotiated the complex and varied terrain between the Forward Operating Base and the suspect compound, and established an over-watch position to observe for any sign of activity.

In order to determine conclusively that the compound was an Improvised Explosive Device manufacturing site, the decision was made to send a small four man team, which included Lance Corporal Croucher, forward to conduct a very high risk “close target reconnaissance”. This required the team to enter the compound. It was believed to be occupied. The team moved forward with extreme caution and stealth and successfully gained entry into the compound without incident. After 30 minutes on task, and having identified numerous items that could be used by insurgents to manufacture Improvised Explosive Devices, the team commander gave the order for the team to extract back to their pre-arranged rendezvous point with the remainder of Commander Reconnaissance Force.

Lance Corporal Croucher was at the head of the group as they commenced the extraction; behind him, approximately 5 metres away, the Team Commander and another Marine were in the open and fully exposed, with the fourth team member a short distance behind them. As the team moved silently through the still darkened compound, Lance Corporal Croucher felt a wire go tight against his legs, just below knee height. This was a tripwire connected to a grenade booby-trap, positioned to kill or maim intruders in the compound. He heard the fly-off lever eject and the grenade, now armed, fell onto the ground immediately beside him.

Instantly realising what had occurred, Lance Corporal Croucher made a crucial and incredibly rapid assessment of the situation. With extraordinary clarity of thought and remarkable composure, he shouted “Grenade”, then “Tripwire” in an attempt to warn his comrades to find cover before the grenade exploded. It was clear to him that given the lack of cover in the immediate vicinity, he and the other team members were in extreme danger.

Due to low light levels, he was unable to determine the type of grenade and therefore had no way of knowing how long the device’s fuse would take to function. With his comrades totally exposed and time running out, Lance Corporal Croucher made the decision not to seek cover or protection for himself, but to attempt to shield the other members of his team from the impending explosion. In an act of great courage and demonstrating a complete disregard for his own safety, he threw himself on top of the grenade, pinning it between his day sack, containing his essential team stores, and the ground. Quite prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow Marines, Lance Corporal Croucher lay on the grenade and braced himself for the explosion. Meanwhile, the Team Commander, upon hearing the initial shouted warning, dived to the ground. The rear man in the team was able to take cover by stepping back around the corner of a building; the other team member was unable to react quickly enough and was still upright, fully exposed within the lethal range of the grenade.

As it detonated, the blast effect of the grenade was absorbed by Lance Corporal Croucher and the majority of the fragmentation was contained under his body. Miraculously, his equipment and protective clothing prevented any lethal shards hitting his body and he suffered only minor injury and disorientation from the effects of the blast. Lance Corporal Croucher’s day sack was ripped from his back and was completely destroyed; his body armour and helmet were pitted by the grenade fragments. A large battery being carried in the side pouch of his day sack, for his team’s Electronic Counter Measures equipment, also exploded and was burning like a flare as a result of the grenade fragments breaching the outer case. Incredibly, the only other injury was a slight fragmentation wound to the Team Commander’s face. The others escaped unscathed. Without question, Lance Corporal Croucher’s courageous and utterly selfless action had prevented death or serious injury to at least two members of his team. Immediately following the explosion they manoeuvred tactically back to their rendezvous location. After confirming with the Troop Commander that no significant casualties had been sustained, the decision was made to enterdict enemy forces attempting to conduct a follow-up to the incident. As anticipated, enemy activity was observed by the Commando Reconnaissance Force and Lance Corporal Croucher, having refused to be evacuated, along with other members of his team, engaged and neutralized one enemy fighter.

Throughout his service in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Croucher has served with the utmost distinction. His actions on 9 February 2008, when he willingly risked his own life in a most deliberate act of self-sacrifice to save his comrades from death or serious injury, were wholly typical of the man. During a previous engagement at Forward Operating Base Inkerman on 9 November 2007, Lance Corporal Croucher helped save the life of a fallen comrade who had received a serious gunshot wound to the chest during a ferocious fire-fight with the enemy. For twenty minutes, whilst the company medical assistant was pinned down by enemy fire, he applied life-saving first aid which stabilised the wounded man until medical assistance arrived and the casualty could be extracted. Meanwhile, on 16 November 2007, whilst providing intimate security to a night air drop in the desert near Forward Operating Base Inkerman, Lance Corporal Croucher was injured in a road traffic accident. Evacuated to the UK with a suspected broken leg, he was determined to return to theatre and, following intense physiotherapy, he returned within a matter of weeks to resume his duties with Commando Reconnaissance Force.

That he was willing to risk all in order to save the lives of his comrades is indisputable; that he possesses an indomitable fighting spirit is abundantly clear. Lance Corporal Croucher is an exceptional and inspirational individual. His magnificent displays of selflessness and gallantry are truly humbling and are the embodiment of the finest traditions of the Service.

Here’s the pack that Croucher was wearing at the time he dove on the grenade.

Croucher was initially recommended for the Victoria Cross, but as there were no enemy actually present, he was awarded the George Cross. If he had received the VC, he would have been the first Royal Marine to have received the honor since 1945 and only the second living recipient in the 21st Century.

Category: Historical, Marines, UK and Commonwealth Awards, Valor

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President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

(CLANK! CLANK!)
The sound of his Big Brass Ones as he walks the halls

5JC
AW1Ed

Not the place, 5JC.

Old tanker

Covers an enemy grenade inside an occupied enemy compound sounds to me like there were enemies in the area. He should have gotten the VC IMO.

KoB

I gotta agree with you Ot. Too bad this Hero’s DNA can’t be infused into Trudie Boi. Anytime I read about ballsy Canuks I harken back to that old War Movie, The Devil’s Brigade.

A Toast of Crown Royal for this Hero. Thanks, Mason.

RCAF-CHAIRBORNE

I don’t think even that would help Comrade Castro Turd-eau grow balls.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

BZ Royal Marine, and don’t drink any adult beverages out of an artificial leg.

ninja

“Croucher was presented with the George Cross by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on 30 October 2008.”

Thank You, Mason, for sharing another story of Valor, Courage and Honor.

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Graybeard

Wow.
Glad his gear was able to protect him, but that’s always iffy and does not in any way detract from his willingness to sacrifice self for his brothers.

Skivvy Stacker

I think his tungsten, diamond encrusted nads helped.

NR Pax

Wonder if he got billed for the lost equipment?

Skivvy Stacker

“His magnificent displays of selflessness and gallantry are truly humbling and are the embodiment of the finest traditions of the Service.”
The British way of saying; “this bloke has balls the size of watermelons.”

AW1Ed
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Av8or33

Did what he had to do to protect his fellow Marines. Incredible bravery, and an example of selflessness. Thank god he still makes a few men like this.