Double VC for Afghan Heroes?

Double VC for Afghan heroes
First officer to receive citation since Falklands

by MARK NICOL - More by this author »

Last updated at 23:05pm on 1st September 2007

Two British soldiers from the same battalion have been nominated for the Victoria Cross in recognition of their incredible bravery in the face of the enemy.

The citations for Britain's highest gallantry award came after the men were involved in fierce fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The first is Captain David Hicks – who would become the first officer to win the VC since Falklands hero Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert 'H' Jones.

The second is believed to be Lance-Corporal Oliver 'Teddy' Ruecker, 20.

Last month Capt Hicks, 26, refused morphine when mortally wounded in order to lead a counter-attack against a Taliban rocket assault.

Heroes nominated for the Army's top gallantry award: L/Cpl Oliver Reucker and Capt David Hicks

In May L/Cpl Ruecker fought off Taliban riflemen to rescue a badly wounded comrade from a burning armoured car. One VC has already been awarded for gallantry in Afghanistan.

The fact that there are two more nominations is an indication of the ferocity of the fighting involving British soldiers.

The awards would be the first time two soldiers from the same battalion have received the Victoria Cross since the Korean War.

L/Cpl Ruecker would be only the second living recipient of the VC in 38 years.

Defence sources have told The Mail on Sunday that two VC citations have been written by the soldiers' commanding officers from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

Colleagues who witnessed the bravery provided written accounts describing what they saw in great detail.

These 'Post Incident Reports' included the duration of the battles, numbers of friendly and enemy casualties and how many men on both sides were killed.

These top-secret first-hand accounts were studied at great length by both soldiers' superiors and formed the basis of the medal citations. The final decision on the nominations was made by the current commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver.

The process of awarding this most auspicious medal is shrouded in secrecy, and the Ministry of Defence said it would not comment on any speculation surrounding who is to receive one.

The final decision will be made later this year by a committee of retired and serving generals.

Former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie said: "The committee is entirely non-political. It will reach its judgments based entirely on the merit of the citations."

The soldiers themselves and their families are always the last to know if a medal will be awarded.

Given the fierceness of the Anglians' campaign, which has cost the lives of nine of the battalion's soldiers and seen about 80 wounded, there is already strong backing inside the MoD for the battalion to receive two VCs.

Lord Guthrie added: "The ferocity of the fighting is such that I am not in the least bit surprised that a couple of these young soldiers would be recognised.

"The gallantry in Afghanistan has been of the highest order. The Victoria Cross is awarded on merit. If you do win a VC, my goodness me, you deserve it."

Alun and Lesley Hicks laid their son to rest near their home in Berkshire last week. They are aware of his hero status but will not bring themselves to consider the award of a VC until it is confirmed.

Mr Hicks said: "There is a long way to go between a citation and an award. In the meantime the family already recognises David's heroism. He was under fire for several hours.

"He had returned on leave in July. He said the tour was 'busy'. Busy was a euphemism for 'frequent, regular and intense fighting', far more so than he had seen in Iraq."

Hicks's fellow officers were fulsome in their praise. Major Phil Messenger said: "Dave Hicks was the most professional and dedicated fellow infantry officer I have had the privilege of working with."

Col Carver said: "He typified the highest standards of leadership and commanded genuine respect from all those who served with him."

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former regimental CO in the Army, said: "This is a classic officer's leadership citation, a magnificent piece of selflessness from a member of a superb fighting battalion.

"I saw the Anglians in Afghanistan quite recently. They are fighting with huge determination and have paid the price in blood. We must not neglect their gallantry; Victoria Crosses fit the bill."

Of L/Cpl Ruecker's actions, Major Mick Aston of the Anglians said: "Teddy's bravery was witnessed by the whole company. The soldier was completely selfless in his actions. It is difficult to describe how intense that whole action was but the guys who were there will never forget it."

Ruecker's mother Nicola, 44, said: "He has been told that his name may be put forward for the Victoria Cross. From our perspective and his we would be incredibly proud if he did get it – but it is with mixed emotions given that nine of his friends have been killed out there.

"It was always his ambition to be in the Army. He signed up with the cadets on his 13th birthday, the youngest age you can. Nobody seems surprised that he is doing well."

The last time two soldiers from the same battalion received the VC was after the Battle of Imjin River in Korea in April 1951. The men were Lieutenant-Colonel James Carne and Lieutenant Philip Curtis of the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment.

Last year Corporal Bryan Budd of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment was awarded a posthumous VC for gallantry in Afghanistan.

And in 2005 Private Johnson Beharry of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment became the first living recipient of the VC since 1969.
Don't forget that LCpl Ruecker's mum is an ARRSE member!

I don't think that speculation is a good idea. Far better to wait for the announcement.
I think the problem with awards that hold such high esteem is that even if ten soldiers per Afghan tour thoroughly deserved a VC they would never get it.
True enough: but having read the accounts of Cpl Ruecker's actions, if anyone ever deserved a VC, he appears to. The narratives describe a genuinely avoidable, deliberate decision to put himself in harm's way in order to try and save a severely wounded oppo, whilst also taking time out to kill an irritating opponent. I cannot see any need to begrudge him the honour, were it to be awarded.
Hitler awarded hundreds of medals and promotions in the last days of stalingrad. Shades of.
Let's see what happens.
Fallschirmjager said:
I think the problem with awards that hold such high esteem is that even if ten soldiers per Afghan tour thoroughly deserved a VC they would never get it.
Agreed. I can think of several people who in my opinion deserve some kind of recognition. I can also think of one who was given a (minor) award for doing nothing more than his job (and a lot less than some others).

The awards system will never work completely fairly, and not everyone who deserves recognition will get it. However, you certainly don't get considered for a VC for sitting around doing nowt so you won't hear any complaints from me.
botfeckid said:
a genuinely avoidable, deliberate decision to put himself in harm's way in order to try and save a severely wounded oppo, whilst also taking time out to kill an irritating opponent.
That just put a smile on my face on an otherwise dull night :)

I reckon they should include those exact words in this mans very deserved citation.
Even more reason for making sure that fantastic regiment, the Royal Anglians have an even bigger beer drink to come home to. (See separate thread)
Fallschirmjager said:
Very brave men indeed but let us not forget only one VC was awarded for D day.
Indeed, and only one for the Battle of Britain and four for Arnhem....

There will always be an aura around a VC and its recipients, humbling and thought provoking stuff.

If its deserved then they'll get it, if they get it they join a pretty unique club, forming, what in my mind gives them legend status.

Of course, with or without the gong, their actions are heroic, selfless and deserving of credit....... A VC is a different matter...... that makes you braver and nailser than a box of nails things.
"Former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie said: "The committee is entirely non-political. It will reach its judgments based entirely on the merit of the citations."

Completely disagree with this point; anybody with anything other than background knowledge of Rorke's Drift would agree with me!

I hope they get them.
Another story by the newspaper of hate and lies.
Could we keep the political points scoring/impressive establishment of your impeccable liberal and intellectual credentials, out of this thread? There may well be friends/relatives of various wounded and killed individuals with some personal emotional involvement reading this.
"top-secret first-hand accounts"

Crikey - clearly we've got some form of Protectively Marked inflation in line with GCSE's and A-Levels. Whats TS become - super super super Top Secret?
Brave lads all of them,come what may,so many brave lads from such a small army,if only the goverment treated them with dignity and respect.Well done lads all of you
Sven, keep your pathetic, 6th form agenda out of this thread.

It is a matter of concern that the citations have been leaked. The family of Capt Hicks and L/Cpl Rueker should not have the pressure of this hanging over them.
The decision should be made in isolation, and not be influenced by current dumbing down, where Kelly Holmes gets Dame'd up for exploits that would not previously have warranted it. And also include in that the English Cricket team and Sir Alex Ferguson.

No matter what the outcome is, I salute the actions of these, and other, fine brave men. Men that make me proud to be British.
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