- Jun 27, 2006
Croucher hurls himself onto Taliban grenade
One man’s heroism saved the lives of his patrol – and left him with nothing more than a bloody noseStephen Grey in Helmand
A Royal Marine in southern Afghanistan threw himself onto an exploding grenade to save the lives of his patrol.
Miraculously, Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, a marine reservist from Birmingham, survived the blast with little injury when his rucksack and body armour took the force of the blast. He is expected to receive one of the highest awards for gallantry.
The story of his courage emerged last week in interviews with marines occupying a forward operating base near Sangin in Helmand province. They are preparing to leave after serving for six months at the centre of some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan. The outpost, Forward Operating Base Inkerman, is better known to troops as "FOB Incoming".
Croucher's action occurred just before dawn on February 9, as the reconnaissance troop from 40 Commando, operating to the south of Sangin, was searching a compound it suspected was being used for making bombs to attack British and Afghan troops.
Walking in the darkness among a group of four men, Croucher stepped into a tripwire that pulled the pin from a boobytrap grenade. His patrol commander, Corporal Adam Lesley, remembered Croucher's shout of: "Grenade!"
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher said:"I knew a grenade like this has a killing circumference of about five metres. I'd been through this scenario in my mind and realised there was nowhere to take cover—there's no point running off cos you're gonna catch shrapnel.
"The lads behind me would have caught a lot too. I'm very tight with the other three guys. There have been a few times when they've saved my bacon. So I went down next to the grenade.
"I figured that if I could keep my torso and head intact I'd probably survive any other injuries — although I fully expected to lose a limb."
His backpack— filled with a medical pack, shoulder-launched 66mm rocket and radio equipment—took the full force of the blast.
"It was blown straight off my back. The blast shunted me a full metre. The lithium battery for my communication equipment took the brunt of the shrapnel—it landed 10 metres away with sparks and flames flying from it.
"I was completely disorientated. The shockwave had exploded the blood vessels in my nose. All I could hear was a loud ringing and the faint sound of people shouting 'Are you ok? Are you ok?'
"Then I felt one of the lads giving me a top to toe check. A minute later someone said ‘you were ****** lucky'. They were like ‘what are you doing, you nutter?' But you could feel their relief."