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George Cross awarded to bomb disposal expert

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George Cross awarded to bomb disposal expert
23 Mar 06
An Army bomb disposal expert has been awarded the George Cross for his heroic actions in Iraq in 2005. Captain Peter Norton from the Royal Logistic Corps is only the twenty-second member of the Armed Forces to receive the award since 1945.

Captain Norton is one of 70 UK Servicemen and women to be honoured in the latest list for their role in operations around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, and the former Yugoslavia.

For Captain Norton's biography and full citation, along with details of the other awards in the list, see Related links >>>

Captain Norton, an Ammunition Technical Officer, receives the George Cross for an act of 'the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger in the Al Bayaa district of Baghdad. On 24 July 2005, he led a team from the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell to the scene of a command initiated Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack on a three-vehicle US patrol which had left four soldiers dead and several others wounded.

On arrival, he quickly took charge and ensured the safety of the coalition forces present. When he found out that a possible command wire had been spotted in the vicinity, Captain Norton instructed his team and US forces to stay with their vehicles and he went forward to check the area himself.

Following an explosion in which Captain Norton sustained very serious injuries to his legs, arms and lower abdomen, he remained lucid and most concerned about the safety of his team. He deduced that he had stepped on a victim operated IED and there were likely to be further devices present.

Before allowing his team to render first aid, he instructed them on which areas were safe and where they could move. The following day, a further device was found less than 10 metres away, which proved that Captain Norton’s "prescience and clear orders in the most difficult circumstances undoubtedly prevented further serious injury or loss of life."

Captain Norton was present, along with members of his family, at the announcement of today's Operational Honours list which took place at MOD headquarters in London. Also present was the oldest surving George Cross winner, 91 year-old Colonel Stuart Archer GC. Recalling very clearly the events of 24 July 2005 Captain Norton said:

"I remember everything about the incident, from stepping on the device to flying through the air and then calling for help. My immediate thought was 'Oh bugger'. After I hit the ground thoughts of my wife and kids immediately came into my mind.

"I have no regrets about joining the army. We do what we're told to do and I was just doing my job."

Despite the appalling injuries he suffered, Captain Norton hopes to remain in the Army:

"I hope to stay in the Army with the majority of my time from now on maybe in staff work, possibly even instructing."

He also described how important his wife has been in helping him to recover:

"My wife's been an absolute star," he said.

Captain Norton’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Seddon, added:

"Captain Norton is one of the best I have ever worked with."

Lieutenant Colonel Seddon has himself been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery. An Ammunition Technical Officer with over 14 years experience, Lt Col Seddon was tasked to conduct a post blast analysis following the IED attack in Al Bayaa.

Upon arrival, Lt Col Seddon directed US troops to move to a safe distance and he discovered another buried IED, which he personally rendered safe. His citation reads:

"At the time of the incident Lieutenant Colonel Seddon had been in Iraq for less than a month and yet faced with a dangerous and traumatic situation exhibited the highest standards of professionalism."

Colour Sergeant Matthew Tomlinson receives the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. Colour Sergeant Tomlinson was commanding a US Marine Corps assault force on the Euphrates River near Fallujah in November 2004 when they came under fire from a numerically superior and well-defended enemy position.

His decision to turn his lead craft towards the attack created an element of surprise, which unhinged the enemy. He was first on the river bank, engaging in close quarter battle, enabling his men to encircle the enemy.

When it became clear the insurgents were reinforcing, Colour Sergeant Tomlinson called for fire support on the enemy Rocket Propelled Grenade position. He then planned and led a decisive assault on the key enemy position.

On realising his force was running low on ammunition, Colour Sergeant Tomlinson executed a safe withdrawal to the river bank where he personally provided cover fire to ensure his men safely boarded the boats. He also marked his position so that air support could counter strike at the enemy force. The citation reads:

"Colour Sergeant Tomlinson’s sure, aggressive and decisive actions throughout saved the lives of many in his US Marine Corps patrol. He displayed courage, determination, and remarkable presence of mind throughout and his actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Marines."

Speaking about the incident, Colour Sergeant Tomlinson, 39, said:

"On the river there's really nowhere to hide so I took the decision to move towards the enemy."

At the time of the incident Colour Sergeant Tomlinson, who has been in the Royal Marines for 17 years, was taking part in a two-year exchange programme with the US military:

"While I was there I was a boats advisor training the US Marines. I deployed to Iraq as part of the US Marines, I wore their uniform and worked alongside them as one of them."

So what did his American counterparts think of him?

"We got on pretty well. Everybody was pleased to see that it all worked well. They were a great bunch of lads and had a great Commanding officer. In Iraq we were mortated on a daily basis, as well as being fired on every day, so it was an interesting experience."

The Military Cross is awarded to Lieutenant Colonel James Woodham of the Royal Anglian Regiment and Captain Simon Bratcher, The Royal Logistic Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel Woodham, who was a Major at the time of the incident, was in charge of negotiations when two British soldiers were illegally arrested in Basra after a shooting incident and held at Jameat police station in September 2005.
He maintained a constant, invaluable flow of information to Brigade and displayed the highest levels of leadership and composure in an extremely tense situation. His citation reads:

"There is no doubt that the actions of Major Woodham helped to ensure the safety of the Negotiation Team and create the conditions for the subsequent rescue of the two detained soldiers."

In June 2005, Captain Bratcher – a young and only recently qualified Ammunition Technical Officer – discovered a highly sophisticated and complex victim operation IED while on duty in Maysan, southern Iraq. He correctly identified that the only viable option was a manual approach to the device, which he took on himself. His citation reads:

"With exceptional calmness and selfless bravery, he rendered safe the device, removing each component needed for forensic exploitation, which has since led to the arrest of suspected terrorist perpetrators and moved the counter measure process on significantly."

Other honours and awards reflect the full range of ranks and expertise of the Armed Forces. Defence Secretary, John Reid, said:

"These individuals have shown outstanding courage, bravery and tenacity in the face of the enemy or in particularly dangerous circumstances. They have shown exceptional commitment to their Country and their heroic actions fill me with a great sense of humility and pride. They are an example to us all and we should all be proud of them and their achievements."

Mr Reid also had a message for the families of the award winners, many of whom were present at the announcement in London:

"When we honour these men, we honour you as well."


big bad john

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Capt Norton: The story behind the George Cross
23 Mar 06
Captain Peter Norton, an Ammunition Technical Officer, has been awarded the George Cross for an act of 'the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger' in the Al Bayaa district near Baghdad, Iraq.

His citation reads:

"Captain Norton was the second-in-command of the US Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) based in the outskirts of Baghdad. The unit has been in the forefront of counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) operations and is plays a vital role in the collection and analysis of weapons intelligence.

"At 1917 hours on 24 July 2005, a three vehicle patrol from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Regiment of the Georgia National Guard was attacked by a massive command initiated IED in the Al Bayaa district near Baghdad. The ensuing explosion resulted in the complete destruction of a 'Humvee' patrol vehicle and the deaths of four US personnel. Due to the significance of the attack, a team from CEXC, commanded by Captain Norton, was tasked immediately to the scene. On arrival, Captain Norton was faced with a scene of carnage and the inevitable confusion which is present in the aftermath of such an incident. He quickly took charge and ensured the safety of all the coalition forces present. A short while later he was briefed that a possible command wire had been spotted in the vicinity of the explosion site. With a complete understanding of the potential hazard to himself and knowing that the insurgents had used secondary devices before in the particularly dangerous part of Iraq, Captain Norton instructed his team and the US forces present in the area to remain with their vehicle while he alone went forward to confirm whether a command wire IED was present.

"A short while later, an explosion occurred and Captain Norton sustained a traumatic amputation of his left leg and suffered serious blast and fragmentation injuries to his right leg, arms and lower abdomen. When his team came forward to render first aid, he was conscious, lucid and most concerned regarding their safety. He had correctly deduced that he had stepped on a victim operated IED and there was a high probability that further devices were present. Before allowing them to render first aid, he instructed his team on which areas were safe and where they could move. Despite having sustained grievous injuries he remained in command and coolly directed the follow-up actions. It is typical of the man that he ignored his injuries and regarded the safety of his men a paramount as they administered life saving first aid to him. It is of note that a further device was found less than ten metres away and rendered safe the following day. Captain Norton's prescience and clear orders in the most difficult circumstances undoubtedly prevented further serious injury or loss of life.

"Captain Norton has deployed to numerous other incidents during his time in Iraq, three of which a warrant mention. On 30 April 2005 he was investigating the scene of a suicide vehicle borne IED when his team was attached by two rocket propelled grenades. Despite the attack he still managed to conduct the necessary post-blast analysis. On 9 May 2005, whilst exploiting a supposedly neutralised suicide vest IED, which was packet with a combination of high explosives and ball-bearings, Captain Norton discovered that the detonators were still connected. He immediately, and without thought for his own safety, made the device safe by hand. Furthermore on 23 June 2005, whilst investigating the scene of an IED, Captain Norton discovered, concealed in the roadside, a secondary claymore mine. His quick and instinctive thinking ensured the area was rapidly evacuated and allowed a US Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team to clear the device, thereby saving further loss of life. Captain Norton has come under fire and has been exposed to significant danger on a number of occasions. He has consistently behaved in an exemplary fashion and his professionalism has been of the highest order. Captain Norton's outstanding bravery at the incident in Al Bayaa and throughout his tour fully justifies formal recognition."

Captain Peter Norton grew-up in Margate (Kent) where he was educated at the Dane Court Technical High School. In 1983, aged 20, he joined the Army. After completing his basic training at Deepcut he trained as an Ammunition Technical Officer at Kineton. His first posting was to Pombsen in Germany. He has served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and on loan service with Oman. He reached the rank of Warrant Officer 1 Conductor*, the highest non-commissioned rank in the British Army before he was commissioned in 2002.

Captain Norton has a place at Cranfield University to study for an MSc in Explosive Ordinance Engineering and will take-up his place when he is fit.

Peter is married to Sue and they have two children Thomas aged 3 and Toby aged 1.

* The first known mention of Conductors is in the 1327 Statute of Westminster, when they are mentioned as the men whose job it was to conduct soldiers to places of assembly. On 11 January 1879 a Royal warrant established Conductors of Supplies as Warrant Officers, ranking above all non-commissioned officers. It is a great honor to be appointed and prospective Conductors must have held the rank of WO1 for at least three years.