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Gunners honoured for outstanding courage

PUBLISHED: 09:20 07 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 07 July 2010

SAC James Stinson, Cpl David Hayden, Warrant Officer Robert Hargreaves, Air Vice Marshal Andy Pulford, Sqn Ldr Jason Sutton,  SAC Benjamin Wharton, Sgt John Bainbridge.

SAC James Stinson, Cpl David Hayden, Warrant Officer Robert Hargreaves, Air Vice Marshal Andy Pulford, Sqn Ldr Jason Sutton, SAC Benjamin Wharton, Sgt John Bainbridge.

Six Suffolk-based gunners have been honoured for their bravery in a gruelling tour in Iraq - including the first non-commissioned officer in the RAF's history to receive the Military Cross.

Six Suffolk-based gunners have been honoured for their bravery in Iraq - including the first non-commissioned officer in the RAF's history to receive the Military Cross.

The service personnel from 1 Squadron RAF Regiment lost four comrades and suffered nine injuries during a six-month deployment at Basra airbase where they were subjected to constant attacks from enemy insurgents.

Six of the unit based at RAF Honington were last week named in the military's Operational Honours list for outstanding battlefield courage.

Cpl David Hayden receives the Military Cross for his gallantry after repeatedly risking his life in a fire fight to rescue a wounded colleague and extract his men from danger.

The father-of-one is the first non-commissioned officer in the RAF and only the third serviceman in the history of the RAF Regiment to get the honour after he ran into the open to carry the fatally wounded Leading Aircraft-man Martin Beard to safety after coming under heavy fire during a foot patrol in the Al Waki district of Basra on August 7.

The 28-year-old gunner, who was born in Germany and lives at the service families quarter at RAF Honington, joined the air force in 1997 and is now an instructor at the Suffolk base.

Two service personnel from Bury St Edmunds, Sgt John Bainbridge and Senior Aircraftman James Stinson, have both received the Queen's Commendation for Bravery following their actions after an insurgent rocket attack on the Basra Deployed Operating Base on July 19, which killed three members of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment.

Sgt Bainbridge, 47, helped evacuate injured personnel and saved the life of a comrade after co-ordinating the fire-fighting operation at the base. SAC Stinson, 25, also disregarded his own safety to help free trapped colleagues, despite badly burning his feet.

Senior Aircraftman Benjamin Wharton, 24, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, has been Mentioned in Despatches after helping to evacuate and treat injured colleagues after the rocket attack on July 19. The heavy machine gunner was also knocked off his Land Rover after receiving a hit to the chest on August 7 before remounting the vehicle and providing covering fire.

Sqn Ldr Jason Sutton, of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, will receive the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his leadership during the six-month deployment in Iraq in which 800 insurgent rockets were fired at the Basra airbase. He said after a memorial service that the tour was probably the "toughest" operation for the regiment since the second world war.

Warrant Officer Robert Hargreaves, from the RAF Regiment training wing, has been recognised for his leadership with the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.

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