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'I'm no hero,' says honoured airman

PUBLISHED: 10:38 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:04 07 July 2010

Cpl David Hayden.

Cpl David Hayden.

A Suffolk-based gunner insisted yesterday that he was "no hero" as he became the first non-commissioned officer in the RAF's history to receive the Military Cross.

A Suffolk-based gunner insisted yesterday that he was “no hero” as he became the first non-commissioned officer in the RAF's history to receive the Military Cross.

Cpl David Hayden, of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, ran through a hail of enemy gunfire to rescue a fatally wounded colleague after coming under attack from Iraqi insurgents last year.

The 29-year-old, who is based at RAF Honington, received the Military Cross from the Queen at Buckingham Palace and dedicated the bravery medal to the fallen members of his squadron.

His commanding officer, Sqn Ldr Jason Sutton, of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, was made an OBE yesterday for his leadership during a difficult six-month deployment at Basra airbase, in Iraq, in which four comrades were killed and nine were injured.

Cpl Hayden, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, was described as showing the “most outstanding courage and gallantry” when the squadron came under attack from about 50 insurgents as they were out on patrol in the Iraqi village of Al-Waki, near Basra, last August.

When Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard was fatally wounded, Cpl Hayden, who was second in command of a sub-unit of B Flight, ran into the open and carried his injured comrade on his shoulder across 200 yards of difficult terrain and while under fire to get to safety.

After the investiture ceremony, Cpl Hayden said: “I'm no hero, I'm hardly a hero. I was just doing my job and got recognition. If anyone's a hero it's the lads that have passed away and their families - they're heroes. They're dealing with a lot more than what I'm dealing with.”

The RAF's non-commissioned ranks have only been eligible for the Military Cross since 1994 (previously they would have been awarded the Military Medal).

Four other gunners from RAF Honington have also received high- level honours for their bravery and courage during 1 Squadron's six- month tour of Iraq.

Cpl Hayden, who is now an instructor at RAF Honington and lives in the service families quarter, added: “At the end of the day, it's all about teamwork. There wasn't just me on the ground that day; there were another 40 blokes who did as much as I did.

“There is no I in team, we are one big team and I dedicate this to all the lads in 1 Squadron RAF Regiment.”

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