Army medic is hailed a heroine for saving her commander under fire

AN ARMY medic braved sniper fire to save the life of her injured commander in Iraq.

Private Michelle Norris, 19, has been hailed as a heroine after she clambered on top of an armoured vehicle to treat an injured colleague while under fire.

The incident took place in the Maysan province of Iraq in June when Pte Norris was part of a patrol in support of the Iraqi security forces in Al Amarah.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The patrol came under attack while it was trying to recover a Warrior vehicle stuck in a ditch and the vehicle commander was wounded.

It is understood that Pte Norris, from Stourbridge, West Midlands, is to be recommended for a military honour for her bravery during her first tour of duty in Iraq.

In a statement released yesterday, Pte Norris, nicknamed "Chuck", who only recently qualified as a medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps, described the ordeal. She said: "[The incident] brought it home to me and I realised why I was here. It was my first casualty since training, which was pretty scary.

"On arrival at the scene, we stopped and when I heard 'dings' off the Warrior, I thought it was stones. All of a sudden, the driver, Private Nani Ratawake, shouted down to me that my commander had been hit.

"I jumped out the back of the Warrior, climbed up on top of the turret, looked down, and saw the extent of his injuries. I then heard the crack and a thump of a round going past my head. I was under fire from a sniper, which luckily just missed me.

"Ratawake pulled me down head first into the turret. A round went over and hit a battery which was at my knee height, so if he hadn't pulled me down at that point, my knee or my leg would have been shot. We managed to cross the turret and get my commander into the back, where one of the lads put a sweat rag over him. I got through and administered first aid, put a dressing on and checked his vital signs," she said.

Pte Nani Ratawake, who is known as "Destroyer", then drove to the helicopter landing point, where the casualty, who has not been named, was taken to a military field hospital.

Yesterday, Pte Norris's commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel David Labouchere, said: "Pte Norris acted completely selflessly and, in the face of great danger, concentrated on her job and saved someone else's life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"She is part of a larger team, all of whom are acquitting themselves admirably when faced with danger," Lt-Col Labouchere added.

Gaps in front-line medical services leave soldiers exposed

THE armed forces have only four-fifths of the qualified medical officers they require, the defence committee report warns today.

According to previously unpublicised Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures unearthed by the committee, the three services have less than 80 per cent of their proper complement of medical officers, with an overall shortfall of 22.1 per cent. And some of the biggest gaps are in the most important areas of medicine, especially emergency care.

Significantly, there is also a shortage of psychiatrists, the MPs observe.

As The Scotsman revealed earlier this year, since 2003 more than 1,500 British troops have been diagnosed with mental illnesses related to front-line deployments in Iraq.

A shortage of MoD psychiatric facilities means many traumatised soldiers are being treated privately, at considerable expense to the taxpayer.

More than 800 military victims of post-traumatic stress have been treated at clinics run by the Priory, the private "detox" centre favoured by celebrities and run by Chai Patel, a financial supporter of the Labour Party.

The committee is now planning an investigation into the shortage of medics, and particularly the suggestion that the soaring salaries paid by the NHS are luring crucial staff from the armed forces.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

During their trip to the British Army's Shaibah hospital in Iraq in June, the defence committee heard from one military medic that he could double his salary if he left the army to work for the NHS.