Heroic soldier visits south west London college


Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, who holds the Victoria Cross award, visited Wandsworth’s South Thames College to share his inspirational story.


By Laura Walkinshaw

A South London college was honoured last month with a VIP visit from a heroic soldier who holds the Victoria Cross award.

Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC came to South Thames College in Wandsworth to share his inspirational story with over 100 students.

He spoke of his experiences of growing up in the Caribbean, moving from home to home and not having the opportunity to go to school.

“When I first came to London I dropped out of college, I was dealing drugs, drinking and smoking,” he said.

“But I turned my life around and now I am the only living British soldier still serving in the army to have been awarded the Victoria Cross.”

L/Cpl Beharry was honoured with the award in 2005 for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes in Iraq.

He endured serious head injuries, fell into a coma and spent time on a life support machine.

Doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival, but he made a miraculous recovery and returned to the army.

“I have been through a lot, but meeting the Queen was one of the scariest days of my life,” he said.

The heroic soldier is one of many guest speakers who are invited to the college to help motivate and inspire young people to achieve their full potential.

Orlando Worthington, 34, a youth worker at the college who helped to arrange the visit, said the visit got a great reception from students.

“It was nice to see that the students really benefited from it – they were asking questions, they were engaging,” he said.

He added: “Everyone I spoke to really enjoyed it and they’re actually asking for either him to come back or for us to try and get someone else in of the same calibre.”

Law student Jordi Williams, 23, who moved to the UK from Jamaica when she was 14, felt that she could relate to the heroic soldier’s background.

“He showed me that no matter where you came from, you can be who you want to be,” she said.

“You know sometimes when your friends give you advice you tend to want to follow what your friends say but he didn’t listen to anyone, he just pursued his own goals,” she said. “I liked the fact that he didn’t give up.”

Mr Worthington said guest speakers are really beneficial for students and in the past have included Tim Campbell, winner of 2005’s The Apprentice.

“You see so many stars or people who have done well but you don’t actually know their story or what they’ve overcome to get to that place,” he said.

“This way students get to speak to someone real instead of listening to so much theory,” he said. “I think it’s so important to hear from someone who has achieved so much when they’ve faced different things and to see the different ways you can achieve.”

At the end of the talk, L/Cpl Beharry showed off his medal – valued at over £400,000.

Since being awarded the Victoria Cross he has been raising awareness of injured soldiers by writing a book, making a documentary and appearing on Dancing on Ice

He now plans to return to his regiment where he will continue serving in the British Army.

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