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Bill Speakman, first soldier to receive a Victoria Cross from Queen, dies aged 90

11:46 am, 22nd June 2018

Bill Speakman was awarded the VC – Britain’s highest military honour – for his bravery in leading a military action during the Korea War.

Rounding up six of his comrades in November 1951, he gathered a pile of grenades and led a series of charges against North Korean and Chinese soldiers.

Despite suffering injuries to his leg and shoulder, he battled on to repel the enemy.

Having run out of grenades he resorted to throwing beer bottles in a heroic bid to protect his comrades and allow them to withdraw safely.

“You just do what you’re trained to do as a soldier,” he said. “We did what we had to.”

The Victoria Cross is awarded for gallantry “in the presence of the enemy”.

King George Vl awarded him the honour but died before an investiture could take place.

“When I got it the king was alive but he was very ill,” Mr Speakman said.

“So the Queen – I was her first VC. It was a wonderful moment. I think she was nervous and I was very nervous,” he told the Royal British Legion.

Prior to his death, Mr Speakman was one of only 10 living people who had been awarded the VC, which was first presented by Queen Victoria in 1857.

On Remembrance Sunday last year, he was accompanied by another holder of the award, Johnson Beharry, who won his VC for bravery in Iraq in 2004.

Mr Speakman, a father of seven born in Altrincham, Cheshire, also served in Italy, Greece, Malaya and Borneo.

Between 1945 and 1970 he was in the Black Watch, the Argyll and Southern Highlanders and The King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

He later became a Chelsea pensioner.

The Victoria Cross Trust said it was “extremely sad” to hear of Mr Speakman’s death.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends at this sad time,” it added.