Medal for hero who saved his comrades from Taliban grenade
A SOLDIER from Kingswood who saved the lives of his men when he picked up and hurled away a live Taliban grenade is to be honoured for his bravery.
Serjeant Deacon Cutterham, 28, had just five seconds to plunge his arm into murky ditchwater, retrieve the high-explosive device and throw it to safety as he and his comrades were attacked while on patrol in troubled Helmand province.
Today it was announced that the former Mangotsfield School pupil's actions had won him the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, an award for bravery in military action surpassed only by the Victoria Cross.
Sjt Cutterham, of 1st Battalion the Rifles, says he had a feeling that an insurgent attack was imminent when he set out from his base in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand on May 24 last year.
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He had just been promoted to the rank of serjeant – spelled with a 'j' in the Rifles as a regimental tradition – after his friend, Colour Serjeant Kevin Fortuna, 36, also of 1 Rifles, was killed by an improvised explosive device the day before.
He said: "As soon as I left my patrol base I knew something was up, something wasn't right.
"You can sort of tell by the atmospherics in the air. People who are normally sociable towards you don't want to talk to you."
He and his patrol were wading through an irrigation ditch, knee-deep in water, when the grenade came flying over a high wall and landed seven to ten feet in front of him.
Sjt Cutterham said: "I heard the 'ching' of the fly-off lever coming off it. It all happened so fast but so slowly. I just went into autopilot. I shouted 'get down, grenade', ran forward, grabbed it first time and just let go of it. I can't believe I didn't lose my fingers because as soon as I let go of it, it exploded.
"If I had missed it, it would have been game over.
"I'm comfortable around grenades and things like that. I know it sounds crazy but I am. It didn't faze me picking up a grenade."
Sjt Cutterham "posted" the grenade into a parallel irrigation channel to get it out of his hand as quickly as possible. He said the "unbelievable" explosion ripped out half the bank of the adjoining ditch, and believes that had he not acted it would have killed him and probably at least one of his soldiers.
"Afterwards I was angry because I thought 'How dare you try and extinguish my life and the lives of my men'," said Sjt Cutterham, who has also served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq.
The soldier's fiancee, Megan Cook, from Wells, is an officer in the nursing corps and will be deployed to Afghanistan next year, but he did not tell her the full story.
Sjt Cutterham said: "I told her I had a grenade thrown at me and I threw it back. She just said 'Well done'. I didn't want to frighten her too much."
The Evening Post first reported details of the incident last summer.
The medal citation reads: "The action itself was utterly courageous, carried out with composure and clarity of thought. Cutterham's gritty leadership and gallant act saved lives and inspired his men."
Sjt Cutterham was later injured four months into his tour of Afghanistan when he fell from the roof of a compound under enemy attack and hit his head. He came round two days later in hospital in the UK.
In December the Post reported how Sjt Cutterham was knocked off his bike by a tripwire strung across the Bristol to Bath cycle path by robbers, who stole the bike.
The medal will be presented at a later date.