The day 5ft Army girl defied enemy guns
By DAVID WILKES
Last updated at 09:17 10 August 2006
Michelle Norris, 19, dodged enemy fire for three minutes to rescue her patrol leader who had been shot in the mouth.
Military experts say her heroic dash deserves at least a Military Cross.
Private Norris - just 5ft tall 'but very headstrong' according to her proud father - was part of a patrol in support of the Iraqi Security Forces in Al Amarah.
While trying to recover another armoured vehicle stuck in a ditch, her patrol came under fire from five different enemy positions.
Then Private Norris heard that her sergeant had been hit and was lying in the turret of her Warrior patrol vehicle.
She leapt out of the back, climbed up to the turret and, despite a bullet from an AK47 rifle blasting through her rucksack, managed to drag the wounded man to safety.
Now her CO, Lieutenant Colonel David Labouchere MBE, is recommending her for a bravery award.
He said: 'Private Norris acted completely selflessly and, in the face of great danger, concentrated on her job and saved someone's life.'
Speaking from her base in Iraq yesterday, Private Norris described the incident, which happened in June.
'At the time I knew someone needed help so I went out there and did what I could,' she said. 'It's the first situation like this I have faced since I left training and, when it was going on, my mind was just full of the job at hand.
'The driver shouted down to me that my commander had been hit. So I jumped out of 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.
'It was only when I sat down later and thought about it that I realised how scary the whole thing had been.'
Private Norris, from Stourbridge, West Midlands, started her basic training 12 months ago and has been in Iraq as a medic with the First Battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment since April 12.
At home yesterday her mother Susan, 55, father Peter, 58, sister Tina, 30, and brother Peter, 27, said she was the pride of the family. Mrs Norris, a full time carer, said: 'I knew there had been an incident and I knew she was in a difficult situation but Michelle played it down. She told me, "This is what I joined for".
'Broke down and cried'
'When I realised the full enormity of it I broke down and cried. It was a mix of horror that she could have died and pride over what she had done.
'I just thank God she is alive. I'm so proud of her, we are all very, very proud. A medal would be nice for her but we aren't interested in that - we just want her to be safe, that's the main thing.'
Private Norris had wanted to join the Army since she was 11, when she became a cadet. Her mother said: 'I didn't really want her to join but it's what she was determined to do so we just supported her 110 per cent.
'But I'm so worried about her I haven't slept properly since she went to Iraq. She keeps on saying ''Don't worry about me, mum,'' but I can't help it.'
Private Norris's convoy was ambushed at night after being sent to find insurgents near the Iranian border. During a six-hour fire fight, two Challenger tanks came to the rescue, backed by 150 troops.
The injured sergeant was flown by helicopter to a military hospital.
Private Norris's father Peter said last night: 'Michelle is only a little dot - five feet nothing - but she is very headstrong. It was her training to do this and she acted on instinct.'
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