b. 23/05/1984 Brussels, Belgium.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 28/03/2003 Shatt-Al Arab Canal, Basra.
Christopher Finney (1984-) was born on 23rd May 1984 in Brussels, Belgium, the only son of Jeff and Sharon Finney (nee Lennard). He has two sisters named Lisa and Lauren. Whilst attending Ferndown Upper School in Dorset, he joined the local Army Cadet Force (C Company, Wimborne Detachment) before leaving to join the Army on 10th September 2000 at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
He completed Phase 2 of his training on 11th September 2001 (the day of the 9/11 attack) having specialised as an Armoured Vehicle crewman. He then joined the Household Cavalry Regiment at Windsor on 6th January 2002, and soon D Squadron were on route to Kuwait in anticipation of the Iraq War. Finney and his squadron crossed the border into Iraq on 21st March 2003.
On 28th March 2003, at the Shatt-Al Arab Canal, near Basra, when his Scimitar light tank was engaged (in friendly fire) by a pair of Coalition Forces ground attack aircraft. Two vehicles were hit and caught fire, and ammunition began exploding inside the turrets. Finney managed to get clear of his driving position and was making his way towards cover when he noticed that his tank's gunner, Lance Corporal Alan Tudball, was trapped in the turret. He then climbed on to the burning tank, placing himself at risk of enemy fire, as well as fire from Coalition aircraft should they return. Despite the smoke, flames and exploding ammunition, he managed to pull the wounded gunner out of the turret and get him off the vehicle, moving him to a safer position not far away, where he bandaged his wounds. The troop officer in the other tank had been wounded and there were no senior tanks to take control. Despite his relative inexperience, the shock of the attack and the all-too-obvious risk to himself, he recognised the need to inform his HQ of the situation. He therefore broke cover, returned to his vehicle, which was still burning, and calmly sent a concise report by radio. He then returned to the injured gunner and began helping him towards a Royal Engineers Spartan which had come forward to help. At this point Finney noticed that both Coalition aircraft were lining up another attack. Notwithstanding the imminent danger, he continued to help his wounded colleague towards the safety of the Spartan. Both aircraft fired their cannon and Finney was wounded in the lower back and legs and the gunner in the head. Despite his wounds, he managed to get Tudball into the Spartan. Then, seeing the driver of the second tank was still inside his burning vehicle, he was determined to rescue him too. Despite his injuries and exploding ammunition, he valiantly attempted to climb on to the tank but was beaten back by the intense heat and explosions. He collapsed exhausted a short distance away and was rescued by the crew of the Spartan.
After a 6 week recovery period, he returned to training at Windsor, and on 31st October 2003, it was announced that he would be awarded the George Cross, the youngest serviceman to receive the award. He received his medal from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 25th February 2004, with Lance Corporal Alan Tudball in attendance. Following his investiture, Chris was involved in recruitment and was reluctantly left behind when his squadron left for Afghanistan in March 2006.
Chris left the Army but struggled initially on “civvy street”, and wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday criticising the way service personnel were treated after leaving the services. At the time of the article he was working in a call centre, but the publicity it created, led to a job offer from the then Super Middleweight Boxing Champion Joe Calzaghe, to become a corporate ambassador for Calzaghe Enterprises. One of his first roles was a testimonial dinner in March 2010 to raise money for Help for Heroes.
Chris is married to Liz (nee Scorse) and they have three children. He appeared on the ITV show “Love your Garden” with Alan Titchmarsh in 2015. He and his wife now run the Goonhavern Garden Centre near Truro in Cornwall. His medals are currently on loan to the Imperial War Museum, and on display in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM (LOAN).
Christopher Finney's George Cross on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London