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Johnson Beharry VC

Johnson Beharry addresses the school assembly.
10 Oct 2022
School News
Johnson Beharry VC
Johnson Beharry VC

Johnson Beharry VC was invited to speak to the whole school at a special assembly on Friday 7th October. Johnson spoke for about 45 minutes talking about his life, his humble beginnings, his route into a life of crime and how he managed to escape it, to turning his life around and being awarded the Victoria Cross.

As part of his visit, he inspected the parade and joined the Prefects for dinner in the evening, he also spoke to students who have recently been in trouble, to inspire them to seize the opportunities that they have been given and to make the most of their time here.

Johnson was born in Grenada in the Caribbean and came from an extremely poor family. He was one of eight children. He talked about how his father was an alcoholic and a gambler, so he went to live with his grandmother at the age of four. When he was eight, he went to live with another relative who was more financially secure and in a better position to look after Johnson. He spoke of how he owned his first pair of shoes at the age of eight, a pair of trainers and received his first and only toy – a remote controlled car.

At the age of sixteen, Johnson went to England and stayed with an aunt, attending college, and taking odd jobs to support himself. When he left college at eighteen, he moved into his own place and started living the high life, partying, and drinking, he was having a great time. His life then took a dark route into the world of drug dealing and gangs, he was the King pin of West London for a time which culminated in him being stopped by the Police whilst driving a car without tax or insurance. What the police did not find was his stash of Class A and B drugs and an Ouzi!

Around this time, Johnson had spoken to his now elderly and frail grandmother. He wanted to help her out of poverty, he could have bought her anything she wanted, but he realised if she knew how he was making his money she would not want it. He started questioning himself and what he was doing with his life – what would his grandmother think of him?

Johnson decided he wanted to join the Army to give focus and structure to his life. He turned up to the Wembley Army Recruitment Office in his jeans, t-shirt, trainers, and gold chain, with dreadlocks and high as a kite – unsurprisingly he was turned away. He did not give up - he kept going back until one day they handed him the fitness programme and told him to train for 6 months and get clean. He did the fitness programme in 6 weeks and was finally selected for Basic Training. He passed this and was soon posted to Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Iraq.

It was on his tour to Iraq that he was first injured, he was shot at several times, whilst trying to move his crew to safety. Six weeks later he was out on patrol again when the Warrior TAV that he was driving was blown up. He has no recollection of the six weeks between the first incident and the second incident to this day. Johnson was severely injured and required brain surgery where 40% of his brain was removed and a near total facial reconstruction. He has spent 8 years in and out of hospital, was in a coma for several weeks during which he experienced a life changing moment. Whilst in the coma he was ‘looking down’ on himself and his visitors, he thought he was floating on a canoe and was carried to a bed of nails. During this ‘dream’ the nurse was asking the family for permission to turn off his life support, when Johnson regained consciousness. This cathartic experience gave Johnson a reason to appreciate his second chance at life and the ability to bear the constant pain that he experiences daily.

Johnson ended his talk by saying to the students to make the most of the opportunities that the school offers them, to have a focus and to work hard for what they want to achieve in life. It was a truly inspirational talk and insight into the life of a remarkable man, capturing the attention of both staff and students.

Johnson has campaigned for better mental health facilities for veterans, as he tried to take his own life due to depression whilst suffering from PTSD due to his experience in Iraq. He has also set up his foundation to work in partnership with leading practitioners to assist young people to leave street gangs and to develop sustainable careers.



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