Bomb victim ex Para highlights bravery of civilian workers in Iraq

Richard BatsonA former Norfolk soldier killed by a suicide bomb in Iraq has penned a poignant message highlighting the unsung bravery of fellow civilian workers.Richard Batson

A former Norfolk soldier killed by a suicide bomb in Iraq has penned a poignant message highlighting the unsung bravery of fellow civilian workers.

Nic Crouch, 29, was a private security guard protecting United States Army engineers building a hospital in the city of Mosul when his convoy came under attack.

A car packed with explosives was triggered by a suicide bomber killing Mr Crouch and wounding three of his colleagues and five Iraqi civilians on Monday morning.

In a moving letter written to his family he says many other former British soldiers doing security work in the Middle East had died with 'little or no acknowledgement of their bravery'

Mr Crouch, who went beyond the call of duty to help local casualties when serving in Afghanistan, admits he also returned to the Middle East for the money but stressed 'we are not mercenaries,' adding 'we were here out of disillusionment and to try to provide a better future for our families not available in our own regiments.'

His parents at Trimingham near Cromer have paid tribute to the popular ex-paratrooper as a caring conscientious man who overcame dyslexia to become an army officer in the Parachute Regiment and later switched to a civilian job specialising in close protection duties.

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They revealed that it was Nic's final wish, spelled out in his will, that if he died the bravery of former soldiers' private security work should be recognised.

He said: 'If I should be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq and the media is interested I would like them to know how I and all the other former soldiers contributed to the Great Game.

'I seek no personal glory, but many good Paras and other ex-servicemen have died supporting these operations with little or no acknowledgement of their bravery. It is widely accepted that without us the British and US forces couldn't operate.'

The former Gresham's schoolboy said while civilian security workers were better paid than soldiers, they did not have the air, firepower and medical back up.

And he adds: 'If you're reading this I bought it. I pray you are comforted and understand that we all die some day and however premature my death I lived a full and passionate life.'

Parents Clive and Barbara Crouch said Nic, who would be sorely missed by his family, colleagues and friends, was a popular and dedicated soldier, who always found time to help and support his men. One of men in the platoon he commanded was Cromer man Cpl Stephen Bolger, who was killed, aged 30, in an explosion in Afghanistan in June 2009.

Mr Crouch, a former RAF flying instructor who later ran the Jaguar jet simulator at RAF Coltishall in a civilian role, said his son won an Army sixth form scholarship before graduating from Sandhurst in 2000.

His initial attempt to join the Paras was turned down, but Nic wrote to the commanding officer urging a rethink, and got in - showing his determination.

He was a basic training instructor, and did spells in Northern Ireland including tackling terrorism and smuggling on the border.

Nic's switch to civilian life came in 2005, initially with a company doing close protection duties in Afghanistan, then joining another firm in Iraq two years ago.

In Afghanistan he worked closely with American special forces and Danish Army medical teams, and even lent a hand dealing with casualties, including local children - which saw him made an honorary medic. His protection duties also included politicians such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

He met partner Jessica Rickards in the Camp Bastion hospital where she was a nurse. The pair were due to get engaged when he returned home on leave in September.

She said he was a 'loving, gentle, thoughtful and funny man' who cheered her up during their last video phone chat the night before he died.

Mr Crouch said Nic was a 'bit mischievous ' when younger, including breaking a wrist jumping off prep school steps - in his 'first attempt to be a paratrooper.'

But he was a 'soldier's soldier' who cared for his men, and motivated his team members. Tribute messages included comments from many former colleagues who said 'you always found time for me.'

Nic also leaves a younger sister Rebecca 28, Arrangements are still being made for his funeral which is likely to be in early August at Trimingham church where has asked to be buried in his Hugo Boss suit, but with his army jungle boots, combat dress and Para beret with him.