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RAF fighter pilot honoured for saving Iraqis fighting IS

Roger Cruickshank was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.

Roger Cruickshank: Hero pilot rescued Iraqi soldiers
Roger Cruickshank: Hero pilot rescued Iraqi soldiers PA

An RAF fighter pilot has been decorated for bravery after saving the lives of Iraqi soldiers fighting Islamic State.

Squadron leader Roger Cruickshank went into action with his unit in May last year, helping soldiers who had been pinned down by extremist fighters despite having little fuel left in his Typhoon fighter.

Mr Cruickshank from Ballater in Aberdeenshire was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in saving two different groups of soldiers.

He received the medal from the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

The pilot, who is based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, said he and his unit had been in "the right place at the right time".

He added: "I'm fortunate that I made the right decision in what was a couple of seconds to make the right call.

"They were very much cornered and in a place where they just couldn't escape from Daesh (IS) and they were taking casualties. We had to do something and do something very quickly.

"I made a big judgment call on whether we (the Typhoons) could attack and get to the (refuelling) tanker.

"It was a big call but we got there and it was a really successful day. Although it was also quite a stressful day in the office I'm glad it all went well."

Mr Cruickshank meets the Duke of Cambridge.
Mr Cruickshank meets the Duke of Cambridge. PA

Before becoming a pilot in a supersonic fighter, self-confessed lifelong "adrenaline junkie" Mr Cruickshank represented Great Britain at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

He competed in the downhill and Super G events just a year after he suffered a horrific injury, shattering his left leg.

The Ballater-born pilot also campaigns around mental health in memory of his mother Ann, a nurse who took her own life in 2010.

William, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry have become high-profile campaigners in the same field in recent years, launching their Heads Together campaign.

Mr Cruickshank said he had been inspired by the princes to support Heads Together, saying: "I was raising money for different charities but then I watched Harry and William speak at different events.

"What they were saying about their view on mental health and how they were attacking the stigma was exactly what I had been thinking and trying to do myself.

"I think they are doing a fantastic job, I said that when I received the award. I mentioned my mum and how proud I was that he was presenting the award because of his fight for mental health, and I thanked him for that."

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