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Briton honoured for saving 20,000 lives in Croatia twenty years ago

Croatian Times

Royal Marines hero Mark Gray has been awarded one of Croatia's highest military honours for saving a town of 20,000 people from being swept away in a flood when he dodged mines and sniper bullets to save a dam from bursting its banks.

Retreating Serb troops had deliberately rigged the dam in Peruca to blow as they fled, engulfing the Croatian town underneath it during the Balkans conflict in 1993.

Colonel Gray - then part of the UN peace keeping force - had been under strict orders to remain neutral.

But when he saw what the fleeing troops were planning, he sprinted to the top of the dam to open a sluice gate to allow thousands of gallons of water to flow harmlessly away before the charges blew, saving the town.

And this week he was awarded the Order of Duke Domagoj by Croatian president Ivo Josipovic for his bravery.

"I am deeply touched with this. This is a great honour for me," said Col Gray.

"The director of the dam had told me that getting rid of some of the water could save thousands of lives, so I did it without even thinking of the danger. I just thought about how it would save a lot of people," he added.

Croatian defence minister Ante Kotromanovic said: "He was under orders not to get involved. Luckily for those 20,000 people he ignored those orders."

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