Portrait of Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC


Painting by Nick Lord

In April 2004 1 PWRR deployed for a six month tour to Iraq. The battalion grouping took over responsibility for Maysan Province. One company was deployed to Basrah and one, as the Brigade Reserve, covered the whole of the Southern Iraq area of operations.  Already present was a PWRR composite platoon from 2 and 3 PWRR, attached to the 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

It was said that the 1 PWRR Battle Group faced the most constant period of conflict of any British Army unit since the Korean War.  In Maysan they faced over 100 contacts in one day alone and close to 900 over the tour, including gun battles which lasted hours.  Private Chris Rayment died during the defence of CIMIC House, Al Amahra; which in itself was a truly heroic action.  B Company in Basrah faced possibly the most violent single contact of the period, leading to the loss of Private Lee O’Callaghan, the severe wounding of the Company Commander and Company Sergeant Major and injuries to four others.  In Al Amarah, C Company took 25 per cent casualties in the first 17 days of the tour.  Every man who deployed with the battalion was in some form of contact with the enemy.

Through all these trials, all the officers and men performed outstandingly.  They faced attack, danger and heat with courage, determination, humanity and humour.  Nobody gave anything less than their best.  During this tour many medals were won, including a Victoria Cross for Private (now Lance Sergeant) Johnson Beharry.  This period was pivotal in forging the Regiment’s confidence in its new identity, subsequently reinforced during further tours in Iraq and on into Afghanistan.

In the summer of 2013 Sky Arts invited artists from all over Britain and Ireland to compete for the title of ‘Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year’. Almost 2,000 artists entered the competition by submitting a self-portrait. A shortlist was drawn up by a distinguished panel of judges – Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy, portrait artist Tai Shan Schierenberg and Kate Bryan, Head of Contemporary at the Fine Art Society. The director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne, joined the judging panel to select the overall winner, who was 25 year-old Nick Lord.

His portrait of Lance Sergeant Beharry VC was painted for the final of the competition in HM Tower of London, Regimental Headquarters of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment where it now hangs.