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20th April 2009

Old Member’s son decorated for heroism in Afghanistan

Ian Duncan (1962, Modern Languages) has confirmed that his son, Flt Lt Alexander “Frenchie” Duncan, an RAF pilot, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic conduct in Afghanistan. He was one of 150 servicemen honoured at the start of March this year for their valour in the UK and overseas during 2008.

In May 2008 Flt Lt Duncan was piloting a Chinook helicopter which was carrying the governor of Helmand Province, Gulab Mangal, when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Through continued fire, he managed to fly the bullet-riddled craft six miles to safety despite having lost one hydraulic system and a large portion of a main rotor blade. His actions, and those of his co-pilot, saved the lives of the governor and the 16 civilian passengers and four crew members aboard the helicopter.

When asked about the incident, Flt Lt Duncan said: “Afterwards most of the passengers were in a mild state of shock but the governor thanked us – he was the coolest of all of them. But then I think he’s been there a few times before. When someone asked him later why he’d been smiling, he just said that he knew everything would be OK, because they were with the RAF.”

He added: “The medal is not just for me but for the crew and the whole squadron.”

He receives the medal for his “consummate professionalism” during the incident. The honour also recognises that, just six days later, he flew twice more into intense fire in Afghanistan to drop troops conducting an operation against the Taliban. Flt Lt Duncan, who has dual French and British nationality, is the first Frenchman to win the award since World War II fighter ace Pierre Clostermann in 1944.

In his address at the announcement of the Gallantry Awards, Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb said of all the service personnel being honoured: “Look no further for your 21st Century role models; these are your real heroes: they live amongst you, they defend you and your right to freedom… There are none better.”

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