Johnson Beharry is the first recipient of the Victoria Cross since the posthumous awards to Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay for service in the Falklands War in 1982. He is the first living recipient of the VC since Keith Payne and Rayene Stewart Simpson, both Australian, for actions in Vietnam in 1969, and the first living recipient of the VC in the British Army since Rambahadur Limbu, a Gurkha, in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965. As of 26 June 2006, he is one of only 12 living recipients of the VC, and the youngest.
Beharry was born in Grenada, and has four brothers and three sisters. He moved to the UK in 1999.
On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior Tracked Armoured Vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Beharry drove through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded colleagues from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for "valour of the highest order".
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior vehicle of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle and Beharry received serious head injuries. Other rockets hit the vehicle incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his very serious injuries, Beharry then took control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering when he was awarded the VC in March 2005. He suggested on at least one occasion that he would return to military service if physically able.
According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, a planned 90-minute drama about Beharry was canceled by the BBC because it was "too positive" and would alienate members of the audience opposed to the war in Iraq.