A former Royal Marine from Plymouth who helped to save some 200 people in the Kenya shopping centre massacre has become the first civilian in 41 years to be awarded the George Cross.
Dominic Troulan, who served with Stonehouse-based 3 Commando Brigade before joining the special forces, went into the mall time and time again to rescue people after it was attacked by heavily armed terrorists.
He had been asked to come to the rescue by a friend who told him that his wife and daughter were caught up in an armed robbery, The Mirror reported.
Mr Troulan sped through Nairobi on his motorbike armed with just a 9mm pistol and discovered the worst terrorist attack to strike at the heart of Kenya.
It turned into a four-day siege and the death toll in the wake of the militant attack was 67.
Four terrorists started to open fire on a shopping mall in a scene, which was “like an abattoir,” according to Mr Troulan.
Blood was all over the wall and unexploded grenades were strewn on the ground, while children were among the dead.
British-born Mr Troulan, who, as a sergeant in the Royal Marines, was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his "gallant and distinguished services" in Northern Ireland in 1993, went to the rescue of people trapped inside the building and spent six hours going in and out of the Westgate shopping mall.
He was shot at twice and fired back at the al-Shabaab terrorists, who are based in Somalia.
He later said he believed he rescued in the region of 200 people from the shopping centre.
Mr Troulan, 54, was awarded a George Cross – Britain’s highest civilian gallantry medal – for his actions.
The George Cross is handed out to people who carry out "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."
Since 1976 the handful of those honoured with the medal were serving servicemen.
Mr Troulan, in his first interview with The Times, said ordinary people showed "quiet acts of decency and compassion too numerous to count."
He added: "I see myself as a custodian, for all the other good people who helped that day: the medics, the people who turned up with bottles of water, the people offering first aid."
Dad-of-two Mr Troulan also worked as a security consultant and helped to rescue British hostages, including Judith Tebbutt and also Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Dartmouth, who were held by pirates in Somalia.
He said he was "tremendously honoured" to be handed the medal, which is second only to the Victoria Cross, but said it brought back memories of the devastating attack.
Mr Troulan said: "Militarily, you go on operations, you have a plan and you divorce yourself from everything and you are focused on that plan.
"Nobody was mentally prepared for Westgate. This was in a shopping mall, a place you use to get your everyday groceries.
"I remember seeing the absolute carnage and thinking, 'I have got to do something about this.'"
He headed into the mall through the fire escape and rushed upstairs where he came under fire from a man wearing a black bandana.
The scale of his bravery was revealed in an official citation, which said: “realising that large numbers of civilians remained trapped while terrorists continued to kill indiscriminately, Troulan re-entered the mall.
“Over the course of several hours he went into the building at least a dozen times and on each occasion managed to bring many innocent civilians to safety.”
He discovered some terrified people cowering in shops and basement car parks that he had to “physically grab them” and march them out of the mall.
But the citation said he too was suffering and added: “Troulan was exhausted, dehydrated and at the limit of his mental capacity.
“He was about to stop when a distress call was received from a woman who was trapped, injured and bleeding.
He said his inspiration were from the words of Theodore Roosevelt, the US President, who said in 1910 “credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”.
He also paid tribute to those who had shown “amazing human spirit” following the attacks in Manchester and London.