A Victoria Cross hero awarded the freedom of Hounslow last night said the borough would always feel like home to him.

The UK's highest military honour was bestowed on Johnson Beharry in 2005 after he twice braved enemy fire to rescue ambushed colleagues in Iraq. He is one of just nine living VC holders.

At a special council meeting last night he was made an honorary freeman of the borough.

Hounslow Council leader Steve Curran said: "Heroism on this scale will never be forgotten or taken for granted. We're incredibly proud of you and hope this goes some way to showing our appreciation, admiration and gratitude."

Video thumbnail, Johnson Beharry is awarded the freedom of Hounslow borough
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Although he is no stranger to awards, Mr Beharry said this one felt particularly significant given his links to Hounslow.

He lived with his aunt in Cranford for several years after first coming to the UK from Grenada in 1999.

Although he now lives in Tower Hamlets, he said Hounslow would always feel like his home in the UK.

"I feel a great affection for Hounslow and its people, so tonight felt particularly special."

Johnson Beharry (second from left) with (l-r) deputy Hounslow mayor Bishnu Gurung, Ayden Beharry, Mallissa Beharry and Hounslow mayor Corinna Smart he receives the freedom of Hounslow borough
 

Mr Beharry was joined last night by his wife and son Ayden - the first time the one-year-old has attended one of his father's public engagements.

The families of late VC holders Tul Bahadur Pun and Lachhiman Gurung were also present.

However, Mr Beharry, who is still a serving soldier, said the evening was tinged with sadness as his comrades could not be with him.

"I accepted this great honour for myself and on behalf of my colleagues," said the man who last month unveiled Hounslow's newest war memorial.

"We must never forget I didn't do this by myself, and my colleagues are always in my heart.

"Receiving honours like this reminds people that although the majority of our soldier are back home there are still soldiers out there doing a dangerous job."

The freedom of the borough traditionally came with the right to drive a herd of sheep or other animals through the town centre, though these days it is a purely symbolic title.

"I come from a farming background but I don't have any animals here so I won't be marching a goat through Hounslow. People would think I'm crazy," he joked.

Johnson Beharry VC leaves the council chamber at Hounslow Civic Centre after receiving the freedom of Hounslow borough
 

Despite Mr Beharry being the star of the show, his cheery young son rather stole the limelight on the night.

Mr Beharry said he would not tell Ayden about his exploits in the Army unless asked, adding 'maybe he will learn by reading about it in school'.

Asked whether he would encourage his son to follow in his footsteps, the soldier said: "I would want him to make a conscious decision and be absolutely sure that's what he wanted to do. I wouldn't want him to just follow in my footsteps.

"If he thinks about it carefully and is absolutely sure that's what he wants to do I would support him. Maybe he could be the soldier I couldn't be."