Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, the first person to receive the Victoria Cross in 20 years, visited Bradford today as part of an exhibition about the role of ethnic minorities in the Army.

The 31-year-old, originally from Grenada, who was awarded the highest decoration for bravery in the British and Commonwealth armed forces for two acts of heroism in Iraq, gave inspirational talks to young people as part of the We Were There exhibition at Bradford College.

The exhibition aims to highlight the contribution made by ethnic minorities to defence over the past 250 years.

Lance Cpl Beharry, who is due to return to the event tomorrow, said: “It’s really important the students know the contribution their ancestors and their families made to give us a better life today."

Lance Cpl Beharry, who saved more than 40 lives in 2004 while serving in Al Amarah, told young people how he joined the Army to get away from a life of dealing and taking drugs.

Also at the exhibition were Mohammed Sharif, 88, and Sahib Dad, 86, of Keighley, who served in the British Indian Army during the Second World War.

Mr Sharif, who saw action in North Africa with the Punjab Regiment, said: “People should know what we did in the Second World War.

“The Japanese bombed Calcutta and the call went out to join the Army. It’s important to know what the Muslims did along with Hindus and Sikhs.”

Others recognised at the exhibition include Major James Horton, born in Sierra Leone, who became one of the first Africans to serve as an officer in the British Army when he joined the medical service as a surgeon in 1859, and Mary Seacole, of Jamaica, who helped look after troops injured during the Crimean War.