A SOLDIER from Stonehouse who fights for the French Foreign Legion is to receive France’s highest medal for bravery.

Adjutant-Chef Alex Rowe, 43, a former Maidenhill pupil, was not allowed to join the British Army alongside his identical twin brother Mark due to a visual impairment.

Now Alex, who has won four other awards for valour, will be presented with the Legion of Honour for his actions during several firefights in Afghanistan.

Ten of his comrades were killed in an ambush nearby during the fighting.

His mother Jennifer Rowe, aged 64, of Kingscourt, Rodborough, said: "I am incredibly proud and he is very excited about the award.

"He is my son and I wish he would stop putting his life at risk but I couldn’t ask him to do that."

Born on Armistice Day, November 11, 1966, Alex and Mark, who lived in St Cyrils Road, Stonehouse, attended Stroud Army Cadets.

The brothers decided to join the Army at the age of 17 but Alex was turned down due to a detached retina, a minor but irreparable visual impairment.

After three years of planning, he signed up for the tough French force and was the best recruit in his unit.

Ironically, he was first made a sniper and was known as a top marksman.

Over the years, the brothers have served in many of the same trouble-spots, including Sarajevo and the Gulf.

Alex is now an adjutant-chef, a senior non-commissioned officer, and Mark is now a captain with the Royal Engineers.

Alex, whose other brother Jeremy, 34, is a merchant banker in London, recently returned home to France after a mission helping the Afghan government rule the Uzbin Valley.

The Legion of Honour, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is the highest decoration in France and is awarded for excellent military or civil conduct.

Alex’s mother, who recently received an MBE for services to the police and youth in Gloucestershire, will travel to France to see him collect the award in July.