Journalist Alex Crawford said collecting her OBE at Buckingham Palace today was far more frightening than reporting live from war zones.
The Sky News correspondent was honoured for services to journalism after she was the first reporter to broadcast live from Libya’s Green Square as rebel forces took over Tripoli.
After receiving her medal from the Prince of Wales, Crawford said: “That was by far the most scary thing I have ever done. I was terrified.”
She is more commonly seen on television dressed in a hard hat and flak jacket but today she sported a cream skirt and gold cardigan teamed with grey high heels, which only added to her nerves.
“I had to walk backwards and curtsy in heels in an unfamiliar place and unfamiliar clothes.
“I had no idea how to curtsy – another woman in the queue had to show me. At least I know what I am doing in a conflict zone. This was a completely strange environment.
“Prince Charles said I was very courageous and asked me if I got much sleep in my job. I said when I was reporting I got hardly any.”
The 49-year-old mother of four, who is based in South Africa and flew to London specially for the ceremony, arrived in the Libyan capital on the back of a truck with a rebel convoy and broadcast to the world with a camera plugged into a cigarette lighter charger.
Looking at her medal, she said: “I do not feel like it is mine, I am not deserving. If anything, it should go to my family. I wanted them to collect it because they never get recognised for anything.
“My husband has given up everything, including a very successful career, to do this and I am not there enough for my kids and I feel really guilty all the time.
“I am very aware this OBE is really for Sky News, the camera crew and the production staff and the Head of News – they make me look good.”
Despite the accolades, Ms Crawford said she hopes that night in Green Square is not the highlight of her career.
“We all knew it was a significant moment, it had an impact around the world because we happened to be there, but I hope it is not the highlight because I am hoping to do quite a lot more, I hope there are more stories.
“It was a dramatic moment but we were lucky to hang on to the coat tails of a whirlwind of activity, it is not like we were saving lives.”
After starting her working life at the Wokingham Times, Crawford worked at Sky’s Dubai bureau before moving with her family to South Africa.
She has since found herself at the centre of a wider debate about women in journalism and war reporting, something she finds “astonishing”.
The veteran reporter said: “I think it was not just that I was a woman, it was my age and that I was a mother. I find it astonishing that people still notice that kind of thing. It shows how much further we have to go.
“A feminist role has rather been thrust on me now – it is all a difficult balancing act and it feels rather fraudulent because there are so many good female journalist out there. This is all just because I took a ride on the back of a pick-up truck.”
Crawford specifically paid tribute to Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria earlier this year.
“Nobody who has covered the Arab Spring can help but reflect on how dangerous it is do it. The journalists are targets and people died.
“We were very lucky and are thankful we got out alive but Marie’s death did not make me reconsider my job. I was utterly shocked because she had survived for decades and was so experienced, I looked up to her as a grand dame.
“Tragic though Marie’s death was, if it had been the other way around there is no way Marie would have stopped.”
Addressing the current public scrutiny of the media, the four-times winner of the Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year award said: “When we are all opening up our insides at the Leveson Inquiry there is a lot to be proud of in British journalism.”