A WOMAN soldier found love in Iraq when her husband-to-be rescued her from an angry mob.

Natalie Savage broke her back when she was thrown from an army Land Rover as it hit a pothole in Basra.

The paralysed solder was then attacked by a gang of Iraqi men, who kicked her on the ground.

Driver Lance Bombardier James Day jumped in to rescue his comrade. As he held Natalie in his arms awaiting help, he burst into tears.

He said later that he realised he had nearly lost the girl of his dreams.

Natalie was told by doctors she might never walk again, but the 20-year-old, from Thornaby, near Stockton, regained full use of her legs within weeks.

Eventually, she was transferred home to a hospital in Birmingham. It was while she was there that James flew back and pronounced his love.

Now the couple are to be married in February. The couple's first baby, a girl they are naming Paige, is due shortly after.

Natalie, a gunner with the Royal Artillery, admits the moment that sparked their love was not the most romantic.

She said: "We were escorting some Kuwaiti ladies when we hit the pothole driving past Basra Palace, which was a dangerous area," she said.

"It was an open-top Land Rover and I was flung out. I broke my back when I landed, but I was still awake.

"These Iraqi men came out and were kicking me. James came running out and took my helmet off.

"As soon as they realised I was a woman, they stopped attacking me and started to help.

"James was crying his eyes out. He thought he'd killed me, he was saying he was really sorry - but I told him I was all right."

Natalie was a junior judo champion who also competed for the Army as a black belt. When doctors in Iraq first told her she might never walk again, she was horrified.

"I was looking down at them putting pins in my legs and couldn't feel anything," she said. "When I started to wriggle my toe a few days later it was such a massive relief!

"After I was transferred to Birmingham, James came to see me and told me the same day that he loved me and we just hit it off."

James, 22, from Manchester, then popped the question when the couple were on leave in Paris in January.

Their regiment is now based in Guterslogh, Germany, where Natalie and James plan to marry in February. They then want to continue serving with the Army in Germany