A heroic army bomb disposal expert who this week helped defuse a 600lb terrorist bomb on the south Armagh border returned to base to be told he had been honoured by the Queen for his bravery in Afghanistan, it was announced today.
Sergeant Major Colin Grant (38), has been awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for saving countless lives through his work in Afghanistan.
He said he was still coming to terms with the honour, but was thrilled to have his work recognised.
“It's hard to describe the feeling, you never expect to be recognised in this way but it is very rewarding and I am thrilled,” he said.
“It's really recognition of the work of all the other operators as well, they are doing a wonderful job, taking unreal personal risks to ensure the safety of their colleagues and civilians.”
The Sergeant Major, normally based at Shorncliffe in his home county, Kent, is in Northern Ireland giving short-term cover and became involved in the week-long operation to defuse the huge device planted by dissident republicans on the south Armagh border.
The bomb, packed into a chemical drum and hidden on a roadside near homes outside the village of Forkhill, was planted to kill police officers.
But according to a senior PSNI officer it would also have demolished the nearby homes, killing many if not all of the 20 people living in them.
He served in Helmand province from October 2008 to April 2009, spending six months living out of a rucksack, not knowing when or where the next task would be.
During the six months he helped destroy up to 60 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the Taliban as well as the clearance of around 90 ammunition and explosives finds.
The citation on the award reads: ‘Throughout Operation Herrick, Grant regularly operated under the most intense pressure, his selfless actions saved numerous lives. He took pride in reducing the IED threat posed and readily placed himself in harm's way to do so’.
The first person he told was his former soldier father.
“My dad was in the Royal Engineers for 22 years and understands fully the honour and pride I feel. It was an emotional phone call. Mum and dad are both very proud of the work I do and know of the recognition of that work.”
Sgt Maj Grant has another big date coming up — his marriage to the fiance he proposed to during his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
He and Esperanza will tie the knot in Mauritius next month.