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John Gaff: Bomb disposal expert who was hero during Troubles

Lieutenant Colonel John Gaff, who has died at 86, was an Army hero in Northern Ireland where he was in charge of bomb disposal operations at the height of the Troubles.

He was awarded the George Medal in March 1974 after defusing two bombs at the Dunloy Railway Halt in Co Antrim which had been placed in a railway box by three armed men.

The operation took eight hours, especially after the second device of 70lb turned out to be connected to a boobytrap pressure switch, which he spotted under a piece of linoleum.

The bravery award citation read: "For outstanding personal courage and devotion to duty which he demonstrated throughout his tour of NI in a hazardous and technical field of operation."

John Gaff from Guildford was commissioned into the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1946 and later transferred to 9 Parachute Batallion. He served in Palestine where he had a brush with death when a police station was blown to pieces seconds after he passed by.

After training in munitions, Gaff served in Singapore and obtained a commission in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He arrived in Northern Ireland in charge of all bomb disposal operations at a time when the IRA was constantly changing its tactics and had a reputation for working in the field side by side with his men.

John Gaff left the Army after 31 years in March 1975 and set up a successful consultancy offering guidance and training in bomb disposal.

After selling the business he became secretary and later president of the Gallantry Medallists' League.

John Gaff is survived by his wife Christine, a daughter and two sons.

Belfast Telegraph

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