Soldier gets medal for defusing IED
An Army explosives specialist who spent eight hours in a pitch-black tunnel defusing a massive Taliban bomb has been awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.
The space was so tight that Captain James Fidell could not wear a bomb disposal suit, helmet or body armour as he painstakingly deactivated the 110lb (50kg) improvised explosive device (IED) by hand in sweltering heat.
The bomb was found on August 12 last year under a road to the north east of Gereshk in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan.
Capt Fidell, 28, from York, then serving with 11 EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps, decided to make the IED safe rather than blow it up.
He explained: "The road is an important route for locals and our forces. It is a concrete surface and therefore very difficult for the Taliban to lay bombs on.
"Had we detonated the device, not only would it have hurt the local economy and our mission, it would also have made it easier for the insurgents to plant more IEDs. Because of this, I took the decision to crawl into the tunnel and deactivate the device.
"I was quite surprised by just how hot and humid it was in the tunnel, and it was so tight I had to go in without my protective gear."
As the 6ft 5in soldier crawled into the narrow Taliban-dug 45ft-long tunnel, the troops providing security for him came under fire from insurgents. But he continued with his perilous task, constantly looking for hidden secondary devices planted to target anyone trying to defuse the bomb.
Capt Fidell's medal citation states: "Fidell demonstrated exceptional gallantry, bravery, supreme professionalism and unwavering composure in the most dangerous of circumstances."
A total of 131 servicemen and women - most of whom served with 3 Commando Brigade in Afghanistan between April and October last year - have been recognised in the latest operational honours list. The medals will be presented at a later date.