George Cross for 'bravest' bomb heroes
Two Army bomb disposal experts were hailed as "the bravest of the brave" today after being awarded the George Cross for their incredible heroism in Afghanistan.
Close friends Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, and Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes, 30, will receive the honour after making safe scores of Taliban improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - many by hand.
Staff Sgt Schmid, known as Oz, who was born in Truro, Cornwall, and lived in Winchester, Hampshire, was killed attempting to disarm a bomb in the deadly Sangin area of Helmand Province in October.
During his time in Afghanistan he personally dealt with 70 IEDs, saving the lives of many of his comrades and Afghan civilians.
Staff Sgt Hughes, from Telford, Shropshire, was honoured for what was described as "the single most outstanding act of explosive ordnance disposal ever recorded in Afghanistan".
On one day last summer he dismantled seven IEDs in a minefield in Sangin by hand without any protective clothing so five seriously wounded soldiers and the bodies of two dead comrades could be recovered.
Sitting next to Staff Sgt Schmid's widow, Christina, Staff Sgt Hughes paid tribute to his friend.
He said: "To be honoured, to be sat here with Chrissie, to know that I've achieved the award and Oz has achieved that award, is out of this world to be honest. It's really good."
Staff Sgt Hughes caused a stir in October when he told Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, on a visit to Afghanistan, that more troops were needed on the ground.
The George Cross ranks along with the Victoria Cross as Britain's highest award for bravery.
It is presented to civilians and members of the armed forces who carry out acts of great heroism not in the presence of the enemy.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, said the two soldiers were "exceptions in an already exceptional group, the bravest of the brave".
He said: "As one of our top two operational honours, the George Cross is awarded only rarely. Its recipients must have displayed the very highest levels of gallantry.
"The actions of Staff Sgt Hughes and the late Staff Sgt Schmid meet this most demanding test in full measure.
"Their selfless commitment, unswerving devotion to duty and unsurpassed courage are both awe-inspiring and humbling."
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...