One made it home, one did not: bomb disposal experts given George Cross

Soldiers who became friends while serving in Helmand showed 'selfless commitment and unswerving devotion to duty'

Two bomb disposal experts who risked their lives combating the most lethal threat facing British forces in Afghanistan have received the George Cross, one of the nation's highest honours.

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, died while trying to defuse a bomb while trapped in an alleyway, saving the lives of the rest of his team. He had already dismantled more than 70 IEDs (improvised explosive devices) during his tour.

Staff Sgt Kim Hughes, also 30, who had defused 80 IEDs, carried out "the single most outstanding act of explosive ordnance disposal ever recorded in Afghanistan" when he dismantled seven bombs in a minefield without any protective clothing. His action, during an attack which claimed the lives of three soldiers, enabled five others, seriously injured, to be dragged from the line of fire.

The men, who became friends while serving in Helmand, were awarded the George Cross for "selfless commitment and unswerving devotion to duty" which saved the lives of comrades. The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup described the men as "the bravest of the brave".

The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, was present at yesterday's awards in London. He had met S/Sgt Hughes once before, in Helmand, during a visit when the bomb disposal expert bluntly told him that more troops were needed on the ground.

"If you give us more troops we can form a counter-IED taskforce to train ground troops better," S/Sgt Hughes told Mr Ainsworth. The military has repeatedly complained that a lack of "boots on the ground" had meant that areas seized from the Taliban could not be held, allowing the insurgents to slip back and plant more bombs.

It was during such a clearance operation in August last year that a twin bomb strike left soldiers dead and injured. S/Sgt Hughes and his team were flown into what, said the citation for his George Cross, was "a harrowing and chaotic situation to extract the casualties and recover the bodies. Speed was absolutely essential if further lives were not to be lost."

S/Sgt Hughes, who did not put on protective clothing to save time, cleared a path for the injured while reassuring the wounded soldiers that help was on the way. He disarmed the seven devices while a firefight continued around him.

S/Sgt Hughes, from Telford, Shropshire, of the Royal Logistic Corps, said he was " amazed" to get the George Cross. "Me and my guys were tasked to get in, clear the other guys and recover. It was just a task to get on with and we got on with it. This was a day that had an horrendous ending and we just cracked on and dealt with what we needed to do.

"It is horrendous over there. You can't explain what it's like without physically being there yourself ... But if I was asked to go back, I'll go back."

The citation for S/Sgt Schmid, also of the Royal Logistic Corps, who lived in Winchester, Hampshire, stated that he had spent prolonged periods of his Afghan tour "in the gravest personal danger", trekking miles through dangerous terrain to tackle IEDs.

On one day last August he spent 11 hours in 45C heat dismantling a series of IEDs after a bomb disposal robot had been destroyed by a blast. On another occasion, in October, he put his life in danger for hours to defuse a radio-controlled bomb in a crowded bazaar.

S/Sgt Schmid's widow, Christina, who received a framed copy of her husband's citation said she was "absolutely overjoyed in getting this legendary award for my legendary husband. I am proud of my husband and truly thrilled. It is a fitting tribute for his outstanding bravery."

The honours are among 150 which have been awarded for acts of gallantry in the Afghan war in a year which saw British troops involved in ferocious fighting during Operation Panther's Claw. Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, commanding officer, of the Welsh Guards who was killed during the mission, is expected to posthumously receive the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in a ceremony today.

Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes: 'Utterly selfless'

Extract from the George Cross citation for Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes, The Royal Logistic Corps



On 16 August 2009, south west of Sangin, during [a] casualty recovery, the stretcher-bearers initiated an improvised explosive device (IED) that resulted in two personnel being killed outright and four very serious casualties, one of whom later died. The area was an IED minefield, over-watched by the enemy and the section were stranded within it. S/Sgt Hughes and his team were called into this harrowing and chaotic situation to extract the casualties and recover the bodies. Speed was essential.

Without specialist protective clothing, Hughes set about clearing a path to the injured. On reaching the first badly injured soldier he discovered an IED within one metre. Hughes calmly carried out a manual neutralisation of the device; any error would have proved fatal. He discovered further IEDs and carried out manual neutralisation. His utterly selfless action enabled all casualties to be extracted and the bodies recovered. Dealing with any IED is dangerous; to deal with seven linked in a single circuit, in a mass casualty scenario, using manual neutralisation, is the single most outstanding act of explosive ordnance disposal ever recorded in Afghanistan. That he did it without specialist protective clothing serves even more to demonstrate his outstanding gallantry. Hughes is unequivocally deserving of the highest level of public recognition.

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid:'Bravery well beyond the call of duty'

Extract from the George Cross citation for Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, The Royal Logistic Corps (killed in action)



Typically having to deploy on foot, precluding the option of specialist protective equipment and limiting the use of remote controlled vehicles, S/Sgt Schmid spent long periods of time in close proximity to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and in the gravest personal danger. Before his death in action he responded to 42 IED tasks, personally dealing with 70 confirmed IEDs. A number of examples illustrate his bravery.

One clearance lasted 11 hours. It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but a road was opened and a company resupplied – entirely due to the heroic, selfless acts of Schmid.

On 8 October 2009 Schmid was tasked in Sangin district centre to deal with an artillery shell reported by unmentored Afghan Army soldiers. On arrival they led him, unsuspecting, to the device. He was now not only at grave personal risk but realised that the many unsuspecting civilians around him in the bustling bazaar were also in peril. Time was not on his side. He assessed that the shell was part of a live radio-controlled IED intended to cause maximum casualties in a well-populated area and over-watched by the bomber. Without any consideration for his own safety, Schmid immediately decided to neutralise the IED manually, at the highest personal risk. In an instant, Schmid made the most courageous decision possible, consciously placing his own life on the line to save the lives of countless Afghan civilians and demonstrating bravery well beyond the call of duty.

He was killed whilst dealing with a device in an alleyway with no safe route forward or back. Schmid's actions on that fateful day, when trapped with no means of escape, probably saved the lives of his team. These occasions are representative of the complexity and danger Schmid faced daily. His selfless gallantry, devotion to duty, and indefatigable courage displayed time and time again saved countless lives.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform