Soldier spent eight hours in tiny, hot tunnel to defuse bomb

A 6ft 5ins soldier who spent eight hours in a pitch-black, sweltering Afghan tunnel to defuse a Taliban bomb has been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

Captain James Fidell, 29, endured extreme heat in a space so tight he could not even wear his bomb suit, helmet or body armour to make a 110lb bomb safe.

If it had exploded, it would not only have killed him but destroyed the road above; with severe consequences for local people.

Captain Fidell, who safely secured the device after eight hours work while on operation in August last year, collected his medal from Buckingham Palace yesterday (weds).

The Royal Logistics Corps serviceman, from York, accepted the award from the Princess Royal.

He is now an instructor, teaching others how to dispose in improvised explosive devices.

Speaking after the ceremony, he modestly paid tribute to his “brave” colleagues, adding he had not had time to worry while working on the bomb.

"You just deal with the job in hand and you are focused on that,” he said. “You don't really have time to worry.

"It is very flattering, it means a lot to me and to my family as well but I am massively conscious of the brave stuff that is done day in, day out.”

After returning home from the tour, he admitted he had been “surprised” by how hot and humid the tunnel had been, and made the decision to forgo his protective armour after seeing how small it was.

The bomb had been found under a road to the north east of Gereshk in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan.

Capt Fidell took the decision to personally deactivate the IED rather than to blow it up, fearing it would destroy the road above it and damaged the local economy.

He was also concerned it would encourage insurgents to continue planting explosive devices.

Capt Fidell was just one of the servicemen and women being honoured at Buckingham Palace.

Architect Zaha Hadid, who was made a Dame Commander for her work including the Aquatics Centre in the 2012 Olympic Park, and former Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, who was awarded a CBE for services to equality and diversity in football.

Alison Williamson, who has competed at six Olympic Games in archery, and Margaret Sanni-Alphonsi, the Saracens and England rugby player, were made MBE for services to their respective sports

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