View Full Version : U.K. Gary O'Donnell, George Cross X2 Iraq, Afghanistan

08-28-2009, 04:58 PM
The George Cross is awarded for the same level of bravery expected of a VC but is awarded when no enemy is present.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell, who was posthumously awarded a Bar to his George Medal - the first to be given in 26 years.

The bomb disposal expert was killed in Afghanistan in September 2008.

Last year also saw the first instance of three members of the same regiment - the Royal Irish - being honoured with the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.

The MoD said Corporals Robert McClurg, Alwyn Stevens and Jone Toge "demonstrated great personal courage whilst mentoring colleagues from the Afghan National Army in Helmand".

'Saved untold lives'

The Bar to the George Medal makes WO2 O'Donnell one of the UK's most highly decorated soldiers.

He already held the George Medal for his work defusing bombs in Iraq, but was given the further honour for "repeated and sustained acts of immense bravery".

"During his tour in Afghanistan, O'Donnell disposed of over 50 improvised explosive devices," the MoD said. "He repeatedly placed himself in immense personal danger and saved an untold amount of lives with his skill and selfless determination."

Look no further for your 21st Century role models
Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb

The 40-year-old father-of-four from Edinburgh, who lived in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was trying to clear a path for fellow soldiers when he was killed.

His widow Toni said: "You cannot describe the feelings I have. I am so proud of him.

"He was a larger-than-life character. He just got on with it. He loved his job. He did what had to be done.

"He would be chuffed about this."

Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb, commander of the British Field Army, said: "Gary O'Donnell - George Medal and Bar. Bigger than life. Brave as a lion.

"Look no further for your 21st Century role models. These are our real heroes. They are truly the right stuff."

The George Medal was instituted in 1940 and is one of the military's highest awards for courage.

08-28-2009, 04:58 PM
The first British bomb disposal expert to be killed in Afghanistan has raised the total number of British fatalities in the conflict to 118. Warrant officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell, the holder of a George Medal for his courageous actions while serving in Iraq two years ago, died on Thursday when a roadside bomb he was on his way to defuse exploded.

WO2 O'Donnell, 40, from Edinburgh, was killed just nine weeks after the birth of his fourth child, Ben. He had spoken recently about his highly dangerous work to The Independent.

He described how he had escaped death in southern Afghanistan by jamming his fingers into a clothes peg milliseconds before it slammed shut and detonated a roadside bomb.

He said he was crouching over a Taliban bomb in Helmand, trying to defuse it, when he spotted the crude wooden trigger slamming shut. He said: "It happened almost straight away. I just saw it slipping and jammed my fingers in."

A team from the Royal Logistics Corps' elite bomb disposal unit had raced to the scene after soldiers from 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment discovered the deadly device buried in a track in the desert, close to their camp in Kajaki.

"The device had a pressure plate," WO2 O'Donnell said. "But not like the ones we normally see. The circuit was being held open by what looked like a large clothes peg."

The bomb was wired to explode when a soldier's weight pushed the peg shut, forcing two metal contacts together. The contacts were made from strips of tin wrapped around the ends of the wooden pegs. A length of black rubber, possibly from an inner tube, was wrapped around the opposite end of the device, holding them open. But as soon as WO2 O'Donnell began brushing the earth away to take a closer look, the elastic band slipped and the contacts came crashing towards each other.

"I was clearing the surface ground from above the switch and the rubber started unwinding" he said. "I didn't really have time to think, I just had to jam my fingers into the switch. If I hadn't done it, if it had shut, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

The clothes peg was wired to an 82mm high-explosive mortar and a 107mm Chinese rocket. Between them they have more than 2kg of explosive charge.

Normally the bomb disposal soldiers use a remote- controlled razor blade to cut the wires, while they take cover in case the device is booby trapped with a secondary circuit. But WO2 O'Donnell was trapped with his fingers inside the trigger, and he couldn't get away without detonating the explosives.

To make matters worse, he wasn't wearing a protective bomb suit, like soldiers in Britain often use to give them extra protection from a blast. The massive, unwieldy suits weigh 45kg and they make it difficult for the soldiers to defend themselves if they get attacked en route to a bomb site.

In a single day, WO2 O'Donnell had to defuse eight Taliban bombs on a hill overlooking Helmand's deadly green zone, near Gereshk. The insurgents have started targeting high ground with record numbers of massive improvised explosive devices, because they know it is where the tanks and armoured cars go to provide back-up for soldiers in the valley below.

The Taliban are using teams of trained bomb- makers to manufacture bigger and deadlier bombs in secret locations across the province. "You have got to have a lot of respect, not only for the enemy, but also for their bombs," WO2 O'Donnell said.

He leaves four children: newborn Ben, Aiden, eight, and two children from a previous marriage, Dylan, 16, and Kayleigh, 14.

His widow, Toni, said: "Gary was living the dream and we are all very proud of who he was and he will be missed greatly."

His commanding officer, Dave Wilson, said men of WO2 O'Donnell's calibre were "extremely rare" and that his death would be a "great loss to the bomb disposal community and the Army ... He was at the very top of his extremely dangerous and difficult trade. It was a trade at which he excelled."

08-28-2009, 08:14 PM

08-29-2009, 02:02 AM
every day we lose good ppl but this is war, RIP

08-29-2009, 03:53 PM
everyone of these men on this page is a hero to me, but for some reason this guy really stands out to me.