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Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary John O'Donnell GM & Bar (21 July 1968 - 10 September 2008) was a British Army bomb disposal expert who was awarded the George Medal twice. The George Medal is the second highest decoration for "acts of great bravery" not "in the face of the enemy". His second George Medal was the first such award in 26 years. O'Donnell was killed in an IED attack in Afghanistan.

Early career

Born in Edinburghmarker, O'Donnell was educated at St Thomas of Aquin's High School. He enlisted in the British Army in 1992 and trained as an Ammunition Technician and then was posted to 3 Base Ammunition Depot in Germany. After three tours of ammunition depots, he moved to 11 EOD Regiment Royal Logistic Corps as a Joint Service Improvised Explosive Device Disposal No 1 Operator.

As a staff sergeant in 2004 he passed the RLC No 1 IEDD Course as a high-threat operator at the first attempt, one of a small percentage of candidates to do so. He subsequently undertook tours in Sierra Leonemarker and Iraqmarker as well as two tours of both Northern Irelandmarker and Afghanistanmarker.


By 2006 O'Donnell was employed as an IEDD operator in southern Iraq. He was awarded his first George Medal for "persistent courage" for his work in Basramarker. Amongst the incidents that led to the award occurred on 23 May 2006. Rockets on a timing device were being fired at Basra Air station. When a rocket was discovered with the timer set, O'Donnell decided to minimise the risk to the airbase by manually disabling it as quickly as possible. This involved placing himself in the firing line of the rocket.


O'Donnell served one tour of in Afghanistan during 2007 and returned in 2008. He worked to defuse road-side bombs in Helmand Province, defusing 50 of the devices. On 26 August 2008 he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. In September 2008 O'Donnell was attempting to disarm an IED near Musa Qalamarker, Helmand Province, when he was killed as he approached a booby-trapped bomb. His body was returned to the United Kingdom, and his funeral service was held on 29 September 2008 at St Peter The Apostle Roman Catholic Church, Leamington Spamarker, the town where he had made his home. The service was accompanied by full military honours, and was followed by a cremation at Oakley Wood Crematorium, Bishop's Tachbrookmarker.


The UK Defence Secretary Desmond Browne summarised the late soldier's career by noting that "[O'Donnell] was personally responsible for saving thousands of the family, friends and comrades of others from the anguish that is currently being felt by his own."

Posthumous awards/honours

On 6 March 2009, O'Donnell was awarded a posthumous second George Medal for "repeated and sustained acts of immense bravery" in Afghanistan. His award was only the only bar to the George Medal awarded in the last 26 years

The award was for two incidents.
  • May 2008 - where he had to deal with a booby-trapped bomb in the Upper Gereshk Valley. After he defused this device he continued to search for others eventually finding and defusing 7 more devices. The task took 9 hours and was carried out in 40°C heat.
  • July 2008 - he was called to deal with a road-side bomb that was blocking the path of a convoy. He worked for 24 hours and found 11 devices. The Taliban attempted to detonate one as he approached but it failed to go off.


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