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Lieutenant Colonel Stephen George Styles GC (16 March 1928 – 1 August 2006) was a bomb disposal expert in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). He received the George Cross for his service in defusing terrorist bombs in Northern Irelandmarker in the 1970s.

Styles was born in Crawleymarker. His father was a bricklayer. He was educated at Collyers Grammar School in Horshammarker. He was called up for National Service in 1946, and, after officer cadet training, he was commissioned into the RAOC and posted to the central ammunition depot at Kinetonmarker. He obtained a regular commission in 1949, and was seconded to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He served with the 1st Battalion in the Malayan Emergency and was mentioned in dispatches. He studied at the Royal Military College of Sciencemarker, obtaining an engineering degree. He returned to Malaya, commanding the 28th Commonwealth Brigade Ordnance Field Park Regiment, based at Taipingmarker, then served with the 1st British Corps of the British Army of the Rhine in Germanymarker.

He was posted to Northern Irelandmarker in 1969. In 1971, he was a major in the RAOC, serving as deputy assistant director of ordnance services and senior ammunition technical officer in Northern Ireland and commanding the Explosive Ordnance and Disposal Team. On 20 October 1971, one month after a bomb (an Improvised Explosive Device) killed one of his colleagues at Castlerobin in County Antrim, he was called to defuse a similar bomb left in a telephone booth in the bar of the Europa Hotelmarker in Belfastmarker, the main hotel used by journalists posted to Northern Ireland to report on the Troubles. From a captured example, Styles knew that the box containing the explosive would be booby-trapped, with micro switches at the top or bottom which would set off the bomb if the container was tilted or the lid removed, aiming to kill the bomb disposal experts. He built a mock-up of the bomb to work out his method. X-rays showed that the bomb contained approximately 15 lb of explosives. He and two colleagues took seven hours to disable its electrical circuits, after which the explosive was hauled onto the pavement outside the hotel and destroyed in a controlled explosion. Two days later, he was recalled to the hotel to deal with a second bomb, this time containing 40 lb of explosives. Extra wiring, micro switches, and many redundant circuits had been added to confuse the bomb disposal experts. The second bomb took nine hours to disarm. In all, Styles and his team defused over 1,000 bombs.

It was announced on 11 January 1972 that Styles had been awarded the George Cross. He received his medal from Queen Elizabeth II at an investiture at Buckingham Palacemarker on 28 March 1972. The uniform that he wore while defusing the bombs in Northern Ireland is on display at the Imperial War Museummarker.

He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel when he left Northern Ireland in 1972. He became chief ammunition technical officer, with responsibility for all RAOC bomb disposal teams in the UK and overseas. He retired from the British Army in 1974, and he became an adviser for various companies on anti-terrorist techniques. He published a book, Bombs Have No Pity, in 1975.

Styles was featured in the Thames Television programme Death on the Rock in 1988. He commented on various aspects of the counter-terrorism operation in Gibraltar earlier that year, in which three IRA members were killed.

He married Mary Rose Woolgar in 1952. They had a son and two daughters. He enjoyed rifle and game shooting, and collected rare cartridges.


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