AN ARMY regiment that responded to the Didcot Power Station collapse and the Manchester Arena bombing was honoured at Blenheim Palace.

The Firmin Sword of Peace, which commends military units for developing strong links within communities, was awarded to Didcot-based 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment today.

Focussing on the unit’s actions in 2016, the award marked, among other operations, the specialist searches conducted during the Didcot Power Station tragedy.

Officer commanding 521 squadron, Major Mike Luedicke, explained the vital role the unit, which has 2,800 call-outs in the UK per year, plays in keeping the public safe.

He said: “We are known to some as the fourth emergency service and we have teams around the UK on call for when a member of the public discovers an item of unexploded ordnance.

“This can range from a Second World War bomb on a construction site to an improvised explosive device like that used at Manchester Arena [in 2017].”

The regiment, which is just shy of 700 personnel, was given the Firmin Sword of Peace at the Woodstock World Heritage Site yesterday for its work in the UK during 2016.

On February 23, 2016, a large section of the former boiler house at Didcot A power station collapsed while the building was being prepared for demolition.

In a unique deployment, the unit sent robots onto the site to search for injured and trapped staff – before the operation shifted to focus on recovering the bodies of the four deceased.

The unit’s robots were also used to plant explosives and safely demolish the dangerous structure.

As well as the Didcot Power Station tragedy, the unit’s work in 2016 included disposing of hazardous chemical DNP, which posed an explosive threat, from school laboratories nationwide.