AN ARMY explosives expert who has defused more bombs than any other British soldier in history has been awarded the George Medal.

Sergeant Major Karl Ley, of the Royal Logistic Corps, who is based at Didcot’s Vauxhall Barracks, has so far defused 139 Improvised Explosive Devices in Afghanistan.

In just 72 hours last November, he defused 28 IEDs and tackled 14 other bombs.

Last night the Ministry of Defence paid tribute to the “sheer determination, guile and awesome bravery” of the 30-year-old soldier.

Sgt Maj Ley’s award is for his actions in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province between September last year and March this year.

Along with colleagues in the Counter-IED Task Force, Sgt Maj Ley was cheered through the streets of Didcot in April when they returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

His award citation says: “Sergeant Major Ley has dealt with more IEDs than any other operator in history.

“In supporting the infantry’s intensity of operations, Ley has willingly accepted an incredibly high level of personal risk, often having to deploy on foot with only what he could carry in his rucksack.

“The 72 hours last November typify the sheer determination, guile and awesome bravery of this man.

“During his six-month deployment Ley has been exposed to more than twice the number of IEDs than any one other High Threat IED Operator.

“With a limited number of available IED operators, Ley has worked tirelessly in the most hazardous of conditions, enduring both mental and physical fatigue, displaying unwavering dedication and conspicuous gallantry over a sustained period.”

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox paid tribute to Sgt Maj Ley and a number of other soldiers who were honoured with medals today.

He said: “Each of these awards highlights the extraordinary courage and incredible bravery that is displayed by our service personnel. Those recognised today should feel extremely proud of their actions.”

l Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O’Donnell, a member of the Didcot-based 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, became the first serviceman in 28 years to be awarded the George Medal twice.

The father-of-four received the award posthumously after he died while trying to defuse a Taliban bomb alone and without body armour at Musah Qaleh, in Helmand, in September 2008.

The 40-year-old had previously won the medal – awarded for extreme bravery not in the face of the enemy – after making safe similar devices in southern Iraq in 2006.