Navy explosives expert awarded Queen’s medal

AWARD Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews
AWARD Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews

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UNDER the constant threat of enemy fire or hidden explosives, a Royal Navy diver kept his cool to defuse two bombs and keep his colleagues safe.

Now Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews has been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his bravery.

The 40-year-old, who is the former commanding officer of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2, worked through roasting temperatures to defuse the explosives while on deployment in Afghanistan.

It was announced he would receive the medal as part of the operational honours and awards list.

‘I am really proud of what I have achieved and my family are obviously all delighted as well,’ said Lt Cdr Nekrews.

‘I should also praise the efforts of my team, Leading Diver Craig Waghorn and Sergeant Craig Simpson.

‘I always trusted their judgement and it was invaluable to have that support.’

In May last year, Lt Cdr Nekrews and his team were sent to the scene of an explosion that had injured a British soldier.

They discovered what appeared to be a rug draped over barbed wire protecting a ditch.

Inside the rug were two devices, and Lt Cdr Nekrews had to get up close and defuse the devices manually under extreme pressure.

He added: ‘My number two, Leading Diver Craig Waghorn, was responsible for operating the robot, but due to the harsh operating conditions the remote actions were extremely challenging.

‘When Craig had done all he could, I had to make a manual approach.

‘It took 16 hours to defuse it over two days. We got around three hours sleep and were back out again.

‘I was completely absorbed in what I was doing, but it was extremely high pressure.’

Once the devices were defused, Lt Cdr Nekrews handed them over to be studied.

He is the Royal Navy’s first High Threat Improvised Explosive Device Operator and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 for seven months, where he led a four-man team in Nahr-e Saraj.

The Queen’s Gallantry Medal is one level below the George Medal.