Soldier honoured by Queen for detecting roadside bombs talks of his work

A young soldier given a medal by the Queen for his bravery in finding roadside bombs has spoken of the immense concentration required for the job.

Sapper Adam Blake, 24, received the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for detecting, by hand, five Improvised Explosive Devices while in Gereshk, Helmand last year.

He told the Recorder: “I was very surprised because the incident was over a year ago and I didn’t have any idea so it was a bit of a shock.”

Asked what goes through his head when he is searching for IEDS, Adam said: “You just think of everything you have been taught, and the about the next job you have to do. You make sure your kit is perfect and that you have done everything you can to make things easier for you. Obviously you have a little bit of nerves but then you just have to get on with it as you just can’t afford to be nervous because you are concentrating so much.

“The second that you are out there, your concentration is so high that these thoughts don’t come into play. That’s when good kit, faith in your team and your training all kick in.”

Although Adam has been in the Army since 2007, he has already served two tours in Afghanistan. As a Royal Engineer with 28 Engineer Regiment his primary role is as a plant operator but he was assigned the secondary function of an IED searcher when it became clear just how many were needed.

He said: “My name was put forward and I was happy to do it. I was under no illusions about what I would be doing. I had never done it before so it was still all new to me, and every day was a new experience. We trained in the UK and Germany and it took about a year. We did an exercise in Jordan and that was the last main bit of the training.” It also helped prepare him for the terrain in Afghanistan.

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Before the tour, he said he was very conscious of the dangers that his role would pose.

Adam was born at Newham General, grew up in Manor Park where he went to St Winnifred’s Primary and St Bonaventure’s before heading off to Redbridge Technical College.

Although he worked as a labourer for a year Adam decided there was more to life. He joined the Army as a way of seeing the world.

Major Leigh Hay, of the 28 Engineer Regiment, said it has a long and proud history. He said: “ Since it was formed in 1951 it has served operationally in almost every significant conflict that the British Army has been involved from Korea, Northern Ireland, Gulf War 1, Bosnia, Kosovo, Gulf War 2, Iraq, The Congo and most recently in Afghanistan.

“The key capability of the Regiment is its amphibious capability with the M3 Rig, but the versatility of the regiment means that it provides vital support to the whole of 1 (UK) Armoured Division in Germany. It is in this supporting role that the regiment has been supporting operations in Afghanistan.

“Since 2009 the Regiment has supported three Operational tours in Afghanistan with a significant number of those deploying conducting the High Risk Search Capability. This capability is vital in saving lives by clearing routes used by British troops of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) and Mines. The role is not only exceptionally difficult and stressful, but those conducting the task need to operate highly technological equipment whilst also scanning the ground for signs of disturbance that may have been caused by the emplacement of IED’s and mines. As a searcher, mistakes cannot be made without risk of paying the ultimate sacrifice.”