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18 March 2010, 14:46
A Didcot-based bomb disposal expert killed in Afghanistan's been given one of the UK's highest bravery awards - the George Cross.
Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, died while trying to defuse an improvised explosive device in Helmand province in October 2009, just a day before he was due to return home to the UK. He had already successfully disabled more than sixty other bombs during his tour of duty.
The George Cross ranks along with the Victoria Cross as the country's highest award for gallantry but is awarded to military personnel for acts of heroism not in the presence of the enemy. It is also the highest gallantry award for civilians.
SSgt Schmid served with 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, based at Didcot's Vauxhall Barracks. After his death, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, commanding officer of 2 Rifles Battle Group, described him as "simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met."
Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Bex, commanding officer of the counter-IED task force, said he was a "legend" whose "gallant actions and sacrifice will never be forgotten."
At his funeral at Truro Cathedral his widow, Christina, called on world leaders to do more to protect soldiers serving in the war-torn country.
She said: "Olaf and troops like him join to serve traditional warrior values, to passionately protect the country they love, its ideals and especially their families, communities and each other."
She said the last 18 months of her husband's life presented his "toughest, darkest challenges ever" and although he was known among his colleagues as a joker she had sometimes been called upon to wipe away his tears.
During the summer he took part in Operation Panther's Claw, the Army's offensive to clear populated areas in central Helmand of Taliban insurgents.
Staff Sgt Schmid, also known as Oz, was born in Truro, but lived in Winchester, Hampshire, with Christina and stepson, Laird, five.