Tuesday, 23 September 2008


Before I return to the rather squalid story of China Gateway in Thanet, could I bring to your attention a rather special hero, Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell GM. I, and many ex-servicemen and women owe our lives to men like him.

He died on Wednesday 10th September 2008, leaving a widow and 4 children without a father. He was awarded a George Medal in 2006 in Iraq and died outside the town of Musa Qula in Helmand Province , Afghanistan as he cleared the way for the infantry to move safely.

For those who do not understand what an Ammunition Technical Officer (ATO) working on Explosive Ordnance Detachment (EOD) duty does for the Queen's shilling, let me explain. In cold blood they approach and clear booby-trapped bombs whether they be land-mines, car bombs, rocket launcher systems, mortars, landmines and culvert bombs, all designed to kill and maim our soldiers. This is 'work' that requires a very special sort of hero. Gary O'Donnel did this work for most of his Army service in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Northern Ireland his NATO appointment title would have been 'Felix' and I suspect it still was in Afghanistan. Well, he ran out of his 9 lives as many of his comrades in EOD have done. The 'enemy' whether it be Shia militia's, IRA or Taliban have always made ATOs a specific target to kill on the grounds that they have been so effective in preventing enemy devices from killing and maiming British troops on Operations.

You must forgive me for loathing the media label attached to sportsmen and women as 'Olympic' heroes etc . Gary O'Donnell was a hero in the correct meaning that he was an illustrious warrior and it demeans his quiet unassuming bravery and courage to label lesser mortals as heroes.
May he rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments here Bertie.

The bomb squad operatives deserve all their plaudits. A difficult job and always in trying circumstances.

BTW good to have you back!

Anonymous said...

Bertie your back!

Good story, well put. As you say, quite rightly, he was a true hero.

Hope you have enjoyed the rest and are now back to flying speed. I sense a half decent dog fight coming up so it will be good to have you back!! Just be careful who you get in your sights!

Keith said...

You speak with some passion, are you an ex-AT(O)yourself? I am and there is at least one other in Thanet; do I feel a reunion coming on?

Bertie Biggles said...

Fraid not, Keith. I am just an ex grunt who owes you guys a great debt!

Anonymous said...

Whatever our views on the 'War on Terror' we must speak with one voice on this subject. I am grateful to the web master for bringing this brave man to my attention. We are able to agree to disagree because of people like him

Thank you

Anonymous said...

At last i agree with Bertie, our nation owes a great debt to all who serve in HM forces and the loss of life is tragic especially so for those of us who have served our country.This Government is responsible for countless deaths and horrific injuries and deaths of those who died on their return to the UK.This bunch of Socialist warmongers who have spilled the blood of good men andtrue in illegal wars should hang their heads in shame,when they can manage to get them out of the trough. I despair good men dying
for politicians who do not read or understand history. This Government should remember its first duty is the defence of the realm not illegal wars at the behest of the US.

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear!

Rick said...

Well said Bertie.

I was able to send a week's war disablement pension to "Pete's Arm and a Leg Fund" for the ex Dane Court bomb disposal officer.

I will keep my eyes out in case there is a fund for this hero's family.


Rick said...

I hope it is appropriate just to add. As a Neros bouncer years ago we looked into the history of the building for Dunkirk evacuation. From what the Margate museum curator could find the Thanet sites, used as hospital and temporary hospice facilities for the evacuation (which I think is Dreamland and Neros area), have never had a Remembrance Service of Blessing said over them.

Actually this thread prompts me to write to Revd Stu Piper if he is still hospice chaplain. See what he thinks. Perhaps a service would be a way to pay tribute to all the sacrifice including that of the ATOs.

Rick said...


I looked up Peter Norton on web after posting above and thought just in case any readers do not know I would submit three links

Peter Norton Dane Court George Cross

SSAFA's Norton House named after Peter Norton


Bertie Biggles said...

Thanks for that, Rick. Very special men indeed.