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Imagine crawling on the ground, in the baking Afghan sun, searching for roadside bombs, knowing that one could detonate at any moment.

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Now, imagine doing it every day for three days and relying just on your fingertips, not a specialised piece of equipment.

Army Sapper Adam Blake, only 21, did just that in Helmand. He found a total of five Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), including one that failed to detonate under him. He has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.

Fingertips

Adam, a Royal Engineer with 28 Engineer Regiment based in Hameln, Germany, spent days painstakingly searching for IEDs in Gereshk, Helmand, using only his fingertips to gently sweep the ground inch by inch to find devices deliberately designed to go undetected by specialist search equipment.

The sheer volume of IEDs was stopping both the local population and soldiers from moving for fear of the deadly devices.

Under a blazing sun, he began the process as the team’s lead searcher. It was two days before he found his first device, with a second placed metres away.

His citation for the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery states: “With calmness, determination and exemplary bravery, he continued his methodical approach, determined to complete the task in the most physically demanding of conditions which he knew would degrade his reactions. With every find, each one confirming the heightened risk, he volunteered to return and continued without hesitation.”

Discovering his fourth find – the battery pack used to charge the bombs – he soon realised that he had actually crawled over the pressure plate that should have activated the device. Luckily for him, it failed to detonate. Had it done so, the blast would have seriously injured or killed him.

Undeterred, he returned for a third day, working for nine hours in the sun before finding a fifth device.

His citation concludes: “Sapper Blake’s selfless actions in this clearance operation undoubtedly saved the lives of both ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers and local nationals.

“Returning to search again and again after finding each IED was exceptionally brave. He was acutely aware of the threat and the limited utility of his search equipment. In this extreme situation, he displayed the highest levels of persistent courage over three long, nerve-shattering days.”

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