AN ELLESMERE Port Soldier who conducted a fingertip search for Taliban bombs received his Queen’s Gallantry Medal at Buckingham Palace.
Private Daniel Hellings, 19, of Ellesmere Port, said it was an honour to meet the Queen, but insisted he was just doing his job, and said: “I can’t wait to go back to Afghanistan.”
Daniel scoured the ground of an alleyway for Taliban bombs to rescue injured comrades – despite an order to stay away as it was so dangerous.
The honour, along with 94 other heroic military personnel, was conferred by the Queen on June 1.
Daniel, a soldier with the Mercian Regiment, was on patrol with Afghan soldiers in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, on September 7 last year when a bomb went off in the 10ft-wide alleyway near their base.
Two troops were injured in the initial blast, one blinded and the second with severe leg wounds. A third was wounded when he triggered another bomb with Daniel just yards away.
He was ordered to withdraw from the alley by his commander but realised there was no time to find a way out.
With his metal detector rendered useless by metallic debris, he carried out an hour-long fingertip search for further IEDs.
One hidden bomb he found had wires stretching the width of the alley, but Daniel knew that his injured comrades would almost certainly die if he waited for a bomb disposal team.
He disregarded the danger to himself and continued clearing the ground around the IEDs so he could reach the three casualties, giving them lifesaving first aid and helping to evacuate them.
Daniel, who travelled to London with his parents and girlfriend, said: “At the time, after I got blown up myself. I thought I was going to die. It kept going through my head, ‘you’re going to die today, or at least lose a leg’.
“At the end of the day, three people down there needed help and I’d like to think they’d do the same for me.
“I wasn’t feeling too well after that so I just got a ‘well done’ and went to bed. I was just happy to be in bed then – I had a bad headache.
“I was told by my team commander he’d put me forward for an award but after the months went by I was just thinking whatever.”
His citation said he ‘demonstrated a level of courage and ability far beyond that which could be expected of his age, rank and experience’.
Daniel’s father Kevin said: “It was a brilliant day and we will never forget it. We are incredibly proud of him.
“Daniel was one of the last to be conferred but it was a really formal occasion so we couldn’t get too excited when his turn came.”