Army tank explosion: Queen's Gallantry Award for soldiers

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Darren Neilson and Matthew HatfieldImage source, Wales News Service
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Royal Tank Regiment corporals Matthew Hatfield, 27, and Darren Neilson, 31, died during a live firing exercise at in 2017

Two soldiers who helped rescue colleagues from a burning tank after a blast killed two others have been recognised for their bravery.

Staff Sergeant Stuart Griffiths and Corporal Saimone Qasenivalu received Gallantry Medals from the Queen on Friday.

Cpl Matthew Hatfield and Cpl Darren Neilson died in 2017 during an exercise at Pembrokshire's Castlemartin Range.

An inquest last year blamed a flaw in the tank for the blast.

Warrant Officer Stuart Lawson and Trooper Michael Warren were both injured but survived after being saved by the two members of the Royal Tank Regiment.

Sgt Griffiths said the award was meaningful for the entire regiment after the tragic incident.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Sgt Griffiths said the award was for all those involved on the day of the tragedy

He said: "Obviously it's an honour for both of us to receive but it's not just for us, it goes out to the people of Badger squadron that day and the whole Royal Tank Regiment.

"The support they gave on that day and after has been second to none. So even though we're the recipients of them, it's mainly for the regiment itself rather than an individual person."

Last year's inquest into the deaths found a faulty seal was responsible for allowing explosive gases to escape into the tank crew's turret.

Both men said that while they were honoured to receive the distinction from the Queen, they would prefer their colleagues and friends to be with them.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Cpl Qasenivalu said receiving the decoration was a "personal" moment for him

Cpl Qasenivalu said: "There's a lot of things to say about this but I think it's all very personal.

"I think for both of us, we would rather have our mates here than this medal."