An Army officer who walked towards a smouldering bomb after it detonated on a London Underground train has been honoured for his courage.
Lt Col Craig Palmer, 50, received the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery after he gathered vital evidence following the 2017 Parsons Green station attack.
“As soon as I smelt burning explosives I knew it was serious and that I wasn’t going to turn my back on it,” he said.
He was among several soldiers to receive honours.
Col Palmer, of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, was on his daily rush-hour commute on the District Line in London when there was an explosion as the train pulled in to Parsons Green Underground station.
The married father-of-three was two carriages away, but he pushed through screaming crowds towards the danger.
A bomb built at home by a teenager had left 23 people with injuries from burns, while another 28 were hurt in the panic and crush afterwards.
After 26 years of experience in the Army and following two earlier attacks that year in London, Col Palmer said he felt “conditioned” to take action if this incident turned out to be terrorism.
“Everyone was trying to get away while I was going forward,” he said. “I couldn’t see a terrorist, but I could see what I thought was a burning bomb and realised the terrorist must be on the run – I saw horrified people, school children, all running past me.”
Knowing that it was vital to gather evidence in the moments following an attack, he took three photos of the bomb in a carrier bag on the floor before alerting police.
He said: “It was still venting fumes and could have gone off at any moment. It was a calculated risk – Army officers are in the business of taking such risks, and I thought there’s a 50/50 chance that if it goes off, I die.”
The citation for his bravery award said that this photographic evidence enabled police to declare a major incident and rapidly begin investigating the attack. The bomber was caught the next day in Dover.
Col Palmer gave evidence in 2018 at the trial of 18-year-old Ahmed Hassan in the Old Bailey, which led to his conviction and imprisonment for life.
“My instinct on the day was to stand firm in the chaos, step up and try to do the right thing. I believe that my actions represent the values of British soldiers which are deeply woven in to our DNA,” he said.
He said he had been motivated by the members of the British public on the train that day. “It was witnessing their horror which gave me the courage to act.”
Also honoured with the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service was Acting L/Cpl Jacob Fisher, an “inexperienced” combat medical technician who saved the lives of Somali soldiers after a truck accident in 2018.
Part of a team working with the Somali National Army, L/Cpl Fisher was the only Royal Army Medical Corps member on the scene when an open-backed truck rolled over twice, leaving dozens of casualties strewn over a large area.
Nine needed immediate life-saving treatment and two had serious injuries, but L/Cpl Fisher helped to ensure that they all survived.