UK Bomb squad hero says he never told family his real job in Afghanistan

A British bomb squad hero admits he kept his family in the dark about his jobs in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Si Hannaford, 43, has spent the last 26 years risking his own life to save countless others but deliberately spared his loved ones details of his actual job.

Still a serving soldier, the dad-of-three is now training others in the military to replicate the same muscle memory, when faced with "disgusting" explosive devices, that made him so effective on the ground.

Si told the Daily Star that he would rather not expose his family to the horrors and close-calls he has experienced as part of Britain's bomb disposal unit.

He said: "It’s a life-saving activity, when I was in Afghanistan locating and finding these devices and getting rid of them, it was saving lives not only for friendly forces but the Afghan local nationals as well so it’s a massive deal.

"I’ll be honest, my family don’t really or didn’t really know exactly what I do, all they know is that I deal with EODs.

"I don’t really want to go into massive detail with my family about what I do and how I’ve done it, what my past experiences have been because sometimes it’s better to be blissfully unaware of what’s going on, rather than having all the gory details and all the near misses."

Si explained he was so well drilled to remove emotion from his tasks at hand that few jobs stand out, comparing the process to that of a tyre fitter.

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He said: "They’re all pretty much the same, you step on it – they’re designed for you to go away so they’re all equally as horrible and disgusting as every other type of EOD that’s been left.

"Something will have already been found by friendly forces or been reported to friendly forces then we get called in to go and deal with it with a lot of help from search teams and coordinating forces on the cordons.

"It’s repetition of training and it almost becomes muscle memory once you get into that zone of you’ve developed a plan.

"You don’t really feel that bomb suit around you because it’s part of the plan and becomes part of you, everything else becomes second nature.

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"Especially with the training, once you’ve got it drummed into you then it’s almost like automatic response to what you’re doing."

The father who is currently completing an extraordinary challenge for bomb disposal charity Felix Fund, says he felt his area of the army was cloaked in mystery until a TV series shone the light on it.

Si said: "The EOD community wasn’t really that well known until the BBC did documentaries about bomb hunters and all that good stuff in Afghanistan.

"When it became a little bit more mainstream, people kind of understood there was a little bit more to war fighting than someone running around shooting a machine gun and engaging with the enemy.

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"There was more of the sneaky side of things and how we have to deal with that and get around it."

Last year Si ran 26 marathons in 26 days, raising £1,730 for the NHS and Felix Fund, this year however he has stepped it up not by one notch but several times over.

In a mammoth-sized triathlon dubbed #FelixTri26, Si started it earlier this month by swimming 21 miles – the length of the channel – at DDS Portsmouth, a 1km long ex-torpedo training lake.

He has since cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats, covering 1000 miles over ten days and now he is unbelievably running back home from there to Bicester.

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As if that was not hard enough, a battered and bruised Si set off his run by completing the first mile in an actual bomb suit, all for Felix Fund.

Describing what the suit felt like to run in, Si said: "That was emotional, it was difficult.

"Running one mile with 35kilos up around you is definitely different, especially after cycling 1,000 miles and swimming 21.

"It’s very sort of encompassing it’s almost like having another body wrapped around you.

"It doesn’t flax that much because at the end of the day it’s designed to protect your body from a blast that’s going off, it’s not the easiest thing to manipulate and move around in.

Felix Fund has helped Si and fellow EOD veterans so much that the idea of generating funds for the charity has led him to endure so much suffering.

"Don’t get me wrong I’m paying for it quite severely with pain between my legs and my feet oh my God it’s very painful," he said.

To donate to Si's fundraiser for Felix Fund and cancer charity, the Hummingbird Centre, click here.

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