|Stephen George Styles
16 March 1928|
Crawley, England, UK
|Died||1 August 2006(aged 78)|
|Buried at||Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley, West Sussex, England, UK|
|Unit||Royal Army Ordnance Corps|
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen George Styles GC (16 March 1928 – 1 August 2006), usually known as George Styles, was a bomb disposal expert in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). He received the George Cross for his service in defusing terrorist bombs in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
Styles was born in Crawley, where his father was a bricklayer. He was educated at Collyers Grammar School, Horsham (aka College of Richard Collyer). He was called for National Service in 1946, and, after officer cadet training, he was commissioned into the RAOC and posted to the central ammunition depot at Kineton. He obtained a regular commission in 1949, and was seconded to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He served with the 1st Battalion in the Malayan Emergency and was mentioned in dispatches. He studied at the Royal Military College of Science, obtaining an engineering degree. He returned to Malaya, commanding the 28th Commonwealth Brigade Ordnance Field Park Regiment, based at Taiping, then served with the 1st British Corps of the British Army of the Rhine in Germany.
He was posted to Northern Ireland in 1969. In 1971, he was a major in the RAOC, serving as deputy assistant director of ordnance services and senior ammunition technical officer in Northern Ireland and commanding the Explosive Ordnance and Disposal Team. On 20 October 1971, one month after a bomb killed one of his colleagues at Castlerobin, County Antrim, he was called to defuse a similar bomb left in a telephone booth in the bar of the oft-bombed Europa Hotel in Belfast, the main hotel used by journalists posted to Northern Ireland to report on the Troubles.
From a sample of the IED in question, Styles knew that the box containing the explosive would be booby-trapped, with micro switches at the top or bottom which would set off the bomb if the container was tilted or the lid removed, aiming to kill the bomb disposal experts. He built a mock-up of the bomb to work out his method. X-rays showed that the bomb contained approximately 15 lb of explosives. He and two colleagues took seven hours to disable its electrical circuits, after which the explosive was hauled onto the pavement outside the hotel and destroyed in a controlled explosion. Two days later, he was recalled to the same hotel to deal with a second bomb, this time containing 40 lb of explosives. Extra wiring, micro switches, and many redundant circuits had been added to confuse the bomb disposal experts. The second bomb took nine hours to disarm. In all, Styles and his team defused more than 1,000 bombs.
It was announced on 11 January 1972 that Styles had been awarded the George Cross. He received his medal from Queen Elizabeth II at an investiture at Buckingham Palace two months later, on 28 March 1972. The uniform he wore while defusing bombs in Northern Ireland is on display at the Imperial War Museum.
Styles was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel when he left Northern Ireland in 1972. He became chief ammunition technical officer, with responsibility for all RAOC bomb disposal teams in the UK and overseas. He retired from the British Army in 1974, and he became an adviser for various companies on anti-terrorist techniques. He wrote Bombs Have No Pity in 1975. He was featured in the Thames Television programme, Death on the Rock, in 1988, in which he commented on various aspects of a counter-terrorism operation in Gibraltar in which three PIRA members had been killed earlier that year.
Styles married Mary Rose Woolgar in 1952; the couple had a son and two daughters. He enjoyed rifle and game shooting, and collected rare cartridges.
L/Col. Styles is buried with his parents at Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley, West Sussex. His grave is accessible by turning right from the main entrance gates, and is on the right side of the path.
George Cross citation
Styles George Cross citation was printed in the London gazette on 10 January 1972.
St. James's Palace, London S.W.I,
llth January 1972.
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the George Cross to the undermentioned:
Major Stephen George STYLES (383996) Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
As Senior Ammunition Technical Officer, Northern Ireland, Major Styles was responsible for the supervision of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps deployed to deal with the ever-increasing number of explosive devices used in the terrorist campaign.
On 20 October 1971, Major Styles was called to assist with a device of an apparently new design placed in a public telephone kiosk in Belfast's comparatively new, and largest, hotel, the Europa. Major Styles immediately went to the scene and, having ensured that the military and police had secured the area and evacuation of personnel had also been effected, took charge of the operation of neutralising, removing and dismantling the bomb.
Investigation revealed that the bomb was of a new and complicated construction with anti-handling devices' to defeat attempts to disarm it. Until the electrical circuit had been neutralised, the slightest movement could have set it off. The device contained between 10 and 15 Ibs of explosive and could have caused instant death as well as extensive damage. No-one was more aware of the destructive capability of the bomb than Major Styles, yet he placed himself at great personal risk to minimise the danger to his team, to confirm the success of each stage of the operation, and to ensure the practicability of the next stage. The whole operation took seven hours to plan and execute and was completely successful.
Two days later he was again called to the same hotel where a second bomb had been laid by armed terrorists. This bomb was found to be an even larger device with a charge of over 30 Ibs of explosive, anti-handling devices, and a confusion of electrical circuits; it was clearly intended to defeat disarming techniques and to kill the operator trying to neutralise it. Major Styles again immediately took charge of the situation and successfully disarmed, removed and dismantled the bomb, this time after 9 hours' intense and dangerous work.
As a result of his courageous and dedicated resolution, two determined and ingenious attempts by terrorists against life and property were defeated, and technical information was obtained which will help to save the lives of operators faced with such devices in future.
Throughout each operation Major Styles displayed a calm resolution in control, a degree of technical skill and personal bravery in circumstances of extreme danger far beyond that of the call of duty. His work was an outstanding inspiration and example, particularly to others engaged in this dangerous type of work.
- Michael Ashcroft, George Cross Heroes, 2010
- Condell, Diana (16 August 2006). "Obituary Lt Col George Styles, GC". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- "Telegraph Obituary". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- "Obituary: The Independent". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 10 January 1972. Retrieved 8 March 2010.