TWO soldiers who jumped into a burning tank to rescue colleagues trapped inside at a Pembrokeshire firing range have been recognised for their bravery.

Royal Tank Regiment soldiers Sergeant Stuart Griffiths and Corporal Saimone Qasenivalu ran to the burning Challenger 2 tank at Castlemartin following an explosion in June 2017.

Corporal Darren Neilson, 31, and Corporal Matthew Hatfield, 27, died in the blast.

Sgt Griffiths and Cpl Qasenivalu have been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for their actions.

Corporal Qasenivalu and Sergeant Griffiths said: “Whilst we are humbled and moved to be recognised, we will never forget our colleagues who were lost in this tragedy. Our thoughts remain with their families and friends.”

Sergeant Griffiths was commended for his “unreserved compassion and conspicuous courage in the face of extreme danger”.

The citation stated: “Despite the hissing noise coming from inside the turret and the presence of seven highly explosive bag charges and ammunition, he jumped inside to do all he could to save the trapped crew.”

The man in the gunner’s seat and the tank operator, who was lying on the floor, were “severely burnt and had suffered serious injuries”.

Sergeant Griffiths stayed with the man in the gunner’s seat for 30 minutes until he was lifted, still unconscious, from the tank, and then for a further two hours while paramedics administered life-saving first aid.

Corporal Qasenivalu “fought the acrid smoke and lack of oxygen inside the turret to reach the unresponsive operator”.

The man had sustained third-degree burns and parts of the gun were pinning him to the floor, which Corporal Qasenivalu dismantled to free him.

Corporal Qasenivalu “then remained in the turret to help with the extraction of a second soldier. Aware that the driver was still stuck, and unconscious, he stayed in place to disengage the turret gearbox so that they could get access to the driver’s compartment”.

The regiment said the men had shown bravery and selfless commitment.