A Royal Navy expert who oversaw the safe disposal of a 500lb Luftwaffe bomb found at London’s King George V Docks has been made an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Under Lieutenant Commander Sean “Central” Heaton’s leadership, specialist divers from Portsmouth and Plymouth-based bomb disposal units have rendered safe or disposed of nearly 16,000 potentially explosive items.

These included sea mines, torpedoes, hand grenades, mortars and bombs dropped by aircraft, as well as present-day improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Originally from Wigan, Lt Cmdr Heaton has more than 30 years’ service under his belt.

His citation says: “He relentlessly delivered very high-tempo operations, above and beyond that expected of his rank and his peers, with an admirable dedication to his people.

“His devotion, commitment and professional ability has been extraordinary, and he most strongly deserves official recognition.”

Lt Cmdr Heaton said he is honoured to have been singled out.

He added: “This decoration is as much a recognition of the brave, dedicated and immensely professional men and women that were under my command during my time in Southern Diving Group.”

One of the most high-profile tasks during his time in charge of the Southern Diving Group was a 500lb Luftwaffe bomb found in February 2018 on the bottom of London’s King George V Docks – next to London City Airport.

Its discovery led to the cancellation of all flights to and from the airport, evacuation of more than 100 homes and closure of the Channel Tunnel and other public services.

The disruption would have been far greater but for the actions of him and his team, working side by side with numerous civilian authorities and agencies over a three-day operation.

His expertise was called upon again when the Thai government requested help from the UK, after a cluster of seven 1,000lb Second World War bombs were discovered in the Mae Klong River in Ratchaburi province after nearly 80 years.