AN RAF serviceman who rescued his neighbour from a smoke clogged house has received not one but three commendations for his bravery – including the Queen’s commendation for bravery.

Yesterday, dad-of-two Ben Howarth returned to Royal Wotton Bassett fire station to pick up two awards for his heroics.

Chief fire officer for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Ben Ansell presented the 34-year-old, originally from Bury, with the Chief Fire Officer’s commendation and the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire’s bronze medal.

At around 2am on April 26, 2017, Ben was woken by his fire alarm. He went from room-to-room in the Nore Marsh Road semi he shared with his wife and son Fletcher but could find no sign of fire.

It soon became clear that the blaze was next door. Ben pressed his hand against the glass of one of the ground-floor windows: “It wasn’t red hot but it was very, very warm.”

He kicked down the door and crawled below the thick smoke. Spotting the upturned palms of his unconscious neighbour, Ben dragged the man out of the house and onto the drive. The rescue took around 10 seconds.

Moments after pulling his neighbour from the house flames blew out the front windows, sending flames billowing into the road.

Ben can still recount the events as if it was yesterday, but said he did not think about that night.

He played down any suggestion that what he did was heroic: “I think there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity and I think on that night I edged into the stupidity.”

His rescued neighbour was rushed to Swindon’s Great Western Hospital but was later transferred to Southmead. Ben’s son was in hospital for several days being treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Ben said the experience had reminded Ben “to value what’s important”. Had son Fletcher been in his own bedroom, which was closest to the fire, the night could have ended very differently.

And the family, now living in the US, still remember to test their fire alarms every Tuesday – having been told by the Bassett firefighters about the brigade’s “Test it Tuesday” campaign.

Ben Ansell, chief fire officer for Wiltshire, said of the kind of incidents that prompted Ben's heroics: “Some people will freeze. Some people will run away and look to others to act. But some people step up when it matters and that’s what Ben did.

“When I see the people who step up and act when people really need it – if they didn’t, someone would die. Ben’s actions prevented someone from dying.”

That was echoed by watch manager Tom McInernery, who was part of the crew called to the house fire.

“If Ben hadn’t been there and done what he did, we could have been dealing with a very different situation,” he said.

A previous version of this article said Mr Howarth had received the Queen's Gallantry Medal. He was given the Queen's commendation for bravery.