On July 7, PC Claire Moffat was just five weeks out of police training. But instead of a routine patrol, she and her team tried to save a man who lost his legs in the King's Cross Tube bombing.

This Wednesday the seven new recruits received the Met's highest honour at the force's largest ever award ceremony.

A total of 156 officers were honoured for their bravery after the July 7 blasts, in which four suicide bombers killed 52 innocent people on London's transport system.

When she signed up for police work in London, PC Moffat knew she would face a terror attack at some time. "But I never expected it that early on."

The day of the blasts should have been an easy introduction to police work for the team that finished the Camden Street Duties Course only a month before. Yet they were among the first on the worst-hit scene of the attacks.

PC Moffat remembers running down the stairs into the "pitch dark" tunnel at Russell Square station. "Your adrenaline starts pumping. You think: What am I going to see? I have never seen anything like this before.'"

No legs

The smoke thickened as they closed the 500 yards to the train wreckage. So did the dread of a possible second bomb.

"The first thing I saw was a man lying on the floor with no legs."

Some of the team tried to stop the bleeding. Others tried to carry the wounded out on their high visibility jackets.

There were only one doctor on the scene, two paramedics and no stretchers.

PCs Moffat and Phillippa Mason went to fetch blankets and water at a nearby hotel. Then it was back into the tunnel.

"It felt like ten minutes down there," PC Moffat says. "But on the clock it was three hours."

Yet she does not think she did anything "especially brave" to deserve the award. "My sergeant told me to do a job and I did it."

The most difficult thing

The shock only hit afterwards.

"Getting home that day was the most difficult thing I ever did," she said. After a lift to Luton, she had to catch a train to Northampton, where she lives with her husband. But as she stood on the platform, fear gripped. "It all came flooding back."

Her first Tube ride after the attacks lasted only five minutes. "I just bolted."

As time passed, "everything eased".

Impromptu ambulance driver

For PC Neil Barclay, who joined the Met in 1981, July 7 was not a first. He also served at the Ladbroke Grove train crash in 1999, which killed 31 passengers and injured 400.

"You can slightly prepare yourself, but it is still a shock," he says.

Bodies were scattered across the tracks of Aldgate East Tube station when he arrived on the scene.

"Then your training kicks in. You go into automatic mode."

PC Barclay gave first aid to a woman who lost her foot. When there were not enough ambulance drivers, he jumped in behind the wheel while paramedics treated her. "It's quite an experience, that - driving an ambulance."

Microwave bomb?

Sergeant Graham Cross and his unit of five were trying to set up a cordon around the King's Cross bombing when the number 30 bus was blown up in Tavistock Square.

"We were only 100 metres away," Mr Cross said.

Team member PC Ashley Walker was looking at the bus as it exploded before his eyes.

As they ran closer, they saw "people's body parts and lumps of flesh", PC Walker remembers. One man's legs were trapped under a bench, while another mangled victim hanged with his head over the edge of the bombed top deck.

Then they spotted a microwave box near a window. Another bomb?

They thought it was.

"But we had no choice, really," Mr Graham says. "We had to go get people off the bus."

A bomb disposal unit later blew up the package in a controlled explosion.

Record number honoured

More than half, 87 in total, of those honoured received the Commissioner's High Commendation the Met's top award for "supreme" courage in the line of duty and perseverance in "appalling" conditions. Last year the commendation went to just four officers.

This year, for the first time, all 156 commended officers were presented with a silver lapel pin as symbol of the award.

Met chief Sir Ian Blair praised the "bravery and dedication" of his officers in England's largest ever mass murder. They kept going, "in dust, in searing heat, without pause, without complaint".

As always, the police "was just there on an ordinary day's work when the extraordinary struck."