Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines have been rewarded for going the extra mile as the 47th operational honours list is revealed today.
The list includes servicemen and women from across the Naval Service who have displayed bravery, commitment and meritorious service on a wide variety of operations across the globe.
From taking part in counter-Daesh operations in the Middle East to helping prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean, these sailors and Royal Marines have demonstrated exceptional skill and commitment on missions to keep Britain safe and protect the nation’s economy.
Commander Stephen Higham, 42, from Oxfordshire – appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Image attached
Commander Stephen Higham was the Commanding Officer of Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender during her recent deployment to the Middle East supporting international counter-Daesh operations.
During the nine months the ship was deployed, Defender broke records and set new standards as an air defence warship. Despite the stresses and strains that a nine-month deployment puts on any complex warship, not a single day of operational tasking was lost due to defects under Cdr Higham’s leadership.
The result was that HMS Defender regularly supported US and French carrier groups launching strikes on Iraq and Syria to counter the threat from Daesh. The Portsmouth-based ship was also responsible for tackling drug smuggling, at one point seizing over a tonne of hashish being trafficked across the Indian Ocean.
Cdr Higham said: “I am hugely proud to receive this honour on behalf of the men and women who worked alongside me over the course of our deployment. The success of our time away was hard fought and hard won and it was a huge team effort.
“The average age of my ship’s company during the deployment was in the low 20s, and they proved themselves to be a resilient, professional group of people who worked tirelessly to get the job done. We pushed the boundaries of what a Type 45 destroyer can do, something which our sister ship HMS Daring is now continuing to do on their deployment in the Middle East today.”
Commander Mark Vartan, 47, from Fareham – appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Commander Vartan was the Commanding Officer of HMS Enterprise, which returned home to Plymouth this week after a three-year deployment sailing across the globe and saving thousands of lives at sea.
Enterprise was at the heart of operations to prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean. She evacuated more than 200 British citizens from Libya, rescued 9,180 people attempting to undertake deadly crossings of the Mediterranean and destroyed 117 unseaworthy vessels used by people traffickers.
Cdr Vartan, who is originally from Poole, led the Plymouth-based ship from July 2014 until September 2016, guiding his team through the wide variety of tasks and operations they were called upon to perform.
He said: “Hearing I had received this honour was a real ray of sunshine. I feel honoured to have been chosen to receive this award which goes to show the exceptional results of HMS Enterprise and all those who have served on board over the last three years. Although I no longer have command of the ship, I was really pleased to see them return home to Plymouth this week at the end of a job very well done.”
Petty Officer Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Bethany Burton, 30, from Filey in North Yorkshire – appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) Image attached
PO Burton was the senior rating in charge of diesel generators – the ship’s engines – on board Portsmouth-based HMS St Albans during her recent deployment to the Middle East on maritime security operations.
In May 2016, one of the ship’s four generators suffered a catastrophic failure and initial assessments suggested the engine would need to be replaced. But PO Burton worked with her team in temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius to strip the engine down to its component parts and rebuild it.
A job which should have taken three weeks, the engine repair was completed in just 10 days thanks to PO Burton and her team working day and night to restore it. Motivated by her endless cheer and determination to succeed, the team avoided any delays to the ship’s programme during their vital work to patrol shipping lanes in the Gulf and protect Britain’s economy.
PO Burton said: “I am absolutely gobsmacked to have been appointed an MBE and couldn’t quite believe it to start with. What we did while on deployment was a big task, and for some of the younger guys it was the first time they had done anything like it. But it was an exciting challenge, and the feeling of relief and satisfaction when we started the engine and it worked after all our efforts was immense.
“That kind of engine failure was extremely rare but with the hard work of our whole team and thorough training we managed to pull it through and keep the ship on task. It was a hugely rewarding experience and I am honoured to receive this award.”
Marine Mark Wheeler – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery
Marine Wheeler was part of a detachment of Royal Marines on board the MV Vos Grace, a vessel chartered by the UK Border Force to assist with the mission to counter people trafficking in the Aegean Sea.
Able Seaman (Seaman Specialist) Sarah Griffiths – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
AB Griffiths served on board HMS Enterprise during the ship’s three-year deployment. Enterprise was at the heart of operations to prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean. The ship evacuated more than 200 British citizens from Libya, rescued 9,180 people attempting to undertake deadly crossings of the Mediterranean and destroyed 117 unseaworthy vessels used by people traffickers.
Commander Richard Hutchings – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
Cdr Hutchings is the former Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans, who led the ship during its recent nine-month deployment to the Gulf. During that time, the ship had joined the US and French navies in the fight against Daesh.
The ship also had major success tackling the problem of drugs smuggling, seizing 320kg of cannabis with an estimated value of £1m just days into her deployment. Cdr Hutchings was credited for working with several different nations while on operations in the Middle East, enhancing the Royal Navy’s reputation and leading to multiple operational successes.
Leading Seaman Craig Jacobs – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
LS Jacobs served as a communications technician on board Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender during her recent deployment to the Middle East supporting international counter-Daesh operations.
Corporal Edward Main – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
Cpl Main was team commander of a detachment of Royal Marines on board the MV Vos Grace, a vessel chartered by the UK Border Force to assist with the mission to counter people trafficking in the Aegean Sea.
Chief Petty Officer Peter Muir – awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
CPO Muir is the lead trainer for firefighting and damage control on board Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans. He served on board the frigate during its recent nine-month deployment to the Middle East. CPO Muir is credited with being an outstanding coach and mentor to the ship’s junior sailors.