A Royal Navy sailor based in Somerset who took a series of stunning images of the Commando Helicopter Force on exercises in Norway and Jordan has won the Navy’s Peregrine Trophy photographic competition.
Petty Officer Mez Merrill, 43, based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, took photographs of the Sea King helicopters and their personnel in snowy conditions while on a cold-weather training exercise in northern Norway earlier this year.
In contrast he also put forward colourful imagery of Royal Marines from the Commando Mobile Air Operations Team and a Sea King helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron on exercise in Jordan.
He was chosen as the overall winner in the The Peregrine Trophy Awards for his collection of eye-catching, powerful photographs.
Mez, spent the last three years attached to Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) based at RNAS Yeovilton. He said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the Peregrine Trophy – it means a lot to me to have my work recognised in this way. I have a real passion for photography and working alongside CHF gives me a unique opportunity to take images across the world in unusual locations.”
Mez, of Steeple Morden, Cambridge, joined the Royal Navy in 1987 as a junior seaman operator and has served on frigates and fishery protection vessels on deployments both in the UK and around the world. In 1993 he spent seven years working for the Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland in Belfast before transferring to the Royal Navy’s elite photographic branch in 2000.
Since working for CHF Mez has deployed to Afghanistan twice and to Norway for several months in both 2013 and 2014.
Head of the Royal Navy Photographic Branch Captain Ian Stidston said: “It has been a fantastic evening in a fitting setting onboard HMS Bulwark and one that confirms how much exceptional talent and professionalism we have in the Navy’s photographic branch – and also the amateur photographers who have taken some brilliant photographs.
“The very high standard of the images displayed onboard HMS Bulwark today are testament to the flexibility and can-do approach of our people and highlight the dedication to both their art and their service. I could not be more proud of the Navy’s photographers who have managed to capture compelling still and moving images that vividly tell the story of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines on operations.”
The annual Peregrine Trophy awards are designed to recognise excellence among the professional Royal Navy photographers, Sea Cadets and amateurs. This year the awards were held at HMS Bulwark which was moored in London – with the winners congratulated by the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas.
With 15 professional categories and three amateur classes – the competition is fierce and is whittled down by an expert panel of judges. This year they were Matthew Fearn, Picture Editor at the Daily Telegraph, Roger Payne of Bright Publishing, Bette Lynch of Getty Images, Anthony Massey of BBC World Service, Eleanor Montague BBC’s Foreign Deputy Editor, Tristan Pride of digital agency e3 and Ali Kefford, a freelance national journalist..
Open to the 42 photographers in the branch, there were 350 professional entries and 65 amateur images from 11 hopefuls presented this year.