Royal Navy Recognizes 14 Sailors for Bravery
A rookie rescuer who plucked the a sailor from raging seas, an intelligence expert behind a $12 million drug bust and a diver who saved a shipmate from being gassed in a partly-flooded compartment are being decorated for their skill and bravery.
The trio are among 14 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines to be recognised in the latest Operational Honours, which acknowledges bravery and commitment by the men and women of the UK Armed Forces on the front line.
A daring rescue at sea
Winchman Stu Rogers was engulfed by waves as he was lowered from HMS Monmouth's Wildcat helicopter to pick up the last survivor of sunken tanker Rama 2.
Stu - who had recently qualified as the winchman, never conducted a real rescue and never trained in such bad weather - faced 30-foot waves and 40-knot gusts, while the helicopter was low on fuel and close to its operating limits.
As soon as he entered the water he became tangled in the winch cable, fought to free himself, struggled to swim to the survivor in oily water, then spent upwards of half an hour trying to hook on to the man and winch him to safety.
With the Wildcat about to abandon the rescue, the stricken sailor finally got into the rescue strop and was lifted into the helicopter, helped by an exhausted Stu.
"That was a difficult sortie - we were close to the wire on that one but it was great that we were able to get him on board," said Stu, whose day job was to serve as one of the Wildcat's engineers.
"A 30-minute attempt to get him hooked up was one of the hardest things I've had to do since joining the Fleet Air Arm."
Eleven months on from the rescue, he receives the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his "selfless and gallant reaction in such a highly-charged and unpredictable situation".
Air Engineering Technician Stu Rogers - Queen's Gallantry Medal
Rogers' shipmate about HMS Monmouth, Petty Officer James Hick, was the frigate's electronic warfare expert and intelligence manager.
He and his team ensured Monmouth's decoy systems could meet the increased threat of missile attack in the Gulf region. On top of that, the senior rating pieced together information from scraps of paper carried by dhow crews as the ship hunted down drug runners; that led to the discovery of secret compartments containing hashish and heroin worth an estimated $12 million. He receives the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.
Saved from flooding
Petty Officer (Diver) Toby Jones was woken by the jarring sound of the alarm going off aboard HMS Tyne and the bang of a water pipe bursting, spewing water into the patrol ship's baggage store when the fishery patrol ship's fire-fighting system was accidentally set off during a visit to Faslane in May last year.
Having worked with engineers to try to locate the source of the water, Toby returned to the damaged compartment, where two colleagues were recovering a shipmate who was passing in and out of consciousness.
The diver realised nitrogen gas had also been released into the baggage store, ordered the area evacuated and doors closed, then entered the compartment in a breathing mask where he found a shipmate lying in four inches of water unconscious. He hauled him to safety and provided the casualty with oxygen; the affected sailor soon resumed breathing.
The diver showed "calm and measured leadership" throughout, as well as personal courage and receives the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.