Royal Navy honoured at night of heroes

The outstanding achievements of the Armed Forces were celebrated last night at the seventh annual Sun Military Awards (The Millies), organised by The Sun newspaper in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence.

Three awards went to Royal Naval and Royal Marine personnel – Hero Abroad, Life savers and Fire Fight with two nominees in the Home Front Hero and Support to Armed Forces categories. 

The former Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious Captain Mike Utley received the Hero Abroad award on behalf of all those who assisted the Philippines last year after her islands were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. HMS Daring was first on the scene and was followed up by HMS Illustrious with thousands of tonnes of UK aid donated by the British public.

He said: ““I was delighted to accept this award on behalf of all who served in HMS Illustrious during the disaster relief mission in the Philippines. HMS Illustrious served the country for 32 years in a wide range of operations all over the world. It is a privilege to have been her final Commanding Officer and a great honour for all of us to recognised at the Millies.”

Colonel Ewen Murchison who was the Commanding Officer of 42 Commando during Op Herrick 14 in Afghanistan accepted the FireFight award – a new category that recognises personnel involved with the period of intense fighting on the front line.

Col Murchison, who won the Best Unit award at the 2011 Millies, said: “I think it’s a really good opportunity, at the end of Afghanistan to all come together and celebrate what we achieved there. It’s been a massive collective effort – this is not about one unit, this is not about one individual, this was a team effort on the front line in Afghanistan, and we’re all very proud that we can be here, to collect on behalf of all the units who fought.”

And Officer Cadet and Royal Naval reservist at HMS King Alfred in Portsmouth Michelle Ping picked up the Life Savers award after she was Mentioned in Dispatches for saving the life of a wounded soldier in Afghanistan on Op Herrick 14.

OC Ping, who won the Best Reservist award at the 2011 Millies, collected the award on behalf of all medical personnel. She said: “It’s a great honour to be recognised as a life saver. The medics in Afghanistan, many of whom were reservists like me, did a great job and pushed the boundaries in the treatment of trauma. It was a privilege to play a small part in this and I’m delighted to see our efforts recognised at the Millies.”

Over the last seven years, the Millies have provided a remarkable opportunity for the British public to show their appreciation for the courage, selflessness and determination which servicemen and women invariably display. We are all safer because of their sacrifice and all of those honoured tonight unquestionably deserve our fulsome recognition

General Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff

Warrant Officer Phil Spencer who set up True Heroes racing – the UK’s first injured serviceman’s motorcycle team – was nominated for Support to Heroes while WO Officer John Ravenhall of Fleet Diving Unit was one of the nominees for Home Front Hero.

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were guests of honour at the event - billed as “A Night of Heroes” – held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on Wednesday 10 December. They were joined by the Prime Minister and Mrs Cameron, Defence Ministers, senior military, government and political figures and stars from the worlds of entertainment and sport including Dame Maggie Smith, Liam Neeson, Damian Lewis, Lacey Turner, Simon Cowell and Mary Berry to pay tribute to these exceptional individuals.  

This year four specially created awards marked the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, recognising the extraordinary challenges and achievements of the men and women who served on operations in the country.

The awards were The Fire Fight, which recognised personnel involved with the period of intense fighting on the Front Line; The Life Savers, paying tribute to the work of the medical teams in supporting troops; Bomb Disposal, highlighting the contribution of the teams dealing with the Improvised Explosive Device threat; and Mentoring Afghan Forces, recognising the work of the troops who have trained the Afghan National Security Forces. The recipients were chosen from previous winners, who collected the awards on behalf of all those who have served in that particular field.

Alongside the Afghan Heroes categories, the ‘Hero At Home’ and ‘Hero Abroad’ awards recognised exceptional Service both in the UK and around the world, while the ‘Support to the Armed Forces’ category recognised the work of the charity My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures, offering support to families of deployed personnel with young children. The eighth category, the Judges’ Special Award, was presented to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for its work in maintaining military cemeteries, burial plots and memorials around the world.

The ceremony, including unique footage of shortlisted individuals and teams at work will be televised on Thursday 18 December at 8.30pm on ITV1.