Peace awards for ships which helped Philippines after typhoon

Two Royal Navy warships have received the military’s ultimate award for peace and goodwill for helping the people of the Philippines.

First HMS Daring and later HMS Illustrious spent around a month helping devastated island communities rebuild their lives after the most powerful storm ever recorded.

Collectively, the two ships helped more than 22,000 people in November and December 2013 – efforts which have earned the vessels the Firmin Sword of Peace.

Typhoon Haiyan steamrollered through a swathe of islands large and small some 200 miles south of the Filipino capital with winds as strong as 175mph wrecking homes, schools, businesses, amenities and fishing vessels.

From Daring’s youngest sailor – aged 17 – to the oldest at 52, every man and woman was committed to the daunting task that followed the devastation.

Commander Philip Dennis

Destroyer HMS Daring broke off from exercises in the South China Sea to dash to the country’s aid followed a short time later by helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, which had been carrying out anti-piracy sweeps off the Horn of Africa.

When she arrived, Daring was the only rescue asset available in the Visayan Sea and used her Lynx helicopter to search an area five times the size of Wales to pinpoint the communities most in need of assistance.

Her sailors, bolstered by British government international aid experts and charities, delivered food, shelter packs, set up mobile clinics treating more than 300 Filipinos, repaired fishing vessels, put roofs back on schools and community centres and helped to restore water supplies.

“Daring made a tremendously positive impact globally in the first circumnavigation by a Type 45 destroyer, but if a single act could typify the spirit of the team it would undoubtedly be the humanitarian disaster relief effort in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan,” said Commander Philip Dennis, the Portsmouth-based warship’s Commanding Officer.

“From Daring’s youngest sailor – aged 17 – to the oldest at 52, every man and woman was committed to the daunting task that followed the devastation. I am proud to lead such a team which brought hope to very remote communities that only the Royal Navy could reach in time.”

Illustrious did much the same job when she reached the Philippines – but on a much larger scale given her size, number of helicopters aboard, and the 1,100 sailors, soldiers and RAF personnel aboard.

“In sweltering heat and humidity, sailors, Royal Marines, Royal Engineers and Royal Air Force lived and worked tirelessly alongside the islanders,” says Illustrious’ citation.

“The ship provided hope and an essential impetus to community self-help.”

It proved to be the last operational act of the carrier’s three-decade career – Illustrious paid off last summer – and it earned her a special collective Firmin Sword of Peace for all three Armed Forces, while Daring receives the same title on behalf of the Royal Navy.