Royal Navy and Royal Marines recognised in Operational Honours list

Five Royal Naval and Royal Marine personnel have been awarded Operational Honours and Awards under the latest list released today.

One covers action in Afghanistan while the other four are for operations spanning the globe including the effort to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone. All were Queen’s Commendations for Valuable Service (QCVS).

Captain Julie Thain-Smith of the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service received her honour for an 11-month deployment to Afghanistan. 

She deployed in November 2013 as  the deputy medical officer, before then filling the vacant position of Chief Medical Advisor to Commander International Security and Assistance force (ISAF) in Kabul. 

The first nurse to have taken up the role, a key part of Capt Thain-Smith’s remit was to optimise the Afghan medical capability by encouraging the police and army to pool their resources and work together. 

When I was told about the QCVS I was absolutely shocked and stunned – it came as a complete surprise and I am extremely proud to have been recognised in this way.

Capt Thain-Smith, Royal Naval Nursing Service

“The main skills I drew upon during this role was my leadership ability,” said Capt Thain-Smith, now Assistant Head Strategic Commissioning Team at HQ Surgeon General. 

“I was the only British person on my team – I had nurses from across the coalition forces so it was important that I could quickly understand their abilities and ensure that we were as effective as possible.

“When I was told about the QCVS I was absolutely shocked and stunned – it came as a complete surprise and I am extremely proud to have been recognised in this way.”

Capt Thain-Smith’s citation read: “Formulating an ambitious plan and inspiring her multi-national team of over fifty military and civilian personnel in mentoring Afghan medical staff, Thain-Smith drove the Afghans to ever higher levels of competence and ownership of the treatment of the wounded.”

Corporal David O’Connor of 42 Commando was recognised for his actions as Force Protection Section Commander on Op Gritrock – the fight against Ebola off Sierra Leone. 

Promoted to Acting Sergeant, he headed up a team of four to establish the District Ebola Response Centre in Makeni. Galvanising local nationals and working well above his rank Cpl O’Connor also established a logistics depot where he managed a fleet of 50 vehicles - greatly enhancing the quick reaction time of the Ebola Response Teams. 

“Displaying true professional excellence and inconspicuous humility, he made a direct impact on the output of the centre, providing the impetus that was often needed to galvanise a beleaguered and ideologically entrenched workforce,” said his citation.

Cpl O’Connor said: “I was honoured and surprised to hear that I was going to be recognised in this way. You never expect to be given special recognition above the other men you work beside on operations, who all do great work. My mother was very proud of me when I told her.”

 - Capt Anthony Rimington was recognised for his role as Staff Officer Future Operations at UKMCC in Bahrain where he spent nine months. A demanding post his watch spanned a period of huge strategic changes including the end of Operation Herrick and the surge of counter-ISIL operations in Iraq. 

“His deep thinking, rapport with international partners and energetic leadership have helped place the maritime component in the vanguard of combined contingency planning,” said his citation.

- Lieutenant Colonel Kian Murphy was awarded the QCVS for his role as Chief of Operations in the European Union Task Force. An influential figure in the French-led deployable headquarters he made a significant contribution to multi-national operations in Africa. 

Lt Col Murphy was the only UK officer deployed as part of the Task Force to the Central African Republic and was the first choice to lead the operations and planning staff – a role usually given to French officers. 

According to his citation: “Murphy showed exemplary courage and dedication to this arduous mission, applied intellectual rigour and, through his example, ensured that the reputation of the UK and of the Royal Marines was maintained at the highest possible level amongst the coalition partners.”

- Commander Des Donworth was awarded for his work as the Senior Maritime Advisor to the Libyan Navy and to Commander Defence Advisory Training team from February until August last year.

As Tripoli descended into chaos at the brink of the civil war, Cdr Donworth achieved a unique level of trust amongst his Libyan Navy superiors – maintaining strong lines of communication. Using this crucial support, he masterminded the evacuation of British citizens from Libya via HMS Enterprise over the course of a number of days under extreme pressure and in a volatile environment.

“Ultimately, Donworth’s exceptional levels of access afforded a secure extraction route and the guarantee of safe storage of HMG’s equipment,” said his citation.