The town was in complete darkness as there was no electricity

Lieutenant Commander ‘Bernie’ Winterton, Observer 820 Naval Air Squadron

The rear of the helicopter – usually crammed with seats and submarine-hunting equipment – was turned into “a mobile intensive care unit”, complete with a Royal Navy emergency doctor and nurse, said Observer (navigator/weapons and sensors specialist) Lieutenant Commander ‘Bernie’ Winterton.

“The town was in complete darkness as there was no electricity and residents had lit small fires in amongst the remains of their properties, creating a surreal atmosphere,” he continued.

The helicopter landed close to the hospital, the medics stabilised the patient and the Merlin made the short return flight to HMS Ocean, which had been dispatched to the Caribbean as part of the UK’s military response to Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria.

The patient and his wife spent the night aboard the Plymouth-based warship before being flown by the Merlin crew once more, this time to Barbados – hub of the hurricane relief effort – for onward transport to the UK.

Lt Cdr Winterton’s helicopter is one of nine whirlybirds on Ocean – two RAF Chinooks, the remainder Royal Navy Merlins and Wildcats – which have been heavily in demand during the 12 days the carrier has been in the Caribbean.

Collectively, the aircraft have flown 340 hours of missions, delivering 170 tonnes of aid and supplies and moving 650 passengers around the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Dominica and the Turks and Caicos.