Champions of women in the Royal Navy celebrated in annual ceremony

Topic: PeopleHonours and awards Storyline: People

A police officer who helps service families in their darkest hour and a sailor who devised an app likely to be used across the Armed Forces were singled out at the Royal Navy’s ‘women of the year’ awards.

Portsmouth-based police officer Petty Officer Michelle Garrett’s was named Servicewomen of the Year, one of 13 individuals and teams – men and women, serving personnel and civil servants – recognised by the Naval Servicewomen’s Network at its third annual awards, held at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.

The senior rating is the only scientific support manager in the Royal Navy, which includes repatriation and reuniting families with loved ones properly. Her work has been commended by coroners at inquests and by bereaved families.

In addition, she’s frequently volunteered to help out fellow RN police and units at short notice, such as delivering vital equipment over leave periods, and ensure all deployed Royal Navy and Royal Marines ships and units have police support.

“It’s hard work, can be very challenging but I really do love my job,” she said.

Michelle is also a senior volunteer coach, and has been instrumental in helping to introduce a support team coaching 250 fellow RN police officers deployed around the globe.

And she somehow finds time to referee football matches, officiating not only at Armed Forces encounters, but was the FA’s choice to oversee a high-level fixture between Chelsea FC’s Women’s Super League Academy and UK Armed Forces women. 

All of which made her Servicewoman of the Year. “I am gobsmacked!” she said. “I’m still in shock. I really, really didn’t think it was going to be me. I called my Mum and Dad to let them know and was still shaking.”

And the ingenuity of Able Seaman Jessica Cornell based in Plymouth – a survey/hydrographic specialist – earned her the Innovation Award.

She developed a reporting tool as part of the MyNavy app – used across the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – to support Service personnel who have suffered as victims of sexual violence or abuse.

The project – Britannia Lantern – is now under development by the Royal Navy and is likely to be adopted across Defence.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, smile or jump up and down but it felt just incredible,” said Jessica, who came up with the idea in lockdown and spent over a year fine tuning it before suggesting it to developers.

“It is going to change people’s lives for the better. It will help not just the victims or survivors of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment, but it will also support divisional officers, welfare and medical officers, the Royal Navy Police – it’s going to have a major impact and help so many people.”

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Ruth Guest, who received the Inspires Me award for firing the imagination of fellow Service personnel, said:

“I was overwhelmingly surprised because I know just how many amazing women have been nominated for the awards, but I was also really happy to receive this award category

I am moving to an academic role next in Lichfield and hope I can take some more women’s health projects moving further forward with the freedom that will give me.”

Chief Petty Officer Collette Green received the Outstanding Contribution award for the significant impact she has made delivering parental coaching services and support to families – particularly apt as she’s a new mother and brought her five-month-old daughter Olive to the ceremony.

“I look after the Northern region with responsibilities across maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and adoption, she explained.

“It’s hard enough being a parent but when you add on Service life and perhaps two parents serving, it can get complicated and I want to help people navigate the challenges and make things easier for parents.”

Commander Lucy Ottley, Chair of the Naval Servicewomen’s Network said: “The awards reflect the achievements of our Servicewomen and workforce who are excelling across the Fleet and demonstrating extraordinary professionalism and commitment in their duties.

“We received many nominations which were all of high calibre and each nominee was worthy of an award.”


The network has been running since 2013, dedicated to improving the lived experience of servicewomen in the Royal Navy.

Nine years later, its founder Commodore Ellie Ablett was thanked by her colleagues as she retires from the Navy.
Full list of winners:

Naval Servicewoman of the Year (recognises the outstanding contribution from a Naval Servicewoman): Petty Officer (RN Police) Michelle Garrett (Portsmouth)
Emerging Talent Award (for outstanding personnel with under four years’ Service: – LET Siobhan Hodgson (HM Submarines)
Collaborative Working Award: Sub Lieutenant Olivia Brown (HMS Nelson)
Innovation Award: AB(HM) Jessica Cornell (HMS Drake)
Promotion of Gender Balance Award:  Commander Mark Walker (HMS Vigilant)
Inspires Me Award: Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Ruth Guest (HMS Nelson)
Inclusive Teamwork Award: The Human Performance Team (Navy Command HQ)
Unsung Heroine:  AB Halima Kahn (HMS Ceres)
Outstanding Contribution Award: CPO Collette Green (COMFASFLOT)