Top shot Tom decorated by The King for marksmanship skills

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines Storyline: Royal Marines

No-one is a better shot in the Senior Service than Royal Marine Sergeant Tom Hughes, whose marksmanship has been honoured by His Majesty The King.

The 34-year-old green beret from Swindon headed to Windsor Castle to receive the King’s Medal from the monarch himself in recognition of repeatedly hitting the bullseye.

Tom, who serves with 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh, near Plymouth, earned the medal as Champion Shot of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

The winner of the medal – which have been presented to the armed forces by the Monarch since the reign of Queen Victoria – proves him or herself in a series of operational shooting competitions, sponsored by the Fleet Commander.

It may be called a “competition” but this is not a sport, rather a test of martial ability using the same service small arms sailors and Royal Marines carry in action, with each element based on developing specific combat skills.

The competitions are advanced marksmanship training events open to serving personnel of all ranks, rates and branches.  Competition is used to drive each participant to their highest levels of personal performance, and the best of the best this year was Tom.

He was carried off the range as victor by his fellow competitors in an open Sedan chair in a long-standing military tradition, ahead of the more formal presentation from His Majesty.

Tom was accompanied at the ceremony by his partner Daniella and his father John, a Royal Navy veteran and contemporary of His Majesty in the Senior Service as both served in the mid-1970s.

In a private ceremony, His Majesty presented the first marksmanship medals of his reign to Tom alongside Lance Corporal Thapa (1 Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles), winner of the Army contest, and the RAF’s top shot Corporal Mitchel (No 1 AIDU). 

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the group had 15 minutes with The King, who took the time to talk individually with everyone,” said Tom.

“He was very knowledgeable on what we had done and also made clear he intended to maintain a direct link with the award in future years.” 

Commander Jon Sutcliff, the Royal Navy’s lead for delivering Operational Shooting Competitions and the King’s Medal process, said he was “immensely proud of Sgt Hughes and all the other personnel who participated in the competitions back in June. 

“The level of skill increase we see across all trainees is fantastic and the medal gives a unique grand prize that motivates all to strive to win and be the best they can be.”

Details of the 2024 competition programme will be released by RNTM in due course.  All enquiries about the King’s Medal and the OSC programme are to be made through [email protected].


Images: © 2023 HM The King and British Ceremonial Arts Ltd.