The crew of HMS Chatham’s Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton were honoured for their skill and gallantry after undertaking a dangerous sea rescue in the wake of a tropical cyclone.
The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society’s Skill and Gallantry Awards, which were first presented in 1851, recognise the UK’s unsung heroes who risk their lives in dangerous sea rescues.
In May 2010, the crew of HMS Chatham’s Lynx helicopter responded to a distress call from the merchant ship MV Dubai Moon whose cargo of cars and trucks had broken free when she was caught in the centre of a tropical storm in the Indian Ocean.
Rolling heavily, the ship was unable to manoeuvre and was at risk of sinking along with her 23 crew members.
While Flight Commander Lieutenant Commander Peter Higgins fought to maintain a steady hover with the expert assistance of Lieutenant Craig Castle of the Royal Australian Navy, Air Engineering Technician Richard Wilmot, a newly-qualified winchman, was lowered onto the vessel where he successfully recovered the first crewman from the oily, rolling deck.
Air Engineering Technician Wilmot became violently ill on his return to the aircraft as a result of his extreme physical exertion and the recurrence of previous sickness. Lieutenant Commander Graham Chesterman, who was visiting HMS Chatham to conduct an aviation audit and who had not flown for 15 years, was asked to take over.
Lieutenant Commander Chesterman went on to conduct a total of 22 difficult and physically-exhausting transfers over three hours, displaying skill and courage in dangerous conditions.
The crew of HMS Chatham’s Lynx helicopter were presented with the Edward and Maisie Lewis Award at the awards ceremony for their outstanding teamwork and courage, and Lieutenant Commander Chesterman also received an individual commendation for his bravery.
Chief Executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, Commodore Malcolm Williams, said:
Lieutenant Commander Graham Chesterman and the crew of HMS Chatham’s Lynx helicopter showed outstanding professionalism, superb teamwork and courage in rescuing the crew of the MV Dubai Moon. The rescue demonstrated all that is best in the seafaring tradition.
The society’s annual October Skill and Gallantry Awards are an important event in the maritime calendar and a chance to honour all those unsung heroes who risk their lives to keep seafarers and members of the public safe.
Every year I am struck by the qualities of the men and women who are nominated and the courage they display in helping those in distress at sea. We have received some worthy nominations this year and found it hard to choose the recipients of each award but the winners do our seafaring community proud.
Founded in 1839 the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society provides financial help to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependants who are in need.