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					                              6 MARCH 2009


By Steve Willmot.

Thirteen RAF personnel are amongst more than 100 brave service
personnel to be included in Armed Forces Operational Awards List
No.32, for the period April to September 2008. Acts of bravery in
the operational theatres of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in the
UK, have been recognised.

At today’s event the award recipients were congratulated by senior
representatives of their Services: Rear Admiral Simon Charlier from
the Royal Navy, Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb from the
Army, and Air Vice Marshall Gregory Bagwell from the Royal Air

Two of the RAF pilots - Flt Lts Kevin Harris and Alex ‘Frenchie’
Duncan – will be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross – and the
third – Flt Lt Lee Turner will receive the Air Force Cross. Master
Aircrewman Richard Taylor will be awarded the Queens Gallantry
Medal and Corporal Simon Oswald is Mentioned in Despatches in the
latest Operational and non Operational Honours and Awards.

The DFC is awarded to all ranks of the Services in recognition of
exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy in
the air. The Air Force Cross is awarded for gallantry in the air not in
the face of the enemy and the QGM is awarded to military personnel
for those acts for which military honours would not normally be
granted, such as acts of exemplary bravery not in presence of the

Distinguished Flying Cross   Air Force Cross   The Queen’s Gallantry Medal
RAF Heroes….2

Those personnel Mentioned in Despatches receive a public
commendation in the London Gazette by order of the Sovereign.
The Mention in Despatches is the oldest form of recognition of
gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993, the Mention in
Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.

Air Vice Marshall Gregory Bagwell, Air Officer Commanding No 1
Group said, “Those honoured today are but a representation of all
British forces in action at home and on operations. I take my hat
off to the search and rescue force that live and breathe the rescuing
of life. As for Flight Lieutenants Duncan and Harris, they have a
particular place of honour in my mind. While on operations every
single day people like these are taking life threatening risks. Cpl
Oswald did a fantastic job as has the RAF Regiment in both theatres
for a number of years. In Afghanistan the RAF Regiment has faced
the greatest risk last year. Cpl Oswald in this incident kept his wits
about him and commanded a very difficult situation involving
multiple, seriously injured colleagues masterfully.”

Pilot Flt Lt Alex ‘Frenchie’ Duncan of 27 Sqn was the captain of a
Chinook twin-rotor helicopter involved in two distinct operations in
Afghanistan last year. His squadron is based at RAF Odiham in
Hampshire but he had been deployed to Afghanistan to support
troops on the ground and evacuate casualties from the front line.

On May 17 he was part of a 3 aircraft formation tasked to fly a VIP
party, including the Governor of Helmand Province, from Lashkar
Ghar to Musa Qal’eh.

Whilst flying at ultra low level the aircraft came under sustained
assault from the ground and was hit by rocket propelled grenade
(RPG), heavy machine gun (HMG) and small arms fire. Aware that
his aircraft had been hit due to an uncontrolled lurch of the aircraft
he quickly assessed that he still had sufficient control and
manoeuvred to clear the immediate threat area and weigh up his

Having lost one hydraulic system and a large portion of a main rotor
blade he decided to return to Forward Operating Base EDINBURGH
making a safe landing and offloading the VIP party without incident.
Flt Lt Duncan ….3

Just 6 days later, Flt Lt Duncan was part of a 4 aircraft, 2-wave
night air-assault around Musa Qal’eh in support of 2 Para Battle
Group that was gauged to be opposed by insurgents. The lead pair
of aircraft was engaged by RPG, HMG and small arms. Flt Lt Duncan
led the second pair into the hostile area and departed before
returning to lead the second wave into a second hostile landing site
under continued engagement by enemy firepower.

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb said, “Throughout both events
Flt Lt Duncan displayed consummate professionalism and strength
of character, in the first instance taking immediate and appropriate
action to recover a badly hit aircraft with a VIP party on board, and
in the second pressing ahead an air assault in the face of intense
fire to ensure the force protection of the battle group troops. His
actions, bravery and stoicism are worthy of formal recognition.”

Flt Lt Duncan said, “We were running up to the landing site and 20
feet off the ground when I felt a lurch and heard a bang. I thought
I’d lost the aircraft but although it was shaking I found I still had
control. We decided to get out of there fast – we had 16
passengers on board. The five to six mile flight to where we landed
the Chinook was the longest journey of my life. We considered
landing half way there but the risk of coming under further attack
with so many civilians on board I decided wasn’t a good idea. We
were very; very lucky to get to the forward operating base and
when I saw the hole at the back and the torn rotor blade I couldn’t
believe we made it.”

Flt Lt Duncan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On March 26 last year Flt Lt Kevin Harris, of 28 Sqn, RAF Benson,
Oxfordshire, was the Captain of the Immediate Response Team (IRT)
Merlin aircraft that was scrambled to recover a fatally wounded
soldier from Basrah Palace in Iraq. The Merlin Force is based at
Basrah to support ground forces and evacuate casualties.

With reported weather conditions at the minimum acceptable, he
elected to lift to attempt an extraction. Due to heavy fighting, the
helicopter landing site at the Palace had been subjected to indirect
fire attacks throughout the day and the noise of an approaching
helicopter would provide insurgents with a warning of a high profile
target inbound; Flt Lt Harris was fully aware of the risk. In poor
weather and fading light he flew his aircraft tactically, at ultra low
level, into the potentially lethal landing site.
Flt Lt Harris …4

On arrival there was no sign of the casualty; Flt Lt Harris held his
Merlin on the ground for as long as possible, fully exposed to
indirect fire. With danger increasing by the minute he eventually
had to lift, whereupon he saw the casualty being moved to the
landing site. Aware of the risk to his crew Harris made a second
landing. Having touched down, it took some time to embark all
passengers as not one but three seriously injured casualties
required evacuation; all the time indirect fire was landing in and
around the palace.

In absolute minimum flying conditions, Flt Lt Harris lifted and flew
directly across the city to expedite the recovery to hospital. He flew
his Merlin at roof top height; hopping over power lines and weaving
around known hostile areas until safely back at the Contingency
Operating Base at Basrah.

Over the period from March 26-28 Flt Lt Harris led his team on
another five occasions, extracting 30 very seriously wounded
personnel and a significant number of other casualties.

His commander, Group Captain Dean Andrew said,” Harris is very
strongly recommended for this award for unflinching gallantry,
distinguished flying and leadership in the finest traditions of the
Service, to preserve the lives of others.”

Flt Lt Harris was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On the night of January 31 last year Flt Lt Lee Turner was the
Captain of Rescue 122, the duty RAF Search & Rescue helicopter
operating from RAF Valley on Anglesey in North Wales, when it flew
to the aid of 23 persons on board the ferry “Riverdance”. The ship
had lost all power and was in severe difficulties in atrocious weather
10 nautical miles North-West of Blackpool.

With storm force winds of between 50 and 70 knots, the Sea King
helicopter crew were struggling to see even with night vision
goggles and, arriving at the scene, the “Riverdance” was seen to be
listing between 45 and 60 degrees.

Despite outstanding flying by Flt Lt Turner, the crew’s numerous
attempts to lower the winchman on the high side of the vessel were
unsuccessful. There was no choice but to attempt to winch onto the
more treacherous low side of the vessel. Through exceptionally
accurate flying and measured perseverance in such a dangerous
scenario Flt Lt Turner succeeded in putting his winchman on the

Flt Lt Turner had to maintain an accurate hover close to the rolling
vessel for an extended period, demanding huge skill and
concentration. At one stage his quick reactions prevented disaster
when he carried out immediate avoiding action as a ships mast was
about to strike the aircraft. Eight casualties were rescued and flown
to Blackpool. Another helicopter, the Royal Navy’s Rescue 177 from
HMS Gannet based at Prestwick Airport in south-west Scotland,
arrived at the scene and rescued further crew.

Several hours later Flt Lt Turner’s helicopter was scrambled again.
The “Riverdance” was now stranded on a sandbank and at serious
risk of capsizing with crew still on board. Turner and his crew
unhesitatingly ventured back out into appalling flying conditions and
safely recovered the remaining 9 casualties.

Group Captain Steve Garden said, “Turner’s courage, leadership and
outstanding flying skills in exceptionally demanding conditions were
in the finest traditions of the service; he selflessly displayed valour
and gallantry of an exemplary order while saving the lives of 17

Wg Cdr Andy Barr said, “Turner’s flying that night matches any I’ve
seen in 15 years. Normally a recce over a rescue site takes 5
minutes. For the ‘Riverdance’ rescue, Turner and his crew took 50
minutes to survey and plan the rescue. At times the mast from the
ship was within a few feet of the underside of the Sea King.”

Flt Lt Turner received the Air Force Cross.

On the evening of Jan 31 last year Master Aircrewman Richard
Taylor was the Paramedic Winchman called out to rescue the crew
of the “Riverdance.”

Displaying humbling courage and scant regard for his own safety,
MACR Taylor was winched on to the rolling, pitching and extremely
hazardous deck. Conditions on board were lethal as Taylor
continually made his way up and down the steep, listing deck whilst
being battered by huge waves. Despite this he organised the
evacuation of passengers and crew. With 8 casualties safely
recovered into the helicopter, Taylor assessed their conditions as
they were transferred ashore.

Temporarily relieved by the Royal Navy’s Rescue 177, Taylor’s
helicopter was later scrambled a second time back into the
maelstrom at 0415hrs. The “Riverdance” was now stranded on a
sandbank with its cargo becoming loose and moving freely on deck.
Despite being exhausted and in full appreciation of this additional
deadly hazard, Taylor unhesitatingly returned to the deck to rescue
the remaining 9 crew.

Group Captain Steve Garden said, ”Throughout this treacherous
night Taylor put himself in grave danger time after time to save

Wg Cdr Andy Barr said, “Taylor remained on the ship while he
affected the rescue of passengers two by two and he only returned
to the aircraft with the last pair which tested the winch to its limits.
At times, the swing of the winch line extended in a 90 degree arc
under the aircraft. I am not surprised Taylor succeeded in this
mission as he already holds the highest operational winching
category in the Search and Rescue Force.”

MACR Taylor said, “As we surveyed the ship rising in the swell and
swinging left to right I’ve never had such a dry mouth.”

MACR Taylor was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
RAF Heroes….7

In April last year at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Corporal Simon
Oswald was a section commander of the Support Weapons Flight of
3 Squadron RAF Regiment. The Squadron is based at RAF Wittering
in Cambs, but were deployed to Afghanistan to protect the airfield
and air assets from insurgent attacks.

The section was conducting a clearance patrol outside the airfield
when one of Cpl Oswald’s vehicles detonated an anti-tank mine.

The Landrover was practically torn in two by the explosion and all
occupants were blown from the vehicle and wounded to varying
degrees. One of the casualties was the Flight Commander, Flt Lt
Andy Costin, who was unable to exercise command due to his

Oswald commanded his vehicle crew to provide protection and, with
no regard for his personal safety and with the potential threat of a
follow-up attack or further explosion, he immediately moved to the
scene of the incident.

Aware of the threat of further Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs),
he made an immediate and accurate appreciation of the situation
and crawled towards an area close to the casualties in order to clear
a safe route for extraction.

After his casualty assessment, Oswald guided them through the
safe route so they could receive first aid. Once the casualties had
been recovered, he set about administering first aid to one of the
casualties who had sustained severe blast injuries.

Oswald also took command of the aftermath and controlled the
casualty evacuation to the helicopter whilst continuing to administer
life-saving medical aid to one of the casualties. As a result of
Oswald’s actions, both in commanding the immediate response and
administering first aid, all casualties were still alive on reaching the
Medical Facility, although two later died of their wounds. Flt Lt
Costin is recovering and back on duty.

His squadron commander said, “His actions were instrumental in
ensuring that his Flight returned to the fight as quickly as possible
after the incident and his operational gallantry was in the very
highest wartime traditions of his Service and his Regiment.”

Cpl Oswald said, “I was just one element of the team so it is a total
surprise for me to be singled out for this award. I regard it as a
team award. Sadly we lost two very good gunners and mates in the
incident and my thoughts are with their families.”

Cpl Oswald was Mentioned in Despatches.


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