QGMQueens
Gallantry Medal

Chief Officer Christopher Onslow Smith RFA

Chief Petty Officer (Deck) John Thomas Olley RFA

 

Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct

Third Engineer Officer Roger Kenneth Stevens RFA

Seaman Grade 1A Reginald Frederick Williams RFA

Seaman Grade 1B Barry Edward Knowland RFA

Seaman Grade 1B Wesley Smith RFA

 

 

 

 

Queens Gallantry Medal

Chief Officer Christopher Onslow Smith RFA

Chief Petty Officer (Deck) John Thomas Olley RFA

 

Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct

Third Engineer Officer Roger Kenneth Stevens RFA

Seaman Grade 1A Reginald Frederick Williams RFA

Seaman Grade 1B Barry Edward Knowland RFA

Seaman Grade 1B Wesley Smith RFA

 

On Tuesday 8 December 1981 RFA Engadine was requested to render assistance to the cargo ship MV Melpol which was adrift and heavily ablaze in bad weather conditions 35 miles off St. Catherine’s Point.

 

 

Melpol

 

 

RFA Engadine and mv Melpol

© Paul Newman acknowledged

 

The first action taken in response to the distress call was to despatch two Sea King helicopters to the scene to carry out a search and rescue operation. This was successfully completed in darkness and the twenty-eight surviving members of the crew of twenty-nine were gradually lifted to safety. However the Melpol remained a navigational hazard and there seemed every likelihood that she would run ashore, with all the risks that this entailed, if no action were taken. A Sea King helicopter was therefore re-launched from RFA Engadine carrying Chief Officer Smith and Chief Petty Officer (Deck) Olley, to reconnoitre the vessel and establish whether it would be possible to bring the blaze under control. They reported to the Captain that the fire could be checked and consequently a volunteer boarding party under Chief Officer Smith’s leadership, and including Chief Petty Officer (Deck) Olley, was air lifted to the Melpol with fire fighting equipment.

In boarding party also included Third Engineer Officer Stevens, Seaman Grade 1A Williams, Seaman Grade 1B Knowland and Seaman Grade 1B Smith.

Tackling the blaze proved difficult and hazardous. Internally the Melpol had been reduced to a tangled mass of metal. Ladders and bulkheads had melted in the intense heat and all wiring in the ship had been destroyed. The boarding party had to work for over seven and a half hours to bring the blaze under control and, although they had only limited fire fighting equipment available, the succeeded in extinguishing the fires in the engine room and accommodation areas and were able to leave a fire in one of the holds to burn itself out. Finally they assisted in connecting tows to two salvage tugs enabling the vessel to be towed to safety.

The exemplary devotion to duty demonstrated on this occasion reflected great credit on the individuals concerned and on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service as a whole. Chief Officer Smith displayed courage, leadership and professional skills of the highest order during this most difficult operation and by his resourcefulness enabled the ship to be saved. Chief Petty Officer (Deck) Olley worked tirelessly and without thought for his own safety throughout, despite all the hazards and the intense heat. Third Engineer Officer Roger Stevens, Seaman Grade 1A Reginald Williams, Seaman Grade 1B Barry Knowland and Seaman Grade 1B Wesley Smith displayed courage, resourcefulness and devotion to duty during the entire operation.

 

Christopher

 

Chief Officer Christopher Smith QGM RFA

after being awarded his medal by HM the Queen


 

On 3rd August 1982 Her Majesty the Queen approved the award of the Queen’s Gallantry Medal to Chief Officer Smith and Chief Petty Officer (Deck) Olley and the award of the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct to Third Engineer Officer Stevens, Seaman Grade 1A Williams, Seaman Grade 1B Knowland and Seaman Grade 1B Smith.

 

QGM

 

The Queen’s Gallantry Medal

In addition Her Majesty the Queen approved the following awards to the crews of the two Sea King Helicopters from 737 Squadron, Royal Navy involved in this rescue operation while operating from RFA Engadine

 

Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air

Lieutenant-Commander David Rutherford Larmour, Royal Navy                            

Lieutenant John Desmond Connell, Royal Navy 

Lieutenant Andrew Timothy Healey, Royal Navy 

Lieutenant Matthew Paul Jennings, Royal Navy                                                   

Lieutenant Martyn Reid, Royal Navy

Sub-Lieutenant Richard John Churchley, Royal Navy

Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct

Petty Officer Aircrewman Kevin John Mathews, D129250D                                      

Leading Aircrewman Paul Thomas Newman, D149501E

 

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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