UK & World News
Prince William's Winchman Gets Top Award
The rescue of two sailors from a boiling Atlantic sea by the Duke of Cambridge's Anglesey-based helicopter has earned the aircraft's winchman a top honour.
Richard Taylor, the crew leader in the Sea King piloted by the duke, demonstrated "outstanding bravery and skill" and was awarded a Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air to add to the Queen's Gallantry Medal he already holds.
The MoD said: "Duty crew at RAF Valley was woken in the early hours of a stormy November morning last year at 0200 to attend to a ship in distress, 30 nautical miles southwest of their location.
"The vessel had been broken in two by the high seas, sinking exceptionally quickly, leaving eight lives in jeopardy. A nearby ship which had responded to the mayday call of the stricken vessel had sighted dinghies in the water, passing their position to the crew on Valley."
The duke and his crew first spotted a life raft. Infrared scanners did not reveal any life on board.
To double-check, Master Aircrewman Taylor was winched out to carry out a physical search of the boat.
Video of the search shows the winch struggling to cope with the stormy conditions. Taylor was thrown several times into the raging water - and at one stage was trapped under the life raft. He freed himself and was winched to safety to report that the vessel was empty.
Soon, the Sea King picked up another dinghy. This one, the video shows, had at least two live sailors on board. Their hands and faces glowed with the reflection of an infrared beam. Their hands steadily signalled to the helicopter winchman to come to their aid.
Dunked again, Taylor managed to winch both men into the aircraft skippered by Flight Lieutenant Wales.
"Taylor remained calm and focussed, showing true courage and determination when in extremely stressful and dangerous conditions, demonstrating outstanding bravery and skill," the MoD said.
The award was part of the latest military honours which will be announced today. These include a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, one down from a Victoria Cross, awarded to an anonymous soldier for actions in Afghanistan. Five Military Crosses are also being awarded.
Among the MC winners is Acting Corporal Sean Lee Jones of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment.
Cpl Jones' section was caught in a classical L-shaped Taliban ambush and pinned down until he regained the initiative by firing a 66mm rocket at his enemy and ordered his men to fix bayonets and leading then on an 80-yard dash.
He followed this with a grenade attack on the insurgents and forced them into retreat.
"Jones demonstrated unflinching courage and extraordinary leadership in the face of extreme danger," combined with "tactical cunning", the MoD said.