VIDEO: Two Chivenor search and rescue crew honoured for bravery
A HELICOPTER pilot and female winchman from Chivenor have been named in a list of military honours for their part in a sea rescue.
Sergeant Rachael Robinson, 37, who is the only female search and rescue winchman in the RAF, has been named alongside 28-year-old Flight Lieutenant Christian Wilkins.
They received the honours after saving a fisherman’s life in a difficult rescue in the Bristol Channel on March 21.
The helicopter was scrambled from Chivenor to assist in the rescue, approximately 50 nautical miles west of Haverford West, after poor weather conditions made it difficult for local lifeboat crews.
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Pilot Flt Lt Wilkins, from Braunton, had to steady the aircraft in Force 8 gales and tried six times to get Sgt Robinson onto the 25ft vessel to help an injured crew member.
Sgt Robinson, who received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for her part in the rescue, was repeatedly smashed against the deck of the French fishing vessel as she dangled from the Sea King helicopter.
VIDEO: Dramatic footage shows the search and rescue helicopter from RMB Chivenor helping to rescue the injured fisherman from the vessel in poor conditions.
Flt Lt Wilkins, who was awarded the Air Force Cross, described the accolade as an “honour”.
He said: “It’s been great to be recognised for the jobs we do.
“We got the phone call two weeks ago and the following day we were sent to London.
“It’s a great honour to get recognised for the job we do, we’re both ecstatic.
“We’ve been recognised as individuals but we work as a team. Everyone played a massive role in the rescue, it’s a team effort.”
Flt Lt Wilkins and Sgt Robinson went to an awards ceremony at the Tower of London where they enjoyed a three-course meal and met other military personnel who had been awarded honours.
Flt Lt Wilkins said it was interesting to hear stories from other servicemen and women.
He said: “The others we met had been out serving in Afghanistan. Their stories were incredible and the things they do are amazing.”
At the time of the incident, Squadron Leader Adam Thompson said: “I am ever so proud and humbled by the actions of my team.
"They went to extraordinary lengths to complete the rescue. The whole crew worked as a cohesive unit and some of their key decisions and actions were inspiring.”
The pair are among 117 servicemen and women recognised in the latest Operational Honours and Awards List.