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Queen's commendation for bravery awarded to Border Force officers

Borders and Immigration

July 19
13:44 2018

In this years Civilian Gallantry list, published today (19 July), Gareth Leadbetter, David Sant, Lee Townsend and Stuart Woodland have been given Queens Commendations for Bravery.

Gareth was recognised for his actions during the early hours of 29 May, 2016. That night, the Border Force vessel HM Cutter Valiant was patrolling the English Channel near Dungeness when a search and rescue operation was initiated after midnight to locate a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with possible migrants on board that was in distress.

The RHIB was located by a search and rescue helicopter east of Dungeness with HMC Valiant arriving on the scene within minutes.

Gareth was the coxswain of HMC Valiants boarding boat that night and displayed exceptional leadership and coxswain skills in ensuring everyone on board was transferred onto the cutter in extremely demanding conditions.

Rod Lowson, Head of the Border Protection Squadron within the Border Force Maritime Command, said:

By making the correct operational decisions Gareth was able to rescue the people and recover them to his ship, saving their lives in the process. This involved three separate runs to and from the sinking vessel and three launches and recoveries of his boat onto the cutter an extremely dangerous manoeuvre, made all the more hazardous in the poor weather.

He demonstrated his ability to lead a team under severe pressure and to focus the skills and experience of his diverse team. He showed outstanding composure and resilience and his actions resulted in 20 lives being saved at sea.

Of the 20 people rescued, two on board the only ones wearing life jackets were subsequently convicted of people smuggling offences in relation to the incident.

David, Lee and Stuart were recognised for their actions on the night of 21 and 22 January 2016, when a Border Force vessel was on patrol off the Greek Island of Farmakonisi supporting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean.

Just before midnight the alarm was raised as a large wooden fishing boat, which had been heading towards Farmakonisi from Turkey, foundered on the rocky coastline.

The Border Force vessel immediately launched two rescue craft. Lee was on board the Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) alongside a commercial coxswain while Stuart, David and another commercial coxswain were on board the larger Daughter Craft (DC). Both rescue boats sped to the scene, in total darkness and in poor weather with an observed 1.5m swell and crashing waves on the rocks.

Rod Lowson said:

On arrival at the scene they were confronted by a wreck, with many people in the water. In full knowledge of the danger that they themselves were in, the FRC crew immediately pulled a boy and girl from the water. The DC crew similarly put themselves at risk to begin recovering people from the water.

At this point both the FRC and DC both lost power due to the floating debris. Despite both vessels, now helpless, being driven towards the rocks, the crews continued to administer CPR on those they had rescued.

The DC managed to restart its engines and skilfully manoeuvred to take the FRC in tow, while at the same time saving more people from the water. David, Lee and Stuart each displayed exemplary acts of

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