1. ITV Report

Engineer "surprised" by bravery award

Portsmouth-based HMS Lancaster Photo: Royal Navy

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} 0 0 1 709 4042 ITV 33 9 4742 14.0 96 800x600 Normal 0 false false false EN-GB JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";}A Navy engineer who spent several hours in freezing, oily waters to prevent a tug boat from sinking has spoken of his surprise at receiving a Royal Commendation for bravery.

Chief Petty Officer Neil Halsey led a three-manteam on to the tug Christos XXII which had been hit by a vessel shewas towing and was in trouble off the coast of Torbay last year.

He has received the Queen's Commendation for Bravery - for bravery entailing risk to life and deserving national recognition.

I was very surprised when I was told I was getting an award. As far as I was concerned I was told by my Commanding Officer to keep the tug afloat and that’s what I set out to do – so I feel very honoured to be recognised for that."

– CPO Neil Halsey

CPO Halsey, who lives in Gosport, was serving on board HMS Lancaster when they received a mayday call from the Christos XXII near to where they were operating. The Type-23 frigate arrived at the scene along with the RNLI at 10.30pm in dark and freezing conditions. Two teams went to the tug to assess the damage.CPO Halsey realised the water flow needed to be stopped quickly to stop the tug from sinking, and made the decision to step onboard himself. He set one pump to work and then re-entered the engine space with two others to hammer wooden wedges into a hole underneath the machinery.An hour later, and with water above their head and shoulders the team managed to reduce the incoming water by around 70 per cent, setting a second pump to work within the confined space.As conditions worsened and with the tug in danger of capsizing, the RNLI ordered all personnel off the boat, but CPO Halsey was there for nearly another two hours to ensure the pumps worked. His actions meant the tug remained intact for the salvage boat Brent to recover her and saved Torbay’s beaches from an oil spillage.

When I was on the boat going across to the tug I was apprehensive. I didn’t know the vessel, I didn’t know the layout and I didn’t really know what it would be like when I got there. Thankfully it was much more stable than I had thought and so I took two guys I trusted down into the engine rooms with me.In the engine space we had to take off our life jackets and use our torches to light the area so we could see where the water was coming in from. There was about an inch of oil on top of the water that was all around our shoulders and occasionally when the boat tipped you’d get a face full of it, it was pretty grim and smelt awful.After we hammered in the wedges and got the pumps working we got out of the space and went up top to dry off a bit and the ship sent us some chicken soup to warm up. Then we went back down again. In total we were out there for about six hours. It as a really hard night, mentally and physically draining but knowing we had done the job we set out to do was extremely rewarding – we saved the English Riviera from a major environmental disaster."

– CPO Neil Halsey

CPO Halsey was one of 18 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel recognised at the Tri-Service Operational Honours & Awards event held at the Honourable Artillery Company in London.

His citation reads: “Repeatedly entering the claustrophobic, dark and fume-filled engine room to set to work pumping equipment and lead the ‘first-aid’ stopping rising water levels was an extraordinary act of selflessness that clearly demonstrated unwavering courage.”