The military hospital ship which spearheaded the UK’s fight against Ebola in Africa has received an extremely rare commendation.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Argus, which carried servicemen and women from Portsmouth, is heading back to the UK after deploying to Sierra Leone in September to provide air and medical support efforts against the killer disease.
In recognition of her efforts and deployments spanning back to 1982, defence secretary Michael Fallon has now awarded Argus an Admiralty Board Letter of Commendation.
It is believed to be the first time this award has been granted to an operational unit.
The last similar award was made in 1939 to the family of Captain Edward Kennedy, who was killed when his ship HMS Rawalpindi was sunk following action against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
Mr Fallon said: ‘During her deployment to Sierra Leone, Argus has made a significant contribution to the UK’s effort to halt the spread of Ebola.
I am extremely proud of everything that Argus and her people have contributed to the mission in Sierra Leone over the past six monthsCaptain David Buck
‘She has helped to establish the crucial medical treatment centres and has provided vital transport capability allowing medical workers to reach the areas most affected by the disease and by providing medical reassurance to the British personnel deployed to the region.
‘From delivering helicopters and Harrier jets to the Falklands conflict in 1982, to acting as a casualty receiving ship in the first Gulf War in 1991 and Adriatic in 1993, Argus has made her mark in a significant way.’
Over six months, the ship’s three Merlin helicopters and detachment from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines helped deliver much-needed equipment, supplies and food packages to remote areas of Sierra Leone.
The commanding officer of RFA Argus, Captain David Buck, said: ‘I am extremely proud of everything that Argus and her people have contributed to the mission in Sierra Leone over the past six months.
‘The award of the Admiralty Board Commendation for Argus’ lifetime contribution to defence is a huge honour that I am privileged to accept on behalf of all of those who have served in her over the course of 33 years service.’
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: ‘RFA Argus has been an essential part of Britain’s response to Ebola in Sierra Leone.
‘Today it leaves a country which is getting to grips with this crisis.
‘The number of new weekly Ebola cases has dropped from nearly 500 in November to just 33 this week.
‘But our job is far from finished. One single case left unchecked is enough to cause a resurgence in the disease.
‘Britain will continue to stand alongside the people of Sierra Leone as they fight to bring the number of cases down to zero.’