Coastguards receive recognition for their long public service

(left to right), Tom McNally, Phil Norman, and Tony Wheeler.'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132782-1)
(left to right), Tom McNally, Phil Norman, and Tony Wheeler.'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132782-1)
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COASTGUARD officers from the Solent region have been given an award to recognise their long service.

With a background of uncertainly over how the Her Majesty’s Coastguard is going to operate in the future, officers who have been employed by, or volunteered with, the organisation for 20 years or more were handed their medals in a ceremony on board HMS Warrior.

This was the first time a long service and good conduct medal has been awarded to full-time officers. Previously they have only been handed out to volunteers.

Chief coastguard Peter Dymond handed the medals out to five officers able to attend.

They included Tom McNally and Tony Wheeler, who both live in Gosport, and are watch managers at the Solent Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Lee-on-the-Solent; and Phil Norman, from Fareham, who volunteers as a coastguard rescue officer.

Phil said: ‘Whilst the award is for me personally, I wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for the people around me – not only my fiancee but also the team around me.’

Tony said: ‘It’s great to get the recognition, and it’s a nice way to end a career – I’ll be retiring when the station closes next September.’

Tom also said he would be retiring when the coastguard station closes.

The MCA is reducing the number of coastguard stations it has but moving its operation into supercentres.

One such centre will be the building in Segensworth, which was originally built to be Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s central control room but was never used.

The changes to the organisation have meant a long period of uncertainty for staff, and negotiations between the unions and the treasury over pay.

Tom said: ‘We’ve never been paid what we should be, but we’ve always done the job.

‘We’d never leave anyone out there in dire straits.’

Mr Dymond said it was time for the coastguard to look to the future.

He said: ‘There have been a couple of years of uncertainty, but we have been trying to negotiate a pay deal with HM Treasury, trying to convince them what we’re worth.

‘I will be retiring in four weeks’ time and I think at last we can now move forward to the future and reduce the uncertainty that’s been hanging over us.’

Medals were also given to Mike Greiner, Nigel Guyll, Mike O’Sullivan, Michael Forsyth-Caffrey and Alan Bishop. A medal and clasp were presented to Colin Griffiths for 30 years of service.