THE Queen has given the green light to award a medal to military heroes who helped topple Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, The News can reveal.
Hundreds of naval personnel are now eligible to receive and wear the Nato medal after Her Majesty gave her assent for the award yesterday.
At its peak, the UK had about 4,000 personnel committed to last year’s operation to support Libyan civilians.
British warships, Royal Auxiliary Fleet vessels and aircraft delivered humanitarian aid, rescued refugees and enforced the United Nations’ no-fly zone as rebel forces fought to overthrow the brutal dictatorship.
Among those in line for the medal are 190 sailors from Portsmouth-based HMS Liverpool, which became the first UK warship since the First Gulf War to come under enemy fire during her 207 days of patrols off Libya.
Also to be honoured is the 45-strong crew of Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Brocklesby, which destroyed enemy sea mines within close range of pro-Gaddafi guns.
Lieutenant Commander Jim Byron, who was captain of Brocklesby during the Libya mission, told The News sailors were proud to be recognised for their efforts.
He said: ‘It’s absolutely marvellous. It’s wonderful for the ship’s companies.
‘There was an awful lot of good work done off Libya last year. It’s great that now we have something we can pin with pride on our uniforms.’
Last month, The News first revealed talks were being held between Nato, the MoD and Buckingham Palace about awarding a Libya medal to UK servicemen and women.
Sources revealed that the Queen was only too happy to give her formal blessing.
Speaking yesterday, Lt Cdr Byron, 40, of Farlington, said: ‘There have been rumours floating around for a while about a Nato Libya medal.
‘I only found out this morning that it had been formally given.
‘It’s great news for all the boys and girls.’
The MoD confirmed the Nato Libya medals will be given out soon, once everyone who is entitled to receive one has been identified.
In a statement, a spokesman said: ‘Her Majesty the Queen has graciously approved the unrestricted acceptance and wearing by UK personnel of the NATO Non-Article 5 Medal with clasp OUP-Libya/Libye. The medal recognises the service of those who took part in Alliance operations related to Libya from March 23 2011 until October 31 2011.
‘Medals will be issued by units, when available, to eligible personnel under single service arrangements.’