Their unrelenting efforts helped rebuild the lives of thousands after a bleak human tragedy.
And today Royal Navy officers from Portsmouth who gave humanitarian relief after a devastating typhoon hit the Philippines have been rewarded for their heroic deeds.
They are a handful of the 139 servicemen and women named on today’s Operational Honours list, which recognises the bravery and meritorious service of those in the armed forces.
HMS Illustrious was returning to Portsmouth from operations in the Middle East just before Christmas in 2013 when she was diverted to help with the relief effort on the islands of the Philippines.
HMS Daring was first on the scene, using her ship’s helicopter to track the path of destruction caused by the typhoon and immediately sending help to the worst-affected areas.
There are six Portsmouth Royal Navy officers being honoured today.
Lieutenant Wendy Frame has been awarded the MBE for her work as the deputy marine engineering officer on board HMS Daring, which was the first Royal Navy ship to arrive in the Philippines in November 2013.
She repaired vital water wells and rebuilt school buildings, ensuring a small island community of 200 young families had their first access to clean drinking water since the typhoon struck.
She also delegated her team to repair numerous fishing boats – vital to the communities so they can bring in fresh food – which were damaged by the typhoon.
Lt Frame, who lives in Gosport and is due to get married in the summer, said she was delighted to receive the honour.
‘I was shocked when they told me,’ she said.
‘I had to read the letter four times before it would sink in.
‘I called my fiancée Adele straight away and then my mum Heather who burst out crying so it all started to feel more real then.’
Captain Mike Utley has been awarded the OBE for his role as commanding officer of HMS Illustrious during the humanitarian mission.
Capt Utley quickly devised a simple but thorough plan to use the ship’s aviation and medical resources to help the affected communities.
Using imagery from reconnaissance missions and the work of his intelligence analysts on board, he swiftly put together an accurate picture of the islands which became the source document used by international agencies to prioritise help.
His citation said: ‘Leading from the front and motivating his ship’s company from ashore, he engaged with senior village elders to drive activity forward.
‘The pace that HMS Illustrious set itself was unrelenting, delivering more than any other nation’s maritime contribution in the western Philippines.
‘He was a beacon in the darkness of this human tragedy and represented his country and service proudly and with utter humility.’
Commander Philip Hally has been awarded the MBE for his work as the logistics commander on board Illustrious.
He organised the rapid embarkation of 500 tonnes of relief stores in two days and ensured food distribution and reconstruction operations were organised.
His citation said: ‘Always a step ahead in the planning and conduct of operations, his personal contribution to the success of the operation cannot be overstated.
‘He displayed devoted service in the Philippines and exemplary conduct.’
Lieutenant Commander Steven Wall, the second in command of HMS Daring, has been awarded the MBE.
He led working parties ashore, taking charge of up to 50 people at any one time.
Quickly determining the needs of 10 communities stretched across seven islands, he co-ordinated the delivery of support to more than 10,000 people.
His citation said: ‘Each night, he diligently debriefed and critiqued the team’s performance to improve efficiency in the future before addressing his own routine workload which did not abate due to the ship’s tasking.
‘He displayed exemplary leadership, adaptability and an ability to thrive in the face of an enormous challenge, for which he had received limited training and was instrumental in the ship’s success as part of the operation.
Lieutenant Commander Graeme Walker, the Lynx helicopter pilot on board HMS Daring during the operation, has been given the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.
Over eight days he carried out reconnaissance sorties covering 1,400 miles and transported 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
More than 4,000 photographs and several hours of footage taken from the Lynx helicopter proved vital in tracking the path of destruction caused by the typhoon.
The information proved critical to the ship, the United Nations, other militaries and aid agencies to send help where it was needed most.
His citation reads: ‘During this period of intense activity, conducting precision flying at the edge of the Lynx’s operational envelope, he displayed concentration, outstanding airmanship and unfailing good humour despite the exceptional demands placed upon him.’
One Royal Navy officer not involved in the Philippines aid relief also received an honour for his work on board HMS Atherstone in the waters off Bahrain.
Lieutenant David Starkey has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service for treating a diver after an accident in the water.
A diver suffered difficulties during a joint US-UK exercise in February last year and had to make an emergency ascent.
Lt Starkey, the second in command of Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Atherstone, immediately took charge of the incident in a cool and professional manner.
He tended to the casualty, established he suffered excessive carbon dioxide levels as a result of the sudden ascent, and ensured his recovery.
He has also been recognised for furthering relations between the Royal Navy and the Bahrain Defence Force during his six months in the region.
His citation said: ‘He spent a considerable amount of his own time devoted to promoting interaction with the Bahrainis in the fields of diving and explosive ordnance disposal.
‘Because of his efforts the Bahrain Defence Force have confirmed a real interest in improving interaction between themselves and the Royal Navy and to conducting combined training in the future.’
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said: ‘While these awards can only be for the few who have demonstrated the most exceptional bravery, we should thank all of the service personnel that have served their country on operations with distinction over the last decade.’
Typhoon left trail of devastation in its wake
TYPHOON Haiyan steamrollered through a swathe of islands 200 miles south of the Filipino capital.
Winds as strong as 175mph wrecked homes, schools, businesses, public amenities and fishing vessels.
Destroyer HMS Daring, which is based in Portsmouth, broke off from exercises in the South China Sea to dash to the country’s aid immediately after the typhoon struck.
She was followed shortly afterwards by helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, which had been carrying out anti-piracy sweeps off the Horn of Africa.
Daring’s sailors delivered food, shelter packs, set up mobile clinics treating hundreds of locals, repaired fishing vessels, put roofs back on schools and community centres and helped restore water supplies.
HMS Illustrious did much the same job when she reached the islands – but on a much larger scale given her size, helicopters and the 1,100 servicemen and women on board.