Top gongs for Portsmouth’s sailors

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A NAVAL commander who led a ship’s crew to seize drugs from traffickers and a rating who rebuilt an engine are among those named in the operational honours list.

Commander Stephen Higham, 42, is to be appointed an OBE for his work as commanding officer of Portsmouth-based HMS Defender.

The honour is for his leadership on the warship during a nine-month deployment to the Middle East helping tackle so-called Islamic State.

Crew of the Type 45 tackled drug smugglers, seizing hashish in the Indian Ocean.

Cdr Higham said: ‘I am hugely proud to receive this honour on behalf of the men and women who worked alongside me.’

Cdr Mark Vartan, 47, from Fareham, is to get an OBE after leading HMS Enterprise on a three-year deployment to fight people smuggling.

Petty Officer Bethany Burton, 30, of Portsmouth, is to get an MBE for leading a team to repair city-based HMS St Albans’ engines after a ‘catastrophic’ failure.

Former HMS St Albans commanding officer, Cdr Richard Hutchings, receives the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service, as do HMS Defender’s Leading Seaman Craig Jacobs and HMS St Albans’ Chief Petty Officer Peter Muir.