STUNNED sailor Tom Hillier has told of his disbelief after receiving one of the Royal Navy’s top accolades from a Saudi prince.
Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, crown prince of Bahrain, handed over the Queen’s Sword to Sub Lieutenant Hillier at a grand ceremony at Britannia Royal Naval College.
The 22-year-old sailor from Gosport pipped about 150 other trainee officers to be presented with the prize, which is for the top officer under training for all Royal Navy entries in 2017.
Passing out from his training at Dartmouth in August, SLt Hillier discovered his success while at sea on HMS Dragon.
‘I was just in disbelief, I really couldn’t believe it, it was immense,’ he said. ‘My commanding officer came up and told me about my success. I knew I was nominated but I never thought I would win.’
SLt Hillier grew up in Gosport and went to Bay House School and HMS Sultan’s cadet team, before completing a degree at the University of Southampton and joining the navy in January 2017.
He added: ‘I have always wanted to be in the navy. This is just the perfect start.
‘I just wanted to go there, do well and make my family and myself proud.’
Commander Michael Carter Quinn was SLt Hillier’s captain on Dragon. He said the young officer ‘quickly integrated’ into the Type 45 destroyer’s team, adding: ‘His recognition as the recipient of the Queen’s Sword is duly deserved and I and my dragons wish him all the best in his future career and look forward to him returning to sea in his future role as an officer of the watch.’ SLt Hillier is currently based at HMS Collingwood, completing his next phase of training in the warfare branch.
Commander Trefor Fox, who is currently responsible for his training at the Fareham naval base, said: ‘Gaining the Queen’s Sword is a rare honour and tremendous achievement and one that he can be justifiably proud.
‘Those that have been awarded it in the past have gone on to great things. This is a tremendous start to his career, which I hope he will continue striving ultimately for command of a warship in the future.’
SLt Hillier said he is now looking forward to an exciting career with the Senior Service. ‘It’s a job I have always wanted to do,’ he added.