Royal Navy medic honoured for role in fighting coronavirus on HMS Queen Elizabeth

A MILITARY nurse who fought on the front line against coronavirus, battling to save lives in a city hospital and stop the disease running riot on the Royal Navy’s future flagship, has been recognised in this year’s New Year’s Honours list.

Wednesday, 30th December 2020, 10:30 pm

Chief Petty Officer Naval Nurse Andrew Cooper has been made an Associate of the Royal Red Cross for his determined efforts battling Covid-19 this year.

Speaking of his award, the 36-year-old said: ‘I couldn’t believe it at first. It will be exciting when I can let people know, having to hold off since finding out has been tough. I cannot wait to tell them.’

Andrew was instrumental in testing hundreds of sailors for the virus on Portsmouth-based HMS Queen Elizabeth in April, when the outbreak first hit the £3.2bn aircraft carrier.

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Chief Petty Officer Andrew Cooper

With the aircraft carrier due to deploy for training, he had to come up with a system to test all 800 of her sailors – a feat he repeated in September ahead of F-35 stealth jets trials.

On his work on the carrier, his citation said: ‘It was largely due to CPONN Cooper’s experience, dedication and hard work that the ship had been able to go to sea safely with the confidence they could deal with all eventualities.’

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Away from the ship, Andrew showed his expertise and leadership in the emergency department of Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, leading his NHS and military colleagues in the midst of the Covid pandemic.

Pictured: Lieutenant Commander Sean 'Central' Heaton at Horsea Island. Photo's taken to accompany an article in the Londonist. LIEUTENANT COMMANDER SEAN HEATON LONDONIST PORTRAIT Today 21 Jun 18, Lieutenant Commander Sean 'Central' Heaton had his portrait taken at the Southern Diving Unit at Horsea Island to accompany an article in the Londonist. The Southern Diving Group is comprised of two Area Clearance Diving Units. Southern Diving Unit One (SDU1) is located in Plymouth and SDU2 located in Portsmouth.

Using his naval background, he helped set up additional resuscitation rooms at short notice and helped give extra training to junior staff in assisted intubation and the use of non-invasive ventilation – medical care often required for coronavirus patients.

He also helped colleagues on working in full personal protective equipment (PPE) and led the re-design of the hospital’s emergency department.

The senior rating said: ‘It is quite unique that I was able to use my skills both on a carrier like Queen Elizabeth and on the frontline of the NHS. But I couldn’t have done it by myself. None of it would have happened if it wasn’t for the whole team.’

Andrew is among nearly two dozen personnel from the Senior Service to be honoured by the Queen this year.

Royal Navy divers have taken part in a multi-national bomb disposal exercise off the West coast of Canada. Exercise Ardent Defender saw bomb disposal teams from six nations converge on Victoria to teach military and civilian technicians the latest methods in disarming explosive devices. Eleven divers from Fleet Diving Unit Two – one of the Royal Navy’s three specialist teams – spent the week neutralising, interrogating and gathering intelligence on explosives alongside their diving counterparts. “This is the first time I’ve been involved in such an intense and challenging exercise. The chance to work with so many other nations and agencies, so far from home, has been really interesting,” said Diver Kieran ‘Charlie’ Dimmock. “It’s also been extremely rewarding, especially when I was acting as part of a ‘high assurance underwater search team’. We had a good idea that a device had been planted and had to then locate it within a certain time frame and mark it.” For FDU2 specialises in Improvised Explosive Devices placed in or close to ships and harbour infrastructures. As well as neutralising the bombs – courtesy of personal skill, bravery and a variety of specialist equipment including small remote-controlled vehicles – FDU2 gather as much forensic evidence and intelligence as possible about the device. “All the nations have similar equipment and do the job in a similar way, but the British are held in high regard due to the fact that we’ve been the leaders in bomb disposal due to lessons learned from Northern Ireland and all the bombs placed over the years by terrorists,” said Lieutenant Commander Sean Heaton, Fleet Diving Unit 2’s Officer-in-Charge. “The water off Victoria is very similar to Scotland as it is clearer than most harbours, but colder than the south coast of England.”

Also featured on the list is one of the navy’s most experienced bomb disposal experts, Lieutenant Commander Sean ‘Central’ Heaton, who received an MBE for his leadership.

Lt Cdr Heaton heads up bomb disposal units across Portsmouth and Plymouth, with teams taking care of almost 18,000 items, ranging from bombs and mines, to torpedoes, hand grenades, mortars and improvised explosive devices.

Among the most high-profile tasks during his two-and-a-half year spell in charge of the Southern Diving Group was a 500lb Luftwaffe bomb found in February 2018 on the bottom of London’s King George V Docks – next to London City Airport.

Pictured: Lieutenant Commander Sean 'Central' Heaton at Horsea Island. Photo's taken to accompany an article in the Londonist. LIEUTENANT COMMANDER SEAN HEATON LONDONIST PORTRAIT Today 21 Jun 18, Lieutenant Commander Sean 'Central' Heaton had his portrait taken at the Southern Diving Unit at Horsea Island to accompany an article in the Londonist. The Southern Diving Group is comprised of two Area Clearance Diving Units. Southern Diving Unit One (SDU1) is located in Plymouth and SDU2 located in Portsmouth.

His citation said: ‘He relentlessly delivered very-high-tempo operations, above and beyond that expected of his rank and his peers, with an admirable dedication to his people.

‘His devotion, commitment and professional ability has been extraordinary, and he most strongly deserves official recognition.’

The 30-year naval veteran said he was honoured to have been singled out, and added: ‘This decoration is as much a recognition of the brave, dedicated and immensely professional men and women that were under my command during my time in Southern Diving Group.’

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