Royal Marines Receive Highest Humanitarian Award

Personnel were deployed to the Caribbean for a month-long operation following Hurrican Irma.

Royal Marines have received the military's highest humanitarian award following a month-long Caribbean mercy mission.

Men and women from 40 Commando were awarded the Firmin Sword of Peace, for providing life-saving aid, assistance, and security to communities across the Caribbean when a succession of ferocious storms battered the region in the autumn of 2017.

They are the only unit in UK defence to receive the prestigious sword four times.

The commandos, based at Norton Manor near Taunton, were among the first people on the ground in Anguilla, the British Virgin and Turks and Caicos Islands in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

They delivered food and fresh water, set up makeshift medical centres, cleared roads, restored power supplies and helped local authorities maintain law and order.

The prison in the Virgin Islands was damaged, with 141 inmates escaping and looters plundering stores.

Captain Nate Brown, Officer Commanding Mortars, 40 Commando, said:

"We were put on islands that were hit the worst."

Capt Brown added: "I think we served our purpose and we were there just long enough to make a difference."

40 Commando Royal Marines the Firmin Sword of Peace presentation Credit MOD 010419
40 Commando received the Firmin Sword of Peace for an unprecedented fourth time (Picture: MOD).

Personnel also patched up homes, secured an airport so flights could resume, rescued stray dogs and cleaned schools of debris.

Colour Sergeant John Dixon who led a team of assault engineers who were heavily in demand for clearing debris, rebuilding and restoring vital services, said:

“Every single man stood up to the mark when required – it was quite humbling.

"We had to get a result in such a pressure-keg situation – and we did.”

40 Commando’s work was part of a major effort by all three of Britain’s armed forces in response to the natural disasters, called Operation Ruman.

The band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth at 40 Commando Royal Marines during the Firmin Sword of Peace presentation Credit MOD 010419
The band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth during the Firmin Sword of Peace presentation (Picture: MOD).

Lieutenant Colonel Maynard said the 34 days was "the best demonstration of commando spirit I have seen".

He continued: "What I witnessed in September 2017 was courage, unselfishness, determination and humour – 40 Commando at its best.

"Our presence alone and the amazing sight of the green beret had a calming effect on the widespread panic, the looting stopped, and help was delivered to those who needed it."

40 Commando was also the inaugural recipient of the sword back in 1966 when based in Singapore for its peacekeeping efforts in Borneo.

The award was presented again six years later after a difficult tour of duty in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles and in 1984 for a six-month stint in Cyprus helping to bridge the gap between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities.