Royal honour for sailor who helped rescue 14 people

A sailor from HMS Dragon has received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for helping in the rescue of 14 sailors from a racing yacht.

LS Sally Hughes, who received her medal from the Queen at Buckingham Palace, was deployed in the Type 45 destroyer when it was diverted to assist the Clyde Challenger yacht, which had lost a mast in 18ft seas 500 miles south west of Land’s End in February this year.

LS Hughes, who joined the Royal Navy in 2009, was tasked to drive the ship’s sea boat, a 24ft rigid inflatable boat.

The Clyde Challenger was taking on water and drifting further out into the worsening Atlantic storm when HMS Dragon arrived on the scene.

In the challenging sea state the sea boat and the yacht were regularly lost from HMS Dragon’s view as they dipped into the huge Atlantic swell, with the 50mph winds making it even more difficult.

I am humbled to have been recognised for my actions during the rescue. I was doing my job in challenging conditions and was but part of a team effort in rescuing the sailors

Leading Seaman Sally Hughes, HMS Dragon

Despite the danger to herself and her crewmate, LS Hughes persisted with the rescue and made 13 approaches over a gruelling two-hour period to lift the crew off the stricken yacht and ferry them back to the safety of HMS Dragon.

During one of the trips, the sea boat was swung into the side of Dragon by the high seas and the force of the impact punctured the boat and injured LS Hughes’ arm; she elected to simply switch to the reserve sea boat and continue to rescue.

The 28-year-old said, “I am humbled to have been recognised for my actions during the rescue. I was doing my job in challenging conditions and was but part of a team effort in rescuing the sailors; an action I would hope anyone would do if I were ever to be in a similar situation.

“There was no place for fear during this rescue. I had been trained to drive the sea boat and whilst the conditions I experienced were significantly more challenging than I had dealt with before I applied my knowledge to achieve the end result."