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HUMBLE HEROES OF BLIZZARD RESCUE; HMS GANNET HONOURED FOR BRAVERY Royal Navy crew win top awards.

Byline: By Joanne Curran

ROYAL Navy heroes who fought through a blizzard to save three lives were honoured yesterday for outstanding bravery.

The team from HMS Gannet in Ayrshire battled atrocious weather in pitch darkness to pull the climbers off Ben Nevis.

The helicopter unit were forced off the mountain four times before winching the men off a narrow ledge.

But the search and rescue team played down their heroics as they accepted top bravery awards.

The 20-strong unit were the busiest in the UK for the second year in a row, rescuing 347 people in 2008.

They cover 98,000 square miles stretching from the Lake District to Ben Nevis and from Edinburgh to the Northern Irish coast.

The crew said they were humbled by the honours and were quick to pay tribute to their team-mates.

Lieutenant Commander Martin Ford won the Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air for his role in the Ben Nevis rescue in May 2007.

He said: "The conditions were atrocious and we had to call in the mountain rescue team from Lochaber, who deserve a lot of credit. It took us six hours to execute the rescue. We got to the casualties about 5am and were winched down at 220ft. I'm not good with heights so I sing to try to concentrate.

"The adrenaline usually kicks in so much that you just focus on the task."

Lt Cmdr Martin Lanni won the Air Force Cross while Flight Sergeant Euan Gibson got a Commander in Chief Fleet Commendation.

Four crew were honoured for rescuing passengers from the Riverdance ferry in Blackpool last January. They braved high winds and pitch darkness to winch 23 people to safety from the vessel.

Leading Aircrewman Kevin Regan won the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

And he received a second Queen's Gallantry Medal for rescuing an aggressive, drugged-up man from Loch Long in Argyll in June 2007.

Lieutenant Mike Paulet received the Air Force Cross, Lt Olivia Millies and Lt Tony Sherwin won Commander in Chief Commendations, and Petty Officer Darren Craig earned a Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

Commanding officer Lt Cmdr Bryan Nicholas said he was "incredibly proud" of the team.

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MODEST: The HMS Gannet search and rescue heroes with CO Bryan Nicholas
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 10, 2009
Words:375
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