Honour for brave heroine of sea rescue

The RAF’s only female winchman has been honoured for a daring rescue that saw her save a fisherman’s life in a Force 8 gale.

Sergeant Rachael Robinson
Sergeant Rachael Robinson

Sgt Rachael Robinson, 37, was repeatedly smashed against the deck of a French fishing vessel as she dangled from an RAF Sea King helicopter on March 21 this year.

She has been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, one of 117 members of the British armed forces recognised in the latest Operational Honours. They also include a Royal Marine who speaks six languages, and a soldier who dodged Taliban bullets while running across 100 metres of open ground to save an injured Afghan.

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For 30 minutes, Sgt Robinson tried to disconnect her wire and board the boat 50 nautical miles west of Milford Haven only for it to pitch violently and roll 40ft, pummelling her again and again.

A rescue that saved a fisherman's life in a force 8 gale

“It was like running into a wall,” she said.

A Portuguese crew member had smashed his head open on a door in the horrendous conditions and needed urgent help as his condition deteriorated. When she eventually unclipped on the French fishing boat and made her way to the injured man, his crew began cheering, she said.

Royal Marine Captain Owen Davis, 25, spent a year learning Pashto so he could accompany the Afghan Local Police as they played a crucial role in taking over from international troops in Helmand Province.

The Marine was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for feats of leadership in battle and for overcoming cultural boundaries.

Sgt Michael Catarall, 32, was mentioned in despatches for the rescue of an injured Afghan National Army soldier who was pinned down by a gun fight after being wounded by a sniper.

Sgt Catarall, of The Mercian Regiment, commanded his driver to move their Husky vehicle through a suspected minefield, then he got out and ran the last 100 metres to rescue the man.