A widow shed tears of pride and grief yesterday as her late husband was awarded a medal by the Queen for preventing a massacre onboard a nuclear submarine.
Royal Navy officer Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux’s widow Gillian collected the George Medal, one of the highest accolades for bravery, at an investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace.
Lt Cdr Molyneux, 36, was posthumously decorated for attempting to tackle Able Seaman Ryan Donovan as he ran amok on HMS Astute while it was docked in Southampton in April last year.
The father-of-four from Standish, Wigan, tried to disarm Donovan after hearing shots, but was shot in the head.
Emerging from the private ceremony in tears, Mrs Molyneux said it had been a “very proud and very sad occasion”.
“The Queen told me she was very pleased that she was able to present the medal herself and that meant a lot to me,” she said.
“She asked how long Ian had been in the service, what he got up to and what he enjoyed.
“She made it very personal.”
Mrs Molyneux was accompanied at the ceremony by her father-in-law James Molyneux and sons Jamie and Arron, who were dressed in their Marine Cadet uniforms.
She said: “If Ian had known about this he would have wondered what all the fuss was about.
“He was a very unassuming man, very proud of what he did – he absolutely loved his job and being on the boat – and he was a very, very brave man.”
Asked what she would be doing with the medal, Mrs Molyneux said she would keep it very safe and wear it with pride.
Donovan was jailed for at least 25 years for murdering Lt Cdr Molyneux and attempting to murder Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, Petty Officer Christopher Brown, and Chief Petty Officer David McCoy.
Major Justin Stenhouse, of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) at the ceremony after single-handedly taking on Taliban insurgents to save the men under his command.
The officer, from East Sussex, was leading an elite reconnaissance unit when he and his men were pinned down in an attack as they attempted to recover weapons being used against them.
He ran forward into open ground to throw himself into the line of fire and put the Taliban fighters on the back foot during heavy gunfire in Helmand province last winter.
Receiving the second-highest military honour for active service had been “very special, humbling and a great tribute to the other 123 soldiers in our squadron, who performed magnificently in Afghanistan”, he said. Commenting on his heroics, Maj Stenhouse said: “It was getting a little unpleasant and we just needed to go forward.
“You don’t ever think about it until afterwards when you realise that you are OK.
“I am told it was pretty close but you have just got to get everyone up and get everyone moving.
“You get up and you take the fight to the enemy – it’s the safest way actually to get out of there, otherwise you get fixed and they start getting a bit closer. Luckily everyone came back in one piece.”
Maj Stenhouse said the medal would someday join his grandfather’s DSO.
“He also received one in the Second World War for building the road up to Monte Cassino in 1944,” he said.
Matthew Robinson, who together with his family rescued five children from a burning house when he was 18, was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
Mr Robinson, 20, heard Tracee Barlow screaming for help as her children were trapped as their home, in Abbotsbury, near Weymouth, in Dorset went up in flames in January 2010.
The hero’s mother, Jackie Robinson, got a ladder and helped three of the children escape.
He then went inside the house to gather Ms Barlow’s son Jack, 11, and daughter Chantelle, five, before passing them out of the window to his father, Roy.
After receiving the medal, Mr Robinson said: “It is good to know that the Queen realises that people in our own country do stuff that is heroic as well.”
Asked what it is like to be a hero, the mechanic said: “It feels quite good, I’m not going to lie.
“I do get the mick taken quite a lot, there’s quite a few people who make jokes about it. If I turn up people will be like, ‘oh, here’s the hero’, stuff like that.”
The Queen’s Gallantry Medal is awarded for acts of bravery by citizens that rank lower than those deemed necessary for the George Medal.