A vital role in beating Gaddafi

A BRAVE sailor whose ship came under attack 28 times from Libyan forces is to be honoured for his heroic actions.

Hartlepool-born Chris Evans will receive the NATO Operation Unified Protector medal for his services off the coast of the war-torn country.

The 26-year-old was on board HMS Liverpool, which spent seven months supporting a NATO mission to enforce United Nations (UN) resolutions to protect Libyan civilians.

Upon the ship’s homecoming to Portsmouth, in Hampshire, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had flown onboard the Type 42 Destroyer to congratulate the crew for its “momentous” role in helping defeat Colonel Gaddafi’s troops.

Chris, who was brought up on the Headland in the town, was on the mission from March last year to November, even missing his daughter Millie’s first birthday.

His ship was under attack 28 times, fired 113 rounds of high explosives, and spent 147 days on patrol, 108 of which were in territorial waters, and 81 hours at action stations, on stand-by to retaliate against attacks, covering 56,181 nautical miles.

Chris, who was recently awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, which is presented to members of the Armed Forces who have done at least five years service, said: “We were providing cover and taking out their tanks and other armoured vehicles on the ground.

“We came under fire on numerous occasions, with missiles and rockets coming towards us, but luckily the closest a missile came to the ship was one mile away.

“We train week in, week out for this type of thing and the first time you see a missile flying towards you at a massive speed of knots, it is a bit scary.

“But after seven months, it became normal.”

HMS Liverpool patrolled a 10-mile stretch of coast, 12 miles offshore, and would send out smaller task boats and patrol crafts to search fishing boats for weapons.

Chris said sadly he and his fellow sailors would find dead bodies in the water of people trying to escape.

The crew would also provide food and aid to small civilian boats.

After Gaddafi’s death in October, the crew remained on patrol, amid reports that one of Gaddafi’s sons was about to flee on a luxury yacht.

But the ship was relieved of its duties in November after the rumours failed to materialise.

Chris, who has toured Norway, Hong Kong, America, China, Africa and Sweden, added: “To finally do my job for real has been absolutely brilliant and it gives me a great sense of pride to be receiving the award next month.”

The former St Helen’s Primary School and ex-Henry Smith School pupil left town 10 years ago to join the Royal Navy.

Chris, who is based in Portsmouth and is married to Liverpool girl Katie, a navy medic, returns to his hometown regularly to see his relatives, including mum Lesley Evans, twin 20-year-old brothers Connor and Matthew and grandfather Stanley Evans.