Top honours for ship restorers

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

A TALENTED team has received national honours after helping to turn a dream into reality – to restore Hartlepool’s HMS Trincomalee to its former glory.

The international Society for Nautical Research was in Hartlepool at the weekend to bestow medals on Captain David T Smith OBE and Les Gilfoyle, and commendations on two other people, all with links to HMS Trincomalee.

All of it was for the excellent work, lasting for decades, which helped restore HMS Trincomalee.

It was the first time the Society’s Victory medals had been awarded to anyone other than those who worked on Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, in Portsmouth.

Victory medals went to Captain Smith, the president of the HMS Trincomalee Trust and former chairman, and Les Gilfoyle, who was works superintendent for the restoration and then ship maintenance supervisor, in a 20-year career from 1990-2010.

A certificate of commendation was awarded to Keith Johnson, of Billingham, who was senior technical officer and chief draughtsman from 1990-2001.

Jackie Stevenson, of Seaton Carew, collected a certificate of commendation posthumously on behalf of her late husband Bill Stevenson, from Hartlepool, who was restoration manager from 1987 until his death in 1999.

Captain Smith called the restoration team his “gallant crew” and said: “I am more thrilled at the pleasure of seeing the team recognised than anything else.

“HMS Trincomalee became part of all our lives.”

Mr Gilfoyle, from the Fens area of Hartlepool, said: “I am very proud of what has been achieved and very proud of the workforce I worked with, who had wonderful skills and commitment.”

Mr Johnson said: “HMS Trincomalee is very special – the best restoration in the world. I have a very special affection for it and to be recognised like this is a very good feeling.”

Mrs Stevenson said her husband thought of the workforce as a very happy family.

She said: “This is a very proud moment, and I think Bill would say that he would be accepting this award on behalf of the whole team.”

The awards were made by the chairman of the Society for Nautical Research, Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton, who said: “This is the last event in our centenary year and it couldn’t be better deserved.”

The Victory medal dates from January 1975, and recognises deserving individuals and shipwrights.