The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Grand Master's Award

Awarded for an act of valour or gallantry, at the discretion of the Grand Master.

(amended Terms of Reference 2019)

 

The Grand Master's Commendation 2018
Awarded to:  Lieutenant Amy Gilmore RN and Chief Petty Officer Ian Toms of
216 Flight 815 Naval Air Squadron

 

216 FLIGHT – 815 NAVAL AIR SQUADRON 

The widespread media coverage for the UK’s response into the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Sep 17 would show a largescale military response, spearheaded by HMS Ocean with her ships company and air group comprising of RN, RM, RAF and Army personnel. 

However, prior to her arrival there was a single UK asset on station, RFA Mounts Bay, with her sole Wildcat HMA Mk2 of 216 Flight 815 NAS embarked.  The role of the Wildcat and 216 Flight in the immediate aftermath of the disaster was pivotal in providing critical lifesaving support to the Caribbean Islands whilst also gathering essential information, shaping the follow-on support from the UK military.

The exceptional work of this small team cannot be understated and the success of the onward operation of ‘Op Ruman’ was only achieved by the extraordinary effort and work they delivered. This was a whole flight achievement, with 216 Flight collectively deserved of recognition.  However, 2 individuals were key to this team’s success; Lt Amy Gilmore RN (Flight Commander) and CPO Ian Toms (Flight Senior Maintenance Rating).  Individual citations are below:

GM Commendation Gilmour And Tomms

Lieutenant Amy Gilmore RN – Flight Commander 216 Flight

Under Lt Amy Gilmore’s leadership and motivation, 216 Flt was able to fly for over 90 hours during the operation with 100% serviceability achieved, covering 60 sorties and four countries, and having a real and measurable effect on the lives of those affected by Irma and Maria.  In total, her Wildcat – the first to ever deploy to the Caribbean JOA for disaster relief operations, and the only UK aircraft operating in theatre in the early stages of ‘Op Ruman’ – delivered over 37 tonnes of fresh water, food, medical supplies and building materials for shelter construction, as well as conducting over 250 personnel transfers, in a hot and humid environment – all on her first deployment as Flight Commander.

Her well-considered Captaincy decisions meant veering from standard flying regulations on occasion to ensure the continued and timely delivery of aid to where it was needed most.  Operating in an unfamiliar environment, without air traffic control and poor radio communications Gilmore’s decision making skills as aircraft commander were fully exercised in balancing and reducing the risks involved to select safe landing sites in the dense confines of the rain forest while offering a safe route out for VPs.

In addition to delivering humanitarian aid Gilmore was instrumental in utilising her Wildcat to conduct reconnaissance and gather still and video footage of the devastation. Without a dedicated photographer onboard, MNTS relied on Gilmore’s early stills to inform PJHQ and a waiting media of the situation on the ground, offering reassurance and shaping UKs response to the developing requirements for aid.

Lt Gilmore’s performance throughout ‘Op Ruman’ was of the highest calibre; her knowledge, experience and aviation guidance to RFA Mounts Bay’s Command Team and to her own Flight led to safe, sustained and exemplary flying.  The lives of many thousands of people in the UK Overseas Territories were improved as a direct result of her actions. 

 

Chief Petty Officer Ian Toms – Senior Maintenance Rating 216 Flight

CPO Ian Toms directed a small team of 9 engineers in achieving unprecedented operational Wildcat serviceability whilst embarked on RFA MOUNTS BAY as the Flight Senior Maintenance Rating (SMR).  His meticulous planning of aircraft maintenance and organisation of manpower requirements, coupled with his ever-enthusiastic leadership, resulted in ZZ530 achieving over 90 flying hours over the course of 29 days, with a 100% serviceability rate. 

Vitally, CPO Toms was able to grasp instinctively the importance of fatigue management and despite the operational pressures and inevitable intensity of activity, initiated numerous safeguards for the team.  One example was his use of enforced ‘turn-around servicing’ procedures, ensuring that maximum hours were made available on the aircraft and, cleverly, that the aircrew were forced to shut down for a break during the day deck cycle.

Over 1010 man hours of aircraft maintenance supported over 50 sorties for the single Wildcat helicopter which alone delivered 37 tonnes of aid and moved over 250 personnel across 4 different territories.  CPO Toms achieved outstanding results through his leadership and engineering expertise, having a direct and tangible effect on peoples’ lives. 

These two key individuals, representing the whole of 216 Flight, are deserving recipients of the Grand Master’s Commendation for outstanding service in the air.


Previous Winners of The Award for Gallantry

2008  Basra City IRT Crew - 28 (AC) Squadron RAF

2009  Not Awarded

2010  Not Awarded

2011  Captain Michael Nerandzic (postumously)

2012  CREW OF ‘RESCUE 195’, 103 SAR SQN RCAF and the SAR TECHNICIANS FROM ‘RESCUE 323’, 424 SQN RCAF

2013  Not Awarded

2014  Sqn Ldr Steven Deyes, Flt Lt Andrew Smith, Flt Sgt Daniel Baxter, Sgt Jonathan Frank of 27 Squadron Royal Air Force

2015  Sergeant Daniel Allanson QGM

Previous Winners of the Grand Master's Commendation

1982/83 Captain Drennen - Army Air Corps

1984-1986 Not Awarded

1986/87 Len R Carolan Esq - Sec. Australian Region

1988-1989 Not Awarded

1989/90 Darrol Stinton Esq

1991 Not Awarded

1991/92 28 (AC) Squadron RAF

             Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force

1992/93 Professor Helen Muir

1993/94 The Crew of S61-A Helicopter (Royal Malaysian)

1995 Not Awarded

1995/96 The Red Arrows Winter Tour 1995/96

1996/97 Frank Wootton Esq

1997/98 Major N O'Brien

1998/99 Willam G Scull

1999/2000 Sqn Ldr Frederick Da Costa RAF

             Sqn Ldr Paul Day RAF

2000/01 7 Sqn RAF - Chinook Operations in Sierra Leone

2001/02 Squadron Leader Richard Phillips

2002/03 Peter Charles Tait

2003/04 Flight Lieutenant Jonathan Paul Michael Adamson RAF

2004/05 Sqn Ldr John Hector Francis McNeill-Matthews RAF

2005/06 202 Squadron Royal Air Force

2006/07 Number 1 (Fighter) Squadron Royal Air Force

2007/08 Royal Air Force Odiham Chinook Force

2008/09 The Crew of "Blackcat 22"

2009/10 Flight Lieutenant Ian Fortune DFC

2010/11 Captain Mathew Noble-Clarke AAC

             51 Squadron RAF

2011/12 Roger Bailey MRAeS MSETP

2013 Not Awarded

2013/14 Flight Lieutenant Timothy Eddy RAF

2014/15  1 Regiment Army Air Corps

2016  Commando Helicopter Force

         Flight Lieutenant Michael Jones RAF

2017  Commander Bertie W Vigrass OBE VRD RNR

2018  Lieutenant Amy Gilmore RN and Chief Petty Officer Ian Toms - 216 Flight 815 Naval Air Squadron