The Grand Master's Award

Awarded for an act of valour or gallantry, at the discretion of the Grand Master.
(previously the Award for Gallantry and the Grand Master's Commendation. Amended Terms of Reference 2019)

2022 awarded to:  Squadron Leader Mark Parker RAF

The US announcement to withdraw from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021 precipitated a collapse of the Afghan Defence forces and state. The UK Prime Minister directed a Non-Combatant Evacuation from Afghanistan of all UK nationals, together with those Afghans to whom the UK government had a direct responsibility. Squadron Leader Parker departed the UK with his crew to lead the Number LXX Squadron detachment in the execution of an evacuation plan based on the assumption of benign conditions. 

On arrival in Dubai the collapse of the Afghan regime was becoming obvious and the imperative changed from routine operations, to an overriding imperative to insert military personnel to protect UK entitled people. Thrust into this position, Sqn Ldr Parker used his exceptional leadership, to replan the entire programme and establish a base for the Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation. The original plan allowed 48 hours to establish the camp; Sqn Ldr Parker completed this in just 36 hours. In this time, he also prepared and planned for the first mission for his own crew. 

As they departed that night, Kabul was still in government control but on arrival, the Afghan capital had been overrun and the airport was collapsing with an aircraft being abandoned on the runway in flames ahead of them. Unable to land yet with an imperative to get the soldiers on the ground, Sqn Ldr Parker held off, enduring below normal fuel limits to maximise his chances of inserting the now critically needed soldiers on the ground. Finally cleared to approach and far below minimum fuel, Sqn Ldr Parker commenced his approach. However, at 200 feet a convoy of vehicles entered the runway forcing him to go-around. Realising he would not have the fuel to commence a second approach following a full go-around, and realising the critical nature of his task, Sqn Ldr Parker expertly positioned the aircraft in a perfectly executed visual manoeuvre, showing his extraordinary flying skill. After offloading his mission critical troops, Parker managed to source some of the last available fuel, preventing an out-of-country diversion that risked strategic impact. As Sqn Ldr Parker taxied out to return to Dubai, his crew observed artillery fire landing very close to the aircraft and advancing closer. Sqn Ldr Parker informed the tower, who responded that “mortar rounds were inbound”, before directing a gunship to support. At this point the airport finally collapsed.  More incoming fire started to fall on the other side of the aircraft and the airfield was declared “under attack”. Patient, gallant and calm, Sqn Ldr Parker repositioned his aircraft and waited until the armada of responding helicopter gunships had departed before seizing the moment to depart the airfield, “at his own risk”. He recovered the aircraft and crew safely back to Dubai for the next mission.

Mark Parker is seated 2nd from the rightUnder intense operational and emotional pressure, Sqn Ldr Parker showed unwavering courage under fire, using exceptional airmanship and flying skill to successfully achieve his rescue mission while safeguarding his passengers and crew. The gallantry and leadership shown by Sqn Ldr Parker in the face of the enemy make him exceptionally deserving of recognition and he is accordingly a worthy recipient of the Grand Master’s Award.




Squadron Leader Parker is shown seated 2nd from the right


Previous Winners:

... of The Award for Gallantry

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

2009 - 2010  not awarded

2011  Capt 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 Sqn RAF

2015  Sgt Daniel Allanson QGM

... of the Grand Master's Commendation

1982/83  Capt Drennen AAC

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  awarded twice:
      28 (AC) Sqn 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

1996/97  Frank Wootton Esq

1997/98  Maj N O'Brien

1998/99  Willam G Scull

1999/2000 awarded twice:
       Sqn Ldr Frederick Da Costa RAF
       Sqn Ldr Paul Day RAF

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

2001/02  Sqn Ldr Richard Phillips RAF

2002/03  Peter Charles Tait

2003/04  Flt Lt Jonathan Paul Michael Adamson RAF

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

2005/06  202 Sqn RAF

2006/07  1 (F) Sqn RAF

2007/08  Royal Air Force Odiham Chinook Force

2008/09  The Crew of "Blackcat 22"

2009/10  Flt Lt Ian Fortune DFC

2010/11 awarded twice:
      Captain Mathew Noble-Clarke AAC
      51 Sqn RAF

2011/12  Roger Bailey MRAeS MSETP

2013  not awarded

2013/14  Flt Lt Timothy Eddy RAF

2014/15  1 Regt AAC

2016 awarded twice:
      Commando Helicopter Force
      Flt Lt Michael Jones RAF

2017  Cdr Bertie W Vigrass OBE VRD RNR

2018  Lt Amy Gilmore RN and CPO Ian Toms - 216 Flight 815 NAS

2019 - 2020  not awarded

The Grand Master's Award

2021  Crew of NZ3301

2022  Squadron Leader Mark Parker RAF