The Army’s Headquarters South West (HQSW) based in Tidworth Wiltshire, has been presented with the prestigious Firmin Sword of Peace in recognition of its exceptional contribution in support to the city of Salisbury and its communities following the Novichok nerve agent attack in March 2018.
The presentation was made to Colonel Mike Duff OBE, the Deputy Joint Military Commander for the decontamination operation, on behalf of the Headquarters by Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Cambridge during their visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down where they opened the brand new Energetics Analysis Centre (EAC).
Salisbury made international headlines in early 2018, when multiple sites across the city and beyond were contaminated with the deadly nerve agent following the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
The nation’s response to this attack was a true cross-government operation with the Army’s Headquarters South West appointed as the Joint Military Command responsible for the military contribution to this unprecedented situation.
The Headquarters commanded a bespoke military force made up of elements from across Defence whose unenviable task was to decontaminate the city to ensure the safety of the local community and return Salisbury to normality.
Throughout the twelve-month operation - the longest mainland UK military operation in living memory – the Headquarters worked with all the ‘blue light’ services, the Environment Agency and Public Health England, however they worked exceptionally closely with the DSTL scientists at Porton Down whose scientific expertise was pivotal to the success of the decontamination operation.
The Firmin Sword of Peace is the second highest civilian award to a British Naval or Military Unit, the highest being the granting of the Freedom of a city, town, or borough.
Colonel Duff said: “It is a huge honour to receive the Firmin Sword of Peace in recognition of the work done by Headquarters South West. This was a true team effort that would not have been possible without contributions from across Defence, including DSTL, and the local authorities.”