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The soldiers and stories behind the King’s Birthday Honours List

His Majesty King Charles's first Birthday Honours List since becoming King, awards 66 Army personnel with promotions in and appointments to the Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of The Bath and The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Read the full list here.

All those being recognised in the list have made outstanding contributions both at home and overseas, from counter terrorism and peacekeeping to supporting Defence’s efforts to aid Ukraine, and from providing advocacy for fellow soldiers and improving their lived experience to planning, supporting or taking part in the funeral of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Andrew Stokes, Coldstream Guards, Garrison Sergeant Major of London District, is to be made an Officer (OBE) for his dedication to London District Ceremonial duties. 

I am elated. I feel so very proud that I have been awarded the OBE. Warrant Officer Class One Stokes

On learning of his award, WO1 Stokes, who is known to all as Vern, said: “I am elated. I feel so very proud that I have been awarded the OBE. Over the last ten years I have worked on the nation’s most memorable State Ceremonial events. Many times it has been relentless, intense, hard work and long hours but always incredibly rewarding. Every event has created fond memories.”

With almost 35 years’ service under his bearskin, WO1 Stokes has been central to the most momentous events in recent national life. Among many achievements, his contribution to Op Forth Bridge and Op London Bridge has been pivotal. Two bespoke Birthday Parades at Windsor Castle to comply with Covid regulations, The Late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and many other parades have been designed and put into practice by him.

WO1 Stokes, 51, from Telford, Shropshire joined the Army at 16 and has completed numerous operational tours, from Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as many overseas exercises in Europe, Canada, Kenya and Belize. He’s been the London District Garrison Sergeant Major since 2015. Last week, he was personally thanked by His Majesty King Charles. An experience he says reminded him just how lucky he is to have had such a wonderful career.

His citation states: “Confidante, counsellor and mentor to the most successful, but also the struggling and vulnerable is also one of his notable and praiseworthy traits. He embodies to all what it means to be a Warrant Officer in the British Army and to contribute wholeheartedly to the greater good.”

What WO1 Stokes loves the most about his job is its variety. “Every day is meaningful,” he says. “I am a proud soldier and I work with incredible people that produce an unstoppable team and deliver National events. I am so vehemently passionate about doing my job. I never know what to expect - a BAFTA winner for organising the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall or receiving the award for True Englishman of the Year - my job is a huge source of pride.”

Captain (Capt) Helen Jasper, who serves with 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, is being awarded an MBE for her “organisational skills, attention to detail and leadership” in delivering “faultless” Royal Gun Salutes in Wales during some of the most historic and high-profile events in the last year.

Capt Jasper, a Permanent Staff Administration Officer with 211 (South Wales) Battery, based in Abertillery, spearheaded the delivery of Royal Gun Salutes to Wales to mark the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the proclamation of His Majesty King Charles III, as well as a “further impeccable” Royal Gun Salute to mark The King’s first visit to Cardiff as Monarch.

These followed the similarly “flawless” delivery of a Royal Gun Salute to mark the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in 2021.

She said: “I’m completely overwhelmed and absolutely delighted. It means a great deal to me, but I must also recognise the contribution of my amazing team.

“Rarely is anything we do in the military achieved in isolation and that is certainly true in this case. It takes a huge, combined effort to deliver to the standard we do and I am beyond proud of every single one of my team.”

Capt Jasper joined the Army aged 21 and originally served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, qualifying as a military training instructor and spending time as a section commander and then a Sergeant in the Army Apprenticeship College at Arborfield and Pirbright.

She commissioned into the Adjutant General’s Corps and attended Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) before serving with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in Tidworth, deploying to Kosovo and briefly to Iraq.

“My family are extremely proud to find out about his award,” said Capt Jasper. “They have always supported me, never judged me and been there for me when I’ve needed them, and the times have been many.

“I am delighted to have been recognised in this way, but know I would not have been, were it not for the dedication, loyalty and commitment of my outstanding team.”

Her citation said: “Such is her reputation, professionalism and knowledge that her influence is far greater than her rank would suggest, reaching as far as the Welsh Government.”

Inspiring overseas

Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) James Rochester, Royal Engineers, went above and beyond as the lead for Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) delivery for the British Peace Support Team (Africa) (BPST(A)). He is to be awarded an MBE.

WO1 Rochester, 38, who joined the Army at 16, conceived, designed, planned and created a completely new C-IED Regiment for the Ghanaian Armed Forces, leading a complex multi-year £1m project, which is nearing completion on time, despite red tape and covid restrictions.

On learning of his award, WO1 Rochester said: “Being recognised by your chain of command is critical for morale. Being recognised for this award by The King is truly surreal for our family.

“It's such a proud moment for us all, and it means the world to us. It's a big boost of motivation to keep pushing, and more importantly, I hope it acts as inspiration for my children to push their boundaries no matter their age or circumstance.”

The award citation acknowledged WO1 Rochester as the driving force in supporting the UK's long-term goal for the Humanitarian Peace Support School (HPSS) in Nairobi to become an internationally recognised Regional C-IED Centre of Excellence.

His citation said: “He has taken the organisation to the point where they can deliver C-IED courses without direct support from BPST(A).”

WO1 Rochester, who deployed on operations three times to Afghanistan, as well as to Northern Ireland and Estonia, said: “What's truly awesome about the job in which I was awarded this honour, is the complete empowerment I was afforded; full autonomy to think outside of the box and not limited by rank.

“I had the freedom to make decisions, take charge of projects, and see the direct impact of work across all of Sub-Saharan Africa. I genuinely loved the role and don’t intend on changing how I do my business in future roles.

“I hope I will encourage others to operate in a similar way,  both for those who are leading and those who are following, genuine empowerment and autonomy is a force multiplier.”

Corporal (Cpl) William Ross, Royal Logistic Corps, is to be awarded an MBE for his “personal and direct contribution” to the UK’s strategic efforts in support of Ukraine, which has been “inspiring”.

As Movements Junior Non-Commissioned Officer (JNCO), 33-year-old Cpl Ross has been a lynchpin in the Field Army’s efforts to synchronise the strategic movement of gifted military equipment and ammunition. When Russia invaded Ukraine, he moved quickly to coordinate a highly complex movement plan, with personnel and vehicles deploying by sea, air and land across five NATO countries.

Cpl Ross was amazed to learn of his award, saying: “When I was told this morning, I was speechless to be honest. When my GOC phoned me this morning and told me I was getting an MBE, I really didn’t know what to say. It’s not sunk in, it’s absolutely amazing.”

His citation says his personal and direct contribution has been inspiring; “That he has achieved this as a junior soldier, at pace, without fuss and while operating well beyond his training and out of his comfort zone is humbling.

“In addition to his own responsibilities, he has covered the duties of the gapped Divisional Movements Warrant Officer post, a role that is three ranks his senior, and where incumbents usually have a decade more experience than him.”

Kilmarnock-born Cpl Ross, who became a new dad five weeks ago when his daughter was born, has been in the Army for 11 years. He used to be a communication specialist in the RLC, re-trading to Movements where he says you get more responsibility given to you, enabling you to develop faster.

As well as a deployment to Op Cabrit in Estonia and partaking in some big exercises, he says: “The travel is absolutely amazing. You get to go everywhere. I’ve been to Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Malta, Gibraltar, Austria, Germany, Norway, Belgium, France, Oman, the US. Texas became my second home. Senegal, that was a real eye-opener.”

Away from the role of Manoeuvres, Cpl Ross says: “My greatest achievement in the Army was during my eight-year-long skydiving career,” he said. “I was involved in the creation of VOLT4GE – The British Army four-way formation skydiving team. We competed all over the UK and overseas - winning UK Skydiving League (UKSL), as well as being crowned National champions and coming 2nd in the European skydiving league.

“Being one of the first four members of a team that still exists now feels amazing and it’s a legacy that will be left behind.”

Major Hamish Davison, Royal Tank Regiment (RTR), also receives the MBE in recognition of his work leading the Counter Terrorism and UK Operations Team, “consistently delivering above and beyond his remit throughout his tenure.”

He said: “It is a huge honour to receive this award, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I couldn’t have done my job without the support of incredible colleagues, but most of all I must thank the patience and understanding of my incredible wife.

Major Davison, who has been in the Army for just over 12 years, was at the forefront of the Counter Terrorism and UK Operations Team’s response to numerous national crises, ranging from maritime sieges, illegal migration crossings of the English Channel, to the response to STORM ARWEN.

According to his citation, “nothing is too much him and he frequently makes time to mentor military and civilian team members, including his peers.”

“I had the honour to support the planning and preparation for The Late Queen’s Funeral during my time in the MOD,” he said. “I then was fortunate enough to march as part of the Ceremonial Procession on the day of here funeral, which was a hugely poignant moment.”

"The best part of my job has definitely been the people I have worked with from across all three services, as well as some amazing civil servants in the MOD. I have always found that during very difficult circumstances, it is the people in your team that get you through and keep your spirit up. “

His citation says: “His performance has, on numerous occasions, catalysed the successful delivery of Defence’s assistance to national crises response. His personal leadership and drive was pivotal to the Government’s successful delivery of Op London Bridge and has demonstrably improved the assurance against future BRIDGE delivery.”

Major Davison joined the Army at 16 when he was awarded an Army Scholarship. “I was interested in a life of adventure and wanted to see the world. It hasn’t disappointed.”

He has since returned to Tidworth-based RTR, where he is Squadron Leader of Cyclops Squadron.

Support and advocacy

Army Medic and Paramedic, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Natasha Day, Royal Army Medical Corps, is awarded an MBE for her support to breastfeeding mothers across the Armed forces.

She said: “It’s incredible, it was such a shock as I feel I haven’t achieved enough. To be recognised in this way is incredible, It’s overwhelming to say the least.”

Returning to work following maternity leave in early 2020, LCpl Day, experienced first-hand the barriers to breastfeeding in the workplace, which included a lack of awareness, support, appropriate facilities, and a general avoidance of a taboo subject.

Despite negative and harassing comments she received on social media, LCpl Day courageously shone a light on the issues, going on to  personally educate and mentor leaders throughout the chain of command. In June 2020 the Defence Breastfeeding Network was born.

“I have no doubt that the Defence Breastfeeding Network is making a difference, because it’s helped me so much,” she said. “They say it takes a village to raise children, and I really hope that the DBN is a part of the village for people.

“We receive really great feedback, and I am so proud of the community we have built, regardless of the policy changes, we’ve created a small family, which is so important within the Armed Forces.”

Her citation said: “Without Corporal Day’s voice, many would have been forced to cease breastfeeding. All of this has directly contributed to the national effort and has had a direct impact on the retention of skilled individuals in Service.”

LCpl Day, who joined the Army in 2014, won the Defence Inclusivity Award at the Soldiering On Awards 2022. At the 2021 Women in Defence Awards the Defence Breastfeeding Network won the Equality of Opportunity Award and LCpl Day was nominated for the Unsung Heroine Award. She deployed on Op TRENTON to South Sudan in 2017 as part of the UN Peacekeeping operation UNMISS.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Deborah Penny, Royal Logistic Corps, Army Reserve, is also recognised with an MBE for her support and advocacy of Trans personnel across the Armed Forces.

As a member of the Army Diversity Team within The Army Engagement Group, WO2 Penny has been a torch bearer mentoring and advocating for Trans soldiers. In a role she loves, she is able to show people that as a Trans Woman she is valid and valued in the Army.

On learning of her award, WO2 Penny said: “I’m still in shock and was speechless, which for me is unheard of, when I was informed by my Commanding Officer. It is a great honour to be awarded an MBE and I hope that others will be inspired by it and that it shows that everyone in the Army can be true to who they are.”

Her citation says: “She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Trans people across the Army and Defence, always giving of her own time, and at no detriment to her core outputs. A powerful advocate who challenges presumptions across society, breaks down barriers and champions diversity and inclusion. Her work directly appeals to those who might otherwise feel disengaged or disenfranchised.”

She co-authored Joint Service Publication 889: Policy for the Recruitment and Management of Transgender Personnel in the Armed Forces; a policy now considered an exemplar across civilian industry. This policy has enabled the chain of command to support Trans service personnel, and enhanced Defence's reputation as an inclusive employer.

WO2 Penny, who joined in 1982 as a Junior Leader in the Artillery at Bramcote, says her favourite thing about being in the Army Diversity Engagement Team is getting out on the road meeting people from all walks of life and from across the UK; breaking down barriers and trying to dispel myths about being a soldier in the Army of today. 

“I have a strong passion for this as I have been lucky that I have had such a long career and I want to show people from all underrepresented groups that you can have a great career and it is not what they think from social media,” she said. “I also want to show people that as a Transwomen I am valid and valued in the army.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Congratulations to the Service personnel who are receiving state honours from His Majesty The King, in his first Birthday Honours List. These prestigious awards are testament to the talent and dedication of our Armed Forces, and highlight the huge range of skills and talents across our brave personnel.”

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