The award is named after a former distinguished Officer Commanding 622 Squadron Ian Swales, DSO, DFC, DFM, who was known affectionately as “Blondie”, owing to his fair hair. The 2020 award was presented to Warrant Officer Richard Burke-Smith.

There follows the citation for this award, by Senior Warden Martyn Bradish.



After 38 years of exemplary service in the RAF, Warrant Officer Richard Burke-Smith decided retirement was not yet calling and he joined 622 Sqn Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 2015.  His experience, presence and affable manner led to him taking on the role of the Squadron Warrant Officer, a role which he has delivered with immense pride and diligence.  He possesses the highest of military standards and dedication to service which has resonated throughout the Squadron.

A specialist engineer, he has been responsible for recruiting qualified technicians to support global operational output for Defence.  A key figure on Station he was Chairman of the Mess Committee for the Warrant Officers and Sergeants’ Mess.

Almost three years ago he took on the role of Liaison Officer for the new affiliation of the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators – a role he has excelled in, getting the Memorandum of Understanding between us signed, the first of the new Affiliations directed by the Lord Mayor for the RAF 100 celebrations, and maintaining communications to facilitate visits and activities.

Whilst top-notch in his primary role, it is the little things that often go unseen that make Warrant Officer Burke-Smith worthy of this Award.  He will see when something needs doing and just do it, whether it be professional or compassionate: he possesses a great deal of emotional intelligence.  Regularly thinking about and acting on what needs our ageing WW2 veterans may have, he has liaised with charities to ensure that they are not lonely and is in regular contact with them himself.  He has also arranged for them to visit the RAF Benevolent Fund respite care home to enable them to have a holiday by the sea.  Every remembrance event is meticulously planned, and he has coordinated capturing veterans’ stories so that they live on in posterity.

He will finally retire from Service life next year. It therefore gives me great pleasure to name Warrant Officer Richard Burke-Smith as this year’s recipient of the Blondie Swales award in recognition of his contribution to Defence, 622 Squadron, and its veterans.


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