This has been a very challenging year for everyone, including for the ship’s company of HMS MERSEY, who have worked hard and sacrificed significant freedoms in order to sustain the offshore patrol vessel at what is referred to as “R0 for DT1” – immediate notice for operations in support of Defence Task One: Defence of the Homeland. In reality this has meant that, beyond the usual rigour of a 30 days on/12 days off routine (with 24 of those “on” days spent at sea on operations around the UK), every member of MERSEY’s company has spent the final seven of every 12 days off shielding at home so as to not compromise the ship through infection. This has enabled the ship to remain COVID-free so far, allowing her to continue her high-priority tasking – largely involving monitoring what have been unprecedented levels of Russian warships and intelligence-gathering ships around the UK, while preparing for whatever challenges the New Year and the end of Brexit Transition Period may bring.
In this way, all members of MERSEY’s company can be said to have performed superbly this year but, as with every year, the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators has had to choose a single, outstanding individual to be the Sailor of the Year and, in this year of unprecedented challenge, one individual has gone above and beyond to keep MERSEY on task while also managing the workload of his vital department, often on his own.
This sailor has faced significant adversity throughout 2020, whether it be the constant need for communications ashore which has required him to work long hours and to provide an online service 24 hours a day 7 days a week or in his secondary role as the “Leading Hand of the Mess” – MERSEY’s primus inter pares Junior Rating – who is charged with managing and mentoring the more junior sailors in life on board a busy warship.
This individual has executed these demanding duties with aplomb. A particular highlight coming during a period of National Tasking where, as the sole communications rating on board, he was instrumental in MERSEY’s success during the first-ever integration of an Overseas Patrol Squadron warship into one of NATO’s standing maritime task-groups. This challenging mission required MERSEY to at all times to be able to coordinate our movements with a multitude of ships from different nationalities and swiftly execute the Commanding Officers’ orders into action, and it was only through the tenacity of this sailor that we were able to achieve our operational success.
MERSEY simply would not have been able to function effectively this year without this individual’s fierce determination, technical skill, and relentless work ethic. It therefore gives me great pleasure to name Leading Engineering Technician (Communications Information Systems) Matthew Rowley as the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators’ Sailor of the Year 2020.