Somerset

Queen's Gallantry Medal for dramatic rescue sailor

Leading Seaman David Groves with his Queens Gallantry Medal Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leading Seaman Groves said the Duke of Cambridge told him it was good for everyone to hear his story

A Royal Navy sailor who saved 27 men from a burning ship has been awarded a Queen's Gallantry Medal.

As Leading Seaman David Groves received the medal from the Duke of Cambridge, details of his bravery were read out.

The sailor from Somerset spent more than four hours at sea trying to rescue every man on board a stricken merchant ship in the Bay of Biscay.

His ship HMS Argyll was returning to Plymouth when it responded to a mayday.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Prince William and Leading Seaman David Groves

HMS Argyll had been in the Asia-Pacific region for nine months when the call for help came through in March 2019.

In the "worst conditions" he had ever faced, Leading Seaman Groves and the crew on HMS Argyll went to the aid of the Grande America after its cargo of containers and cars caught fire.

"One minute you couldn't see at all, because there was a wall of water, so you couldn't see a massive burning ship and then obviously you're on top of the wave and then you can see," said Leading Seaman Groves.

The crew on the stricken ship had abandoned it for a lifeboat, but the lifeboat's engine was damaged when it hit the water.

Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption The Royal Navy dinghy pushed the lifeboat to safety

Despite a swell of around 6m in the night sea, Leading Seaman Groves entered the water in a small sea boat, which was used to "nudge" the lifeboat half a mile towards HMS Argyll.

"The nerves happened beforehand, at the time I don't think I felt anything. It was just adrenaline keeping you going," he said.

Leading Seaman Groves said he was "obviously proud".

"It's good to be recognised and hopefully it gets done more," he said.

Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption The blazing cargo ship was off the French coast in the Bay of Biscay

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