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Sutherland sailor rewarded for exemplary performance

15 March 2017
A Royal Navy Engineer from Golspie has been awarded the Fleet Commander’s Commendation for Exemplary Performance.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Alexander Mackay, known as Ewan, received the honour for his service as the Marine Engineer Officer on HMS Pembrook.

The 33-year-old, who is currently serving as the Marine Engineering Department Auxiliaries and Domestics Group Warrant Officer aboard HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the new flagship Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which is due to launch later this year.

A former pupil at Golspie High School, he joined the Marines in October 2000, picking up a Long Service Good Conduct Medal in 2015, and has enjoyed a rewarding career.

Ewan said: “When I was told I was to receive the Fleet Commander Commendation for my service as the Marine Engineer Officer in HMS Pembroke I was pretty shocked.

"It is by far the hardest job I have ever done and to receive recognition for it is a brilliant feeling. It may sound like a complete cliché, but I was extremely lucky in the quality of engineers I had working for me at the time.

“I certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve it without them. This award hopefully makes up for the long periods I have had to spend away from my wife over the past 10 years and, more recently, my young daughter.”

It may sound like a complete cliché, but I was extremely lucky in the quality of engineers I had working for me at the time.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Alexander Mackay

His current tasking is vital in successfully delivering a key element of the Royal Navy’s fleet for the future. Ewan explained: “During the building of HMS Prince of Wales, my role is quite different from what it would normally be on a ship in Fleet time.

"Instead of overseeing the operation and maintenance of the fuel system, water production, galley and laundry, ballasting system, compressed air system, diving equipment, refrigeration equipment and heating/ventilation and air conditioning systems, I instead work with our industry partners to oversee the testing and commissioning of all of the above equipment.

“This process is aided by the lessons being learnt from the building of the first of this class of vessel, HMS Queen Elizabeth. I currently have 10 marine engineers working for me, however, as the build progresses, this number will rise to above 40.”

Looking back over his 17 years in the Senior Service, Ewan said: “My best draft was when I joined Six Assault Squadron Royal Marines as a landing craft maintainer attached to HMS Albion.

Detaching the Squadron from the ship unsupported for up to two weeks while trying to maintain four 160-tonne landing craft with basic tools and support equipment was extremely challenging but incredibly rewarding.

"During this draft we also deployed with HMS Albion to the Middle East on Operation Cougar 11 during which we spent a short time supporting Operation Ellamy, the military intervention in Libya 

“During almost 17 years in the Royal Navy, I have been lucky enough to visit more than 40 countries, however my best trip was in 2006 on HMS Northumberland when we deployed to the east coast of America and the Bahamas on warm weather sonar trials.

“Ranging from big game fishing, riding jet skis and drinking rum out of coconuts on the beach in front of the Paradise Island hotel in Nassau (the hotel in James Bond Casino Royale) to being given a tour of Capitol Hill in Washington DC whilst in tropical uniform, it was definitely a trip to remember.

“I’ll never forget being docked in Cocoa Beach in Florida and working on a low pressure air compressor an hour before we were due to sail back to the UK when the Captain came over the ship’s address system stating that due to an essential part not arriving for the sonar we would have to stay alongside for a further two days.

"I have never put a machine back together quicker so I could get ashore again and make the most of a superb deployment.

“The opportunities and experiences that I have been given throughout my career have been amazing. For young people today who want travel and adventure they don’t need to look any further than a career in the Royal Navy, especially as a Marine Engineer.”

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