‘I just feel he is an inspiration to young men’ - Wymondham navy hero marks retirement after 27 years with rare award
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Navy hero Antony Whitwham has spent nearly 27 years working at sea.
The Wymondham man helped out in the Iraq War in 2004 and played a crucial part in the Typhoon Haiyan rescue mission in the Philippines last year.
But in August the 44-year-old will return to solid ground - and his hard work has been awarded with a prestigious Shipwrights' Award from the HMS Illustrious, which recognises those who have kept the ship running.
Mr Whitwham was born and raised in Wymondham - attending the Robert Kett Junior School, Wymondham High and Wymondham College.
He left school at 18 and signed up to the Navy in 1987 - joining his first ship, the HMS Battleaxe.
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The father-of-two soon worked his way up the ranks as an engineering technician to become a Chief Petty Officer.
Now, Mr Whitwham, who lives near Portsmouth, hopes to pursue a career in oil and gas - and said that he is 'quite excited' to be leaving.
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The highlight of a busy career was the HMS Illustrious rescue mission to help those on the Philippines islands whose lives had been devstated by Typhoon Haiyan, according to the naval officer.
'We were on our way home for Christmas, but we were told to pick up 500 aid stores and steam through to the Philippines and distribute to the islands. They just rebuilt everything, they just got in with it and helped us,' he said.
But the birth of daughters Elizabeth, 14, and Zoe, 13, emphasised the difficulties of a life on the waves.
'Going to sea for months at a time was difficult - I think the longest was about seven months. There were tears,' he said.
Now, his focus will be on spending time with family and friends.
Mr Whitwham's mother, 68-year-old Amy Burns, who lives in Spooner Row, near Wymondham, said that she felt it was important to talk about her son's achievements.
'I just feel he is an inspiration to young men everywhere,' she added.
Do you know of someone special we should be writing about? Contact reporter Lauren Cope on firstname.lastname@example.org