Navy medal is deserved honour for former Norwich sea captain

A former sea captain who survived a devastating cyclone and rescued dozens of sailors has been commended for more than half a century of work in the maritime industry.

James McKee was presented with the Merchant Navy Medal after working in the shipping and the marine sector for 61 years.

The 78-year-old of Lime Tree Road, near Eaton, Norwich, said: 'I am honoured. The great thing about it is that I am getting something for doing my job.

'Everything is carted into the country by the merchant navy, but people don't realise we are the industry carrying goods across the world.'

Mr McKee first experienced the dangers of the sea at seventeen when he was thrust into a rescue operation to save Greek sailors from a sinking ship.

He was travelling on a cargo vessel returning from Basra, Iraq, when his crew responded to an emergency call and were forced to take on board 40 sailors from a coal transport vessel –which later sank at sunrise.

Meanwhile, he was also tested as a sea captain when he guided his ship away from a cyclone in the Indian Ocean which destroyed 68 Korean fishing boats. The treacherous conditions caused the vessel to lose instrumentation and take on water through the port side, and wheel house, windows. But he did manage to manoeuvre the ship to safety by turning around and heading to Madagascar – despite having no chart for the country's waters.

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Mr McKee, the chairman of marine surveying company J.McKee and Partners based in Great Yarmouth, was presented with his medal by Admiral Lord West of Spithead on Monday during a ceremony at Trinity House, London.

Received an award? Contact Ben Woods on 01493 847961 or email