A ROYAL Naval Reservist who works as the senior training officer for the Wales University Royal Naval Unit has been awarded the Queen’s Voluntary Reserves Medal.

Lt Duncan “Jim” Hawkins, 55, from Southend, was presented with his medal at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, for his dedication in providing training to university students.

The naval unit is attached to universities across the UK, each with a dedicated patrol vessel captained by a Royal Navy lieutenant and crewed by students, who effectively become Royal Naval cadets and are given the rank of midshipman.

As well as learning leadership and seamanship skills, the units give the students the chance to bond with a group of people outside their degree courses, and travel around Europe on the vessel.

Lt Hawkins said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to be awarded the medal. It came as a complete surprise to me. My wife and daughter both knew about it along with my commanding officer.

I was told over a bottle of champagne, which was lovely.

“I have been in the unit for 15 years and was in the regular Royal Navy for 22 years before that, so I have dedicated the best part of my life to the service.

“I travel 400 miles from my home in Southend to get to work, which some people think is mad, but for me it is so important and pleasing to see young people doing so well.

“I believe in the skills and opportunities we can provide the students.”

Only 13 of the medals can be awarded in a year and are only for individuals who have demonstrated exemplary meritorious service