SOUTHAMPTON'S former council leader and outgoing chief executive were today decorated for their bravery in wrestling a gunman to the deck on board a nuclear submarine .
Tory group leader Royston Smith and chief executive Alistair Neill tackled Able Seaman Ryan Donovan on board HMS Asute after he opened fire while they inspected the vessel as it was docked in the city on a goodwill visit in April last year.
Donovan, who was put on sentry duty despite being drunk, fired the SA80 assault rifle six times in the control room of the sub, killing Weapons Engineer Officer Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36.
The father-of-four from Standish, Wigan, tried to disarm Donovan after hearing shots on board the submarine on April 8 last year, but was shot in the head.
When Donovan was jailed for 25 years in September last year for murder and three counts of attempted murder, Winchester Crown Court was told the death toll could have been higher but for the bravery of Mr Neill and Cllr Smith.
They were both awarded the George Medal, one of the highest accolades for bravery, by the Queen at Buckingham Palace today.
Both men said their thoughts were with the family of Lt Cmdr Molyneux, whose widow Gillian collected his posthumously awarded George Medal at an investiture ceremony last week for his role in preventing a massacre on board the Royal Navy's latest and largest submarine.
Cllr Smith, who formerly served with the Royal Air Force, said he was glad to have been able to do something when the need arose.
''It was a surreal situation to have been in,'' he said.
''It is certainly the best thing I have been awarded. I wish it was for some other circumstances.''
Mr Neill, who this month announced his resignation from his £165,000-a-year city council role added: ''Something of that significance (the shooting) never leaves you and it is right that you never forget things as extraordinary as what we experienced.
''This medal is something I am personally deeply overwhelmed to be awarded in this way.''
The citation for their medals said they placed themselves at great risk by choosing to tackle Donovan.
''By their actions they prevented further shootings and possible death or injury to others on board the submarine,'' it read.