A ROYAL visitor came to RAF Odiham to honour armed forces personnel who have fought for their country in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Duke of Gloucester, who is Honorary Air Commodore for the RAF station, presented medals, commendations and long service awards to 45 men and women at the base, in a short ceremony in the officers’ mess.

The awards were for those based at RAF Odiham, many of whom are part of 7, 18 and 27 Chinook squadrons.

Friends and family watched as the Duke presented 12 categories of medals and commendations.

He said: “It is a great pleasure to be here again at RAF Odiham. Your role is absolutely vital for so many of the tasks that the British forces are carrying out.”

Two people from the base received commendations.

Flight Sergeant Lee Renard, of 27 Squadron, airlifted six civilian casualties in a Chinook after a suicide bombing in Delaram, near Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, on May 15 last year.

His citation stated that while one casualty died on the way to Lashkar Gah Bost hospital, “the lives of the other five were saved by his actions”.

Captain Simon Pope, of 657 Squadron, Army Air Corps, which is based at RAF Odiham, received a commendation for leading a special forces operation in Iraq on January 18, 2008.

The pilot co-ordinated a group of Lynx helicopters to stop and detain “high value suspects” who were on their way to the city of Basra in southern Iraq.

The 31-year-old told The Gazette: “I was very surprised and humbled when I was told that I was getting this award, because I was just one part of a crew.”

A further 24 personnel received service medals for time spent in Afghanistan, and 10 more received medals for serving in Iraq.

After the presentations, The Duke joined station commander Group Captain Andy Turner to watch a display team perform a series of stunts in a Chinook helicopter.

His Royal Highness, the Queen’s first cousin, also helped plant a cherry tree at RAF Odiham’s support helicopter memorial to mark Armed Forces Day, before leaving by car.