Merchant Navy Medal Award

1st October 2008

A Younger Brother of Trinity House, Commander Charles Heron-Watson, has been awarded The Merchant Navy Medal 2008, a prestigious honour which rewards meritorious service and acts of courage afloat by British registered merchant seafarers. Commander Heron-Watson is the Secretary of the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation, which owns the Bearwood Estate and which helps the needy children of those who have served at sea in the Merchant Service.

“I am delighted of course,” said Commander Heron-Watson. “However, it would not be possible without the Foundation, which, for more than 180 years, has been working tirelessly to improve the lot of these children, and also without the generosity of our many benefactors such as Seafarers UK, Trinity House and IMarEST.”

“I have been Secretary for two years but, before that, I was the caseworker which means that I have certainly come to understand the problems of these young people; and not just because of these eight years of casework but also because I was chairman of the Educational Trusts’ Forum for three years. The ETF comprises twenty-six of the UK’s leading children’s educational charities, including the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation, and impacts directly on the lives of some 3,000 children.”

John Adey, Chairman of the Foundation, said: “The Trustees of the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation are delighted with the decision of the Merchant Navy Medal Committee to award the Merchant Navy Medal 2008 to the Foundation’s Secretary, Commander Charles Heron-Watson, in recognition of his services to the education and welfare of the needy children of British Merchant Navy seafarers.”

Commander Heron-Watson says the recession will almost certainly make the work of the Foundation even more essential: “There is no question that the economic downturn is going to have a serious impact on the parents of many of our beneficiaries, and more children will need our help.”

“To qualify a child must be British, have a parent who has served at sea in the Merchant Navy for longer than five years and be needy; we are able to consider helping them at all educational stages of their lives, including while at University and attending personal development courses. In these later stages, our help is focused on ‘education for employment’.

“Every time we help someone fulfil their potential it is a success, although sometimes the help we give can also have a dramatic impact on the lives of others. We helped Emily Maw finish her UK law degree and now she is the Director of The Innocence Project in New Orleans which provides legal and investigative assistance to wrongfully convicted prisoners serving life sentences in Louisiana and more recently, Mississippi. She has personally overturned eight out of twelve wrong convictions of prisoners sentenced to ‘life without parole’.”

“Our biggest challenge continues to be making sure that people are aware of the Foundation and the work that we do and, now, that is going to become even more important.”

British seafarers are employed by companies, not the State; they had never had a decoration of their own to reward meritorious service or acts of courage until the recent introduction of The Merchant Navy Medal, which is awarded annually on Trafalgar Day.

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