West Norfolk councillor, Stoke Ferry care home manager and RAF Marham team recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours List
An award-winning West Norfolk care home manager and a borough councillor, who was instrumental in a World War One village project, have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
West Norfolk Council Cabinet member Stuart Dark, 54, has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the community in Snettisham, while Stoke Ferry resident Sam Gallagher, 44, has received a BEM (British Empire Medal) for her efforts as manager of Brandon Park Nursing Home during the pandemic.
Industry team Lightning Team UK has also been commended for its services to RAF Marham in the Honours List which was published on Friday night.
Mr Dark, who was put in charge of West Norfolk's emergency planning to oversee its response to the pandemic, has been recognised for engaging the whole community of Snettisham to remember the 45 villagers who lost their lives during World War One.
The former senior police officer said: "I am absolutely thrilled and humbled to be in the company of the people on the list but the key thing with the Covid response team and the World War One project in Snettisham was having lots of people around me.
"There was a bit of disbelief at the start. You see the brown envelope from the government and initially wonder if it is a tax return! It was a really pleasant surprise to open it up, there was a bit of dialogue as to whether you want to accept it, then you do not want to pre-empt Her Majesty by telling anyone."
As part of the Snettisham World War One project, Mr Dark set up a web page for the 'Snettisham 45' project, detailing the lives of each man who sacrificed their life from the village.
He also oversaw a Just Giving portal to enable donations to be made to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and local military charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers.
A total of £18,500 was raised for the military charities with local businesses and groups chipping in through cake sales, music events and other fundraisers.
Local schoolchildren were heavily involved with the Snettisham 45 project and wrote letters to soldiers as well as creating wall displays and researching the soldiers who lost their lives.
Catherine Davies the RBL's national head of Remembrance, visited the school to talk to the children about their work and to thank them for their letters to the soldiers.
And Snettisham 45 members including Mr Dark visited the Canadian town Deseronto to pay respects to Colin Goss Coleridge MBE who died there as an RAF flight instructor during the war. In total, the group covered seven countries, three continents and 12,500 miles to honour the 45.
Mr Dark said: "Colin was one of the first recipients of British and Canadian MBEs over 100 years ago and to have another person receiving one in the village all these years later after honouring him creates a nice bit of symmetry, to end up with two around the same subject.
"As a village, we dreamt big and set our sights high by bringing our skills together, and we achieved that by travelling 12,500 miles to visit memorials and having Sky News anchor their Remembrance coverage in our village. It showed what can we done by a small village if you have a determination to achieve."
Mr Dark also reflected on Snettisham resident Poppy Railton losing her two great, great uncles in the Great War, who were part of the Snettisham 45.
Named Poppy in their honour, she visited Downing Street to sell the symbolic first poppy of the 100th appeal to Prime Minister of the time Theresa May.
For the commemoration of the end of World War One, Mr Dark took up the challenge and spent over 500 hours researching the 45 lost men. His research brought these brave men to life, making them real people and not just names on the memorial.
West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long and mayor Geoff Hipperson are among those who has praised Mr Dark for his recognition in the Honours List.
Mr Hipperson said: “In the comparatively short while I have known councillor Stuart Dark I have been very impressed by his work on the borough council, particularly during the Covid crisis.
“I am also aware of his commitment to the local community and I am delighted to be able to congratulate Stuart on receiving this award which I am sure is well-deserved.”
Mr Long said: “I’m pleased to see this honour bestowed on councillor Dark. He personally undertook over 500 hours researching the schooling, lives, jobs and families of the 45 ‘fallen’ on the village’s war memorial to make them ‘real’ people once more.”
Also named in the Honours List is Sam Gallagher, a registered nurse and home manager of Brandon Park Nursing Home.
The Stoke Ferry resident, who previously worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Boughton Surgery, cared for a number of residents with coronavirus.
The manager worked night and day to support her elderly residents and staff, and her hard work has now ensured the home has seen no infections for five months.
She said: “I am very grateful to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and delighted that the work of Brandon Park has been acknowledged. My team at Brandon Park is phenomenal, and it is hard to describe the passion we have for our residents.
"This award is not just for me, but an award that recognises my whole team for the wonderful way they have coped during some challenging months.”
She joined Brandon Park six-years-ago, becoming home manager three years later and she described the organisation at the Brandon home as being amazing during the pandemic, including a good stock of PPE.
On being informed of her honour, Mrs Gallagher added: "I thought it was a hoax at first! It was a lovely surprise and it is for the whole team who have done a superb job."
Ruth French, director of Stow Healthcare, which owns Brandon Park said: “Sam is absolutely deserving of this honour, of which she can be justly proud.
"Sam’s residents have always been front and centre of Brandon Park, and, whilst we are still managing the ongoing difficulties of the pandemic, this award will bring not just Sam, but the whole of Brandon Park some very well deserved joy after a tough year.”
Secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock added: "I am delighted that Sam Gallagher has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
"Her dedication to the staff and residents at Brandon Park Nursing Home is to be commended, especially during a very difficult time dealing with the pandemic. I am so pleased that her efforts have been recognised, this is a wonderful achievement.”
When coronavirus restrictions are relaxed Mr Dark and Mrs Gallagher are looking forward to attending an Investiture at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. This is likely to take place next year.
Also recognised in the Birthday Honours List is the Lightning Team UK, a collaboration between BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Pratt and Whitney, and Rolls-Royce at RAF Marham.
They working jointly with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to achieve a "whole force" approach in support of the UK’s F-35 fleet, and have received the AOC Team Commendation in the Honours List.
RAF Marham station commander, group captain Jim Beck, said: “It’s fantastic for the Lightning Team UK here at RAF Marham to be recognised.
"The team is an intrinsic part of the station and broader Lightning Force and its quick response in implementing new ways of working with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that operations for the F-35 continued with minimal disruption.”
Lightning Team UK played its part in the national effort to donate personal protective equipment to the Medical Centre at RAF Marham so healthcare workers could continue to treat RAF personnel and their dependents.
The team introduced new ways of working on base to ensure the safety of personnel within a week of national lockdown. They ensured critical services were prioritised, including maintenance and services to enable carrier-capable aircraft and trained aircrew.