A NAVAL officer from Wrexham has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service for his help with the Sri Lankan tsunami relief effort.
Steve Price, 38, is a Warrant Officer on board the Devonport frigate HMS Chatham.
He grew up in Rhosnesni and attended St David's School before joining the Royal Navy in 1983.
His parents still live in Wrexham and he lives in Plymouth with his children Michael, 14, and Kerry, 16.
In January his ship was sent to Sri Lanka to help following the devastation caused by the Boxing Day tsunami. He accompanied Navy pilots on reconnaissance missions, sending reports to the British High Commission to identify areas for assistance.
He led one of three ships' teams into those areas to offer help.
'My first view of Sri Lanka was a calm and serene Colombo on January 4,' he said.
'I was a member of a party which flew in Lynx helicopters across the island to the southern tip. We passed over a serene and lush interior that looked untouched by man, which made the sight of the chaos caused by the tsunami more shocking.
'We saw fishing vessels dumped inland by the awesome wave, with people hopelessly milling around the wreckage.
'The wide-scale devastation continued as we carried on our journey south. As we passed the fishing village of Kurundi, we noticed something was sticking out of the side of a hotel. On closer inspection, it turned out two fishing boats that had been wedged into the first floor of the building.'
He added: 'A few days later we moved further south and discovered an area known as Kellar district.
'The people here were fairly despondent and had suffered wide-scale devastation, with many losing entire families.
'I identified several areas where we could help and the following day took a team of 25 men and women from the ship to start work. We cleared the hospital of sand, unblocked the toilets and sewers and disinfected the whole place.
'The ultimate satisfaction was, after much hard work, getting a clinic going.'
Schools and wells were also restored to service by Steve and his team, but he noticed a fear in the Sri Lankan people.
'They feared the sea,' he said. 'No-one would swim in it and many could not bring themselves to even look at it. Large fishing fleets were left unused.
'My last project was to erect a steel bridge over a river. The 5km walk back to our accommodation from the construction site was tiring and we decided to have a swim to cool down. It was so refreshing that we repeated this every night and by the time we left the locals were swimming with us. I like to think our need to cool down helped them overcome their fears.
We ran several meetings with local community leaders in an effort to persuade them self-help would speed the recovery process. Initially sceptical, they warmed to the meetings and by the end were running them with no input from us. This I feel was one of our greatest achievements.
'I am extremely honoured to receive this award and the fact that other people on the ship received awards too was a great recognition of the effort the entire ship's company of HMS Chatham had put in.'