MBE for brave Seaton helicopter pilot
- Credit: Senior Aircraftman Phil Major AB
Squadron Leader Toby Sawbridge recognised by The Queen for his operational role in Afghanistan and his charity work
AN RAF pilot from Seaton is a real high flyer when it comes to charity work – and now he has a medal to prove it.
Squadron Leader Toby Sawbridge has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, both for his services to the Merlin Helicopter Force and the wider community.
Currently, Second in Command of 28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at RAF Benson, the former Colyton Grammar School student has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the RAF and defence before, during and after two demanding operational deployments to Afghanistan.
In addition, the award pays tribute to the time he has devoted, despite personal tragedy, to co-ordinate the station’s charitable efforts.
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Prior to his first deployment to Afghanistan, Toby quickly identified that the Merlin helicopter’s advanced communications and navigational capabilities gave it the potential to lead counter-insurgency deliberate operations, during which he repeatedly demonstrated “courage and tenacity of the highest order”.
Further, to address the capability gap created by the withdrawal of the Sea King helicopters from Afghanistan, Toby inspired his crews to develop their night capability, markedly reducing their exposure to enemy threat.
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His efforts generated a considerably enhanced capability in support of British and Coalition Forces.
During his second deployment he boosted morale at Camp Bastion by procuring several thousand pounds worth of cricket equipment to the delight of personnel, separated from their families during the festive period.
Back at home base, despite his father Richard Sawbridge, who lived at Seaton, tragically being killed in a road accident in January 2012, Toby took on the demanding role of charities officer.
Responsible for overseeing all fundraising activities, Toby also takes part in numerous fundraising events himself.
One of the most notable was swimming a marathon with colleagues along the River Thames in aid of the Royal British Legion.
In the first year alone the committee co-ordinated charitable efforts that raised an unprecedented £83,000 for service and local charities, with the total now standing at well over £200,000.
Toby told The Herald: “My father was a stalwart of the community himself and I am certain he would have been very proud, both of the impact we have had on the local community and of course of the award of an MBE to his son!”
Toby, married with two children, Maddy aged 11 and Olly 10, joined the RAF in 1989.
Not content to rest on his laurels, he is already preparing to join his Squadron in their next fundraising endeavour - cycling 1,000 miles from RAF Benson to Milan!
Group Captain Nigel Colman, Station Commander at RAF Benson, said: “ I am absolutely delighted that Sqn Ldr Sawbridge’s outstanding contribution to the Royal Air Force, and indeed the country, has been recognised. He has repeatedly demonstrated outstanding leadership and selfless commitment to the service.”