Wiltshire

Queen's Birthday Honours: MBE for Novichok clean-up officer

Simon Rowe, from Wardour, Wiltshire, Image copyright Wiltshire Council
Image caption Simon Rowe, from Wiltshire Council, has been recognised for "tirelessly" working to return Salisbury to normality quickly

A council officer involved in the clean-up of Salisbury following the Novichok attack has been appointed an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targeted with the nerve agent in the city in March 2018.

Wiltshire Council's Simon Rowe has been recognised for "tirelessly working" to return the city to normality.

He said: "I couldn't have done this without a huge team around me, so this award is for them as well."

The Skripals were found unconscious on a bench at The Maltings shopping centre last year. They both spent weeks in hospital.

A year later, following a huge decontamination operation, the city was declared free from the nerve agent.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Maltings shopping area was the scene of decontamination work by the military

Mr Rowe, from Wardour, Wiltshire, was praised for his "exceptional leadership" in ensuring the Maltings and Queen Elizabeth Gardens were re-opened to the public "on or ahead of time".

"I've been doing this job for 28 years but there hasn't been anything that compares to this - normal rules didn't apply," he said.

"I went to every site but we knew where the safe lines were and worked around that and I never had any concerns.

"There was a lot that had to be learnt as we went along but now if anything major happens, we're well versed to deal with anything."

He said when he received the letter from the Cabinet Office it had been so "emotional", he had to get his wife to read it.

"It was a total shock and surprise, it was not what I was expecting," he said.

"I'd been thinking it would've been nice if someone at the organisation had said thank you but now I know they were organising this."

Image caption Joan Howarth has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for voluntary service to the community in Somerset and Wiltshire

In other awards, Joan Howarth from Hilperton, Wiltshire, has received a British Empire Medal (BEM).

The 87-year-old joined Talking Newspapers for the Blind in Frome in 1981, and became its editor. A year later, she joined Bath Hospital Radio as a co-presenter and later as its programme director.

For 22 years, she has also been a presenter on Warminster Community Radio (WCR) and was honoured in 2016 for being its longest serving presenter.

"I've tormented everybody on WCR and hospital radio but I do like to talk," she said.

"But if you can reach out to people and touch something in them - I've got quite a few memories of the very touching times and fun times as well."

Ms Howarth, said she had been "very surprised" and "quite shaken" when she found out she had been recognised for voluntary service to the community in Somerset and Wiltshire.

"I thought: 'what outstanding services have I done?'," she said.

"I don't deserve it really. It didn't seem like work, I enjoyed it so much so I feel like I've got it under false pretences."

Image copyright Joan Howarth
Image caption The 87-year-old said she was "quite shaken" when she found out she had been recognised

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