Station Sports Stars Honoured by Heroes
RAF Benson was honoured to host three heroic competitors from the Invictus Games, who presented the Station’s sports stars with awards in a special ceremony in the Officers’ Mess.
Paul Vice MC, Craig Gadd and Andy Grant, who were all chosen to represent their country at the inaugural Invictus Games 2014, attended the annual Sports Personality of the Year Awards at RAF Benson in November 2014. They presented six awards for sporting excellence.
The Best Newcomer award was presented to Sergeant Kate Willoughby, a helicopter crewwoman, who took up the sport of bobsleigh just a year ago. Excelling from the off, she achieved one of the fasted female ‘push times’ to be selected to represent the RAF. At the inter-Service championships, her hard work and dedication assisted the team in securing two Gold medals. Her citation stated that she is “a superb example to those looking to enter any sporting discipline.”
The Coach of the Year award was presented to Sergeant Dave Arscott, a helicopter crewman, who has been instrumental in football coaching on the Station and in the wider community. His tireless work as the RAF Benson 1st XI coach has ensured that this has been the most successful season ever for the team, including winning a prestigious trophy not seen at Benson since 1966. He also coaches over 50 children in the Benson Lion Cubs and has successfully established an under 8s team, which competes in the local junior league. His citation stated that he “has achieved an extraordinary amount this year” and that he “must be praised for his leadership style.”
The Most Valued Person award was presented to Leading Hand David Smee RN, an aircraft engineer, who has dedicated a significant amount of his personal time to the RAF Benson Boxing Club. As well as organizing and managing training schedules, incorporating fun and innovative sessions that suit the abilities of all, he has engaged with local civilian boxing clubs to strengthen bonds and gain valuable instruction and experience from ranked boxers and coaches. His citation explains that he has “inspired and maintained both high morale and team spirit throughout the club.”
The Long Service to Sport award was presented to Master Aircrewman Bob Yeomans, a helicopter crewman, who has dedicated over 40 years to competitive angling. Currently leading his area league both individually and with his team, his drive has produced a level of competitiveness and skill that has seen him captain Station, Service and Combined Service teams as well as competing at international level. As if this is not enough, MAcr Yeomans has also been a national coach for over ten years and was directly responsible for setting up the Scouts ‘fishing badge’ and subsequently coaching many hundreds of children to achieve the badge. His citation explained how his excellent service to sport “continues with the same passion and determination as it did in his first year.”
The Team of the Year award was presented to the football team. The 2013/14 season was incredible for RAF Benson football, with the 1st XI crowned London League Champions as well as Challenge Cup champions for the first time in 48 years. In addition to the team successes, individual ability was also recognised and rewarded during the year with four players from the team called to play for the RAF Senior Squad as they secured a record 7th straight win at the inter-Service championships. As a relatively small Station within the RAF, the achievements of the RAF Benson team cannot be overstated, owing in no small part to the incredible efforts of so many players and club members. The team also highlights the best of interoperability with several Royal Navy colleagues being selected for the team.
The Sports Personality of the Year award was presented to Squadron Leader Phil Holdcroft, a helicopter pilot and triathlete. His triathlon season had one main focus: to compete in his first ironman triathlon. With a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a marathon run to the finish, it is not for the fainthearted. After achieving 4th place in his first race of the season at the Immortal Triathlon, he was ready to take on the Outlaw Triathlon, an ironman which also incorporated the RAF Long Distance Championships. In the run up to the event, Phil and his family received the most devastating news: their youngest daughter Isla Rose had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Understandably his first concern was Isla and his family and triathlon took an immediate back seat. At this point the Outlaw Triathlon was only weeks away and Phil made an incredibly brave and inspiring decision: to continue to take part in the Outlaw and use it to raise money for CLIC Sargent who, in his words, were the “miracle workers tasked with saving Isla’s life.” Not only did Phil complete the ironman in an incredible 9hrs, 49mins, 58secs, he was 12th overall and claimed the RAF title. Moreover, in the short space of two weeks he had raised over £10,000. His citation stated “under hugely difficult circumstances Phil showed enormous rit and determination and can only be described as an inspiration to us all.”