The Victory Medal

The Victory Medal

The Victory Medal was traditionally awarded to those who have shown exceptional assistance and dedication in serving HMS Victory and assisting in her conservation, but since 2012 has been awarded to those who have demonstrated similar dedication to any vessel(s).

2023 Alan Watson

This year’s Victory Medal has been awarded to Alan Watson, who masterminded the reconstruction of HMS Medusa, a Second World War Harbour Defence Motor Launch.

Alan served at sea as an electronics officer in the Merchant Navy. Ashore his career has been in communications and broadcasting. He currently divides his time between being chair of the Medusa Trust and captain of Medusa, teaching radar and electronic navigation, evaluating new equipment, and skippering training vessels for the Royal Navy Combined Cadet Force. He is vice-chairman of the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust, a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and a long-standing council member of National Historic Ships UK. He masterminded the reconstruction of HMS Medusa (ML1387), a Harbour Defence Motor Launch built in 1943 which is one of only 200 vessels listed on the National Historic Fleet.

Built for the Royal Navy in the Second World War to provide an offshore anti-submarine screen for Allied harbours, its war service included Exercise Fabius at Slapton sands, navigational leader for approach channel 4 at Omaha beach on D-Day, taking the surrender of Ijmuiden in Holland and being first Allied vessel to reach Amsterdam. Post-war service was with the Royal Navy Reserve before being allocated to Hydrographic survey duties along the east, south and west coasts. In 1968 it was sold for scrap, then the last of its class in naval service, and was bought by a group in Portland who operated and maintained it as a private vessel.

In 2002 the Medusa Trust was formed and took ownership. Following a major fund-raising drive, Medusa was overhauled from 2004–10, surviving a workshop fire to emerge fully conserved back to operational use. As well as the work on Medusa itself, the project trained 15 apprentices from start to qualification. In 2010 Medusa was rededicated by HRH The Princess Royal and has been in operation since visiting events, taking veterans and cadets to sea, undertaking filming and working with the Royal Navy.

Medusa is unique in that it has maintained the original configuration rather than returned to it from another use and is still operated as built including original machinery. It is now the only original and seaworthy example of this class and is kept by Alan and his team in a highly authentic form, always looking neat and seamanlike on her berth.

Alan has been a leading light in the Medusa Trust, working tirelessly on the vessel’s conservation and maintenance, personally tracking down pieces of missing equipment, leading the volunteers and skippering the vessel with aplomb throughout the season often in complex navigational situations. He is always willing to share his knowledge and expertise with others and regularly offers support to other coastal forces vessels and projects, as well as to the wider historic ships sector.

In 2021 he contributed to the development of the new Coastal Forces exhibition Night Hunters opened by the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Priddy’s Hard, even dropping everything to go and paint the two vessels on display at very short notice with his band of volunteers! He regularly puts forward his volunteers for recognition in the NHS-UK Annual Awards, so it is extremely fitting that the Victory Medal recognizes his own personal commitment, over many years, to the historic ships sector.

2022  Jonathan Coad 

Jonathan Coad receiving his medal from the SNR Chairman, David Davies.

In addition to a long and distinguished service on Council, latterly as a Vice President, Jonathan’s contribution to and direct involvement with the ship, originally as a member of the VATC then, from 2006, taking on the chairmanship of the Committee, has been immense. He took up the chair on the cusp of a period of complex administrative change, as direct responsibility for the management, interpretation, curatorial stewardship and conservation of the vessel passed from the direct ownership of the RN to the National Museum of the Royal Navy. This change in the administrative ownership of the ship would be quickly accompanied by the introduction of a completely new approach to the vessel’s care, founded on rigorous principles of museological practice and conservation science, a period of change management which called forth on the part of the VATC membership the display of inter-personal skills and a degree of diplomatic finesse in face of the new circumstances, not least in the willingness to recognise that the impact of these changes would be far-reaching and profound, were long overdue and must be welcomed if the calamitous state into which the ship had evidently slipped was to be overcome and her future secured.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. With a long and renowned professional career in English Heritage as a senior inspector and internationally recognised expert in the history, care, conservation and restoration of vitally important historic buildings, most notably, and singularly, the outstanding structures of the naval estate at home and abroad, Jonathan’s approach with a total emphasis on best practice in everything was wholly in sympathy with the aims and objectives of the new regime. The new team and their insistence on extensive, detailed and thorough research and rigorous analysis of the entire structure of the ship, her fixtures and fittings in all their manifest complexity, using the most modern electronic means and leading to the production of the comprehensive Conservation Plan which has since guided and informed every aspect of the vessel’s future care and conservation, enjoyed his quietly encouraging support right from the outset.  Indeed Jonathan’s quiet diplomacy, support for and spirit of co-operation with the new regime, based on a thorough professional understanding of its aims and objectives, has been an important, crucial even, element in the successful progress made by the NMRN team in bringing the ship back from the brink.   Jonathon’s contribution to Victory’s long term care and conservation is now recognised by the award of the Victory Medal for his life-long outstanding contribution to the naval heritage.


2021: Andrew Baines

Andrew BainesAndrew Baines studied both Quantity Surveying and Maritime Conservation Science at the University of Portsmouth. He has developed a career in the care of historic ships, working first on HMS Warrior, before moving to HMS Victory as curator. He subsequently became Head of Historic Ships and is now Deputy Executive Director of Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).

Since joining NMRN, Andrew has guided HMS Victory through one of the most challenging periods in her conservation history.  Working alongside the HMS Victory Technical Committee, Andrew initiated a radical new system of hull support which involved the careful removal of the 1922 cradle and the installation of 134 steel props fitted with load cells to monitor any future movement of the structure.  This work concluded earlier this year and formed the first phase of stabilisation in what is a long and complex programme of conservation, undertaken entirely on Andrew’s watch.

He established the UK’s first historic ship team within the National Museum of the Royal Navy, balancing this against his all-consuming work with

HMS Victory.  As a result, his team were required to support other Navy ships under the care of NMRN, including those at widespread UK sites.

Andrew’s commitment, drive and level of input has far exceeded that which might be expected from an individual in his role and, despite the pressure of his increasing workload, he has been praised by all those who have worked closely with him for his ceaseless dedication to the vessels under his care.

2020: Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards MBE is a traditional boat builder of Thames craft, particularly skiffs, but also because of his Cornish origins he has built up a considerable expertise in the construction of Pilot Gigs. His knowledge of all types of Thames craft and their origins and development is second to none as is his knowledge of related customs and traditions.

In 2002 he designed and built an eight-oared shallop, The Jubilant, to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and also in that year built a replica 17th century wooded submarine, designed by Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbell, which was successfully tested underwater with two rowers.  In 2004 he built two replicas of the original boats used in the 1829 Boat Race which were races by the present day university crews over the original course at Henley. In 2011-12 he designed and built the 94 foot long Gloriana, a rowing barge powered by eighteen oarsmen as the lead ship in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

Mark’s conservation work covers a wide range of powered and unpowered craft and, in addition, he has given employment and training in boat-building skills to a large number of young people, many of whom have come from difficult backgrounds.

2019: Dr Matthew Tanner

Matthew Tanner is the Chief Executive of the ss Great Britain Trust and was originally appointed as Curator in July 1997. He has not only achieved remarkable results over the years but has demonstrated dedication in the preservation and restoration of the actual SS Great Britain .  He has set new worldwide standards in the conservation of historic ships and also in the scientific approach or interpretation of ships themselves.

Dr Matthew Tanner (L) thanking Professor Richard Harding

Much of the scientific and historical research he has instigated has been published and he has also formed a partnership and collaboration between the Trust and the University of Bristol which lead to the creation of the Brunel Institute in 2010.  He was awarded the MBE for ‘services to maritime conservation’ in 2007 and the Trust itself has been the recipient of numerous awards over the past fifteen years e.g. UK Museum of the Year and the Micheletti Prize for European Industrial and Scientific Museum of the year.

Although Matthew’s original focus was the conservation of the Great Britain itself he has broadened the scope of the Trust to set the ship in a wider context.  This work incorporates not only Brunel, and his work generally, but also the maritime history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  He has recently initiated plans to incorporate and restore the adjacent Albion dry-dock, thus bringing ship building and repair back to the heart of Bristol.

This award could be seen as a double celebration in some ways.  Not only does it recognise Matthew’s exceptional dedication and achievements in maritime conservation that relate to the Great Britain but it also reminds us of the link between the Society and the ss Great Britain Trust. The Society and individual members of it, such as Ewan Corlett, contributed much time and effort to save this unique ship  half a century ago and it is now marvellous to see what has been achieved during the past 20 years under Matthew’s leadership and guidance.


2018: Captain George Hogg RN Rtd.

George has strong Cornish maritime roots, as his great grandfather was a shipbuilder at Feock.  He served in the Royal Navy for 37 years, undertaking amongst many roles that of Naval Attaché to states in South America.  A keen maritime historian, George then became the Honorary Curator of the Cornwall Maritime Museum from 1993 until the creation of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in 1998 where he was one of the first trustees.  Much of his time since has been spent developing the Cornwall Galleries and the Bartlett Library, which is now a valuable maritime archive.  He was also responsible for the creation of the Yacht Design Data

Capt George Hogg (L) thanking Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton

base, which is a unique index of boat plans compiled from 18 different yachting magazines dating back to 1891.

As the initiator and founder of the National Small Boat Register he worked tirelessly in a voluntary capacity to document and record the UK’s small craft.  Most recently, he single-handedly took on the task of cataloguing the EISCA boat collection, working with the auctioneers to salvage craft from the liquidators and shuttling between Scotland and the West Country to advise potential buyers.

With his wealth of knowledge about the UK’s smaller historic craft George sat on the National Historic Ships UK Registration Working Group for a number of years to help develop a new vessel assessment framework.  His level of commitment and personal dedication to the world of historic ships is second to none and his often timely interventions have, in many cases, been directly responsible for saving and conserving significant collections or individual craft that would otherwise have been lost.


2017: Martyn Heighton.

Posthumously, for his all too brief life-time work in conserving historic vessels.

The Committee wrote:

Martyn Heighton was awarded the Victory Medal posthumously for his all too brief life-time of work in conserving historic vessels.  From commissioning the replica caravel Matthew, to the Mary Rose Trust, the ss Great Britain project in Bristol, the long term future of the clipper City of Adelaide, and the new steamboat museum on Lake Windermere, his involvements were many and varied.  Throughout, his work with the technical committee of HMS Victory ensured the the highest standards of conservation and restoration.  National Historic Ships UK is now the centre and guardian of our national historic fleet of vessels. Historic ships world-wide will benefit from the book Conserving Historic Vessels. 

Previous Winners

  • 2017 – Martyn Heighton, posthumously, for his all too brief life-time work in conserving historic vessels.
  • 2015 John Kearon, Master Shipwright and Historic Vessel Conservator. Presented by Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton for services to ship preservation.
  • 2014 Tim Parr, He was one of the founding directors of the Cornish Maritime Trust. Presented by Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton for services to ship preservation.
  • 2013 Dr Tony Bravery. Presented by VA David Steel in recognition of the knowledge of timber that Dr Bravery has brought to the conservation of HMS Victory
  • 2012 Malcolm McKeand. Presented by Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton made in respect of Mr McKeand’s exceptional reconstruction of the Bristol Pilot Cutter Kindly Light
  • 2011 Captain David T Smith, Mr Les Gilfoyle [medals], Mrs Jackie Stevenson [on behalf of her late husband], Mr Keith Johnson. Presented by Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton for the exceptional restoration of HMS Trincomalee
  • 2010 Mr Peter Goodwin curator of HMS Victory. Presented by Commodore Bob Thompson RN
  • 2004 Michael Rudd
  • 2002 Mr Dineen, Mr Round and Paul Marsh, all Naval Dockyard Staff
  • 1999 Raymond Caruana, Professional Technology Officer (MoD), for outstanding work in the preservation and restoration of HMS Victory.
  • 1992 Mr Chris Giffen, for serving eight years as project manager for maintaining and rebuilding HMS Victory