A Gravesend man will be spending Christmas aboard an aircraft carrier as he provides support to those recovering from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
Leonard Carroll, known as Lenny, is in the Philippines with the Royal Navy.
The 37-year-old former St John’s schoolboy is providing support to the humanitarian disaster relief effort following the catastrophic damage left in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
He joined the Royal Navy in 1997 and is a member of the logistics branch aboard HMS Illustrious, the UK’s last remaining Invincible class aircraft carrier.
Lenny, who served in Iraq in 2003, said: “My usual job is as an administrator in the cash office; enabling ship’s company to get access to their pay and foreign currency when we’re deployed.
“But since we arrived in the Philippines I have been helping fill and transport water bottles and making up the food parcels which will help make a difference to the families ashore. They are still in desperate need for food and we’re also improving the general area.
“Despite the devastation, you see hundreds of children still happy.
“The fact that I know my work is directly benefiting those on the ground makes me feel that much more part of everything and shows what a positive impact everyone can have.”
The ship’s company comprises about 650 men and women. There are also about 100 Royal Marines along with the crews that service and fly the helicopters. In addition there are 24 Commando Royal Engineers with specialist skills ranging from brick laying to welding.
It was only a few weeks ago that the ship’s purpose changed. Rather than heading home through Suez for Christmas, HMS Illustrious and her crew headed 4,500 miles in the opposite direction to the stricken Philippine Islands.
He continued: “I’m massively proud to be part of something really meaningful that will help those in such desperate need.
“My grandfather was in the Royal Navy and served for eight years from 1947 on HMS Diamond and Torbay and then spent time in the Merchant Navy. Unfortunately, my granddad died 20 years ago which was a few years prior to my enrolment in the Navy but I am sure he would be proud of what we’re all doing.”
The aid includes 12,500 blankets, 20,000 candles, 30,000 rice bags, 9,800 tins of sardines, 8100 tins of vegetables, 17,000 shelter kits, 1,000 jerry cans and 1900 water carriers.
Lenny’s parents Rod and Annette live in Rochester Road, Gravesend, while Lenny’s partner Alison lives in Canterbury. His sister Suzann Mason lives in Istead Rise and Lenny laments that he will miss his niece Elizabeth’s first Christmas.
He added: “Even though it will mean missing Christmas, I am still feeling really good about this opportunity to actually help. I’m lucky really because this is the first time I’ve missed Christmas. It’s like all jobs in that we miss some key events and family time but we still have Christmas onboard with a meal and decorations.”