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Cdr Steve Thomas and Alan Richardson and his history group with the Malt Shovel trophy
Names of winner of the Malt shovel on the trophy
Chloe Phillips from the Kresen Kernow project with the Shovel
Cdr Steve Thomas briefing the group
The Devenish Malt Shovel trophy
Cdr Steve Thomas presenting Alan Richardson with a Sqn plaque


Published: 17 May 2016

Known to many aviators who have trained with the Fleet Air Arm as the ‘Shovel’; a trophy at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose was the subject of a very special visit recently on 824 Naval Air Squadron.


 Alan Richardson, who worked at Devenish brewery for over 25 years, remembers the ‘Shovel’ trophy was originally presented at RNAS Portland near Weymouth in the early 1970’s, and moved with  Anti-Submarine Warfare training when transferred to Culdrose in 1983.

“A group of us ex-employees of Devenish were sitting around reminiscing about the old days when I thought about the ‘Malt Shovel’. We wondered what had happened to it and was the Navy still using it. So I wrote to the Base and asked - tongue in cheek, “Have you got, where is it, can we have it back! Commander Steve Thomas replied, “I know exactly where it is, in my office, you can put your hands on it one day, but you aren’t having it back!”


Cdr Thomas did however, arrange for the local history group to come a see the famous ‘Malt Shovel’, which continues to be awarded to the student graduating from Merlin flying training who merits special recognition. The distinguished visitors were also treated to a personal guided tour of the Merlin facilities and got a chance to climb over one of the squadron’s Merlin 2 aircraft.


Alan continues, “Everyone from the group who come along today were absolutely fascinated by what we saw; it’s been a real honour and especially to see the Old Malt Shovel.”


Some of the visitors are currently involved in the development of the ‘Kresen Kernow’ (Cornwall Centre) project in Redruth on the site of the now demolished old Devenish brewery. It is set to be a modern archive and library space, bringing together the world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books and documents relating to Cornwall. 


The group had contacted RNAS Culdrose in an attempt to track down the Malt Shovel which could no longer be accounted for, and use it as part of the planned exhibition. However, when reunited with the ‘Shovel’, and they learned of its continued importance as an award before students graduate to Front Line service, they have kindly allowed it to remain with its current custodians at 824.


“It’s an honour to meet the friends of Devenish Brewery, and particularly reunite them, albeit temporarily, with the Malt Shovel which they had lost track of,” said Cdr Steve Thomas, Commanding Officer of 824 NAS. “I am sure their visit will solidify relations with RNAS Culdrose and those involved with the Kresen Kernow project – especially bearing in mind the long history of affiliation between the Fleet Air Arm and local breweries!”


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