Photographer with CHF wins top award
A Royal Navy sailor from Steeple Morden near Cambridge who took a stunning image of the Commando Helicopter Force on exercise in Norway has won a prestigious photographic award
Petty Officer Julian “Mez” Merrill, 42, took the photograph of the Merlin helicopter hovering in snowy conditions while on a cold-weather training exercise in northern Norway earlier this year.
He put forward the image to the annual Peregrine Trophy awards – and has today been chosen as the winner of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Air Prize category.
Mez, who joined the Royal Navy in 1987 as a junior seaman operator, transferred to the elite photographic branch in 2000 and currently works with Commando Helicopter Force at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the RN Maritime Air Prize Image award – it means a lot to me to have my work recognised in this way. I have a real passion for photography and working alongside CHF gives me a unique opportunity to take images across the world in unusual locations.”
The annual Peregrine Trophy awards are designed to recognise excellence among both the professional Royal Navy and Royal Marine photographers and amateurs. This year the awards were held at the Royal College of Art in London – with the winners congratulated by the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas.
With just 10 professional categories, a student award and three amateur classes – the competition is very fierce and is whittled down by an expert panel of judges. These were Matthew Fearn, Picture Editor at the Daily Telegraph, Professor Naren Barfield of the Royal College of Art, Anthony Massey and Kathy Andrews of BBC World Service and Neil Hall, MOD Picture Editor.
According to their judgements, Mez’s image was chosen for its “good composition” and for being a powerful image showing the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in action.
Head of the Royal Navy Photographic Branch Captain Ian Stidston said: “It has been a fantastic competition and one that has demonstrated the exceptional talent and professionalism of the men and women of the Navy’s photographic branch – and also of those amateurs who have captured some outstanding imagery.
“The standard of the images displayed here today are testament to the diversity and adaptability of our people and clearly demonstrate dedication to both their art and their Service.
“I could not be more proud of the way the photographers have managed to capture still and moving images that clearly tell the story of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and the range of operations on which we deploy.”
Mez joined HMS Cleopatra as a Seamen Operator (Missile) in October of 1987 before going on to serve on the Type-22 Frigates HMS Battleaxe and HMS London and the fishery protections vessel HMS Dumbarton Castle conducting various operational deployments across the world.
In 1993 he then joined the staff of the Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland (SNONI) based in Moscow Camp Belfast Northern Ireland, where he spent the next seven years working with various Operational Forces including the Royal Marines and Army.
In October of 2000 Mez underwent his photographic training after which he was based at the Faslane Naval base, before being attached to 12 Mechanized Brigade based in Pristina Kosovo. After a successful tour of the former Yugoslavia, Mez returned to Scotland for a further 18 months before joining the Antarctic survey vessel HMS Endurance. His period onboard the ship saw him undertake two operational deployments to the Antarctic as well as Endurance’s role as flagship to Her Majesty the Queen during the Trafalgar 200 celebrations.
After Qualification for Petty Officer (Photographer) in 2007, Mez went back to Scotland to take charge of Periscope Photography Development & Training for two years, followed by two years working for the Directorate of Media Communications (Navy) based within the Ministry of Defence in London.
At present Mez has spent the last 24 months working with Commando Helicopter Force based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset and his recent work has seen him deployed on Operation Herrick 14 and 17 in Afghanistan as well as spending the first 2 months of 2013 at the Joint Helicopter Commando Arctic Training base Bardufoss Norway.