Community stalwart who led national effort to help navy veterans during pandemic receives BEM
- Credit: Geoffrey Apperley
A naval welfare officer, who rose to the challenge of leading efforts in supporting members nationally during the pandemic, has been awarded a British Empire Medal in The Queen's Birthday Honours.
Geoffrey Apperley - from Melbourn - has been welfare officer at the Royston Royal Naval Association branch for 15 years, but began volunteering in the role of deputy national welfare advisor in 2019.
When the paid welfare support officer left a fortnight before lockdown in March 2020 and Mr Apperley stepped up to coordinate the national strategy during a global pandemic.
Through his leadership, the RNA established a welfare network to contact 10k+ members individually to ensure that they had a personalised support system in place - as many were in the at risk category of COVID.
Mr Apperley led that effort, firing out numerous notes, including advice on surviving isolation, mental health, cyber security, how to Zoom, financial tips and much more.
He also offered bereavement support at a time when numbers for funerals were heavily restricted.
The success of his endeavours went beyond the RNA and he was asked to share his work across the Merchant Navy Association and the Conference of Naval Associations potentially reaching another 15 to 20 thousand personnel.
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Speaking about his British Empire Medal, the 72-year-old said: "I was truly surprised and delighted to have been awarded a BEM and I am really humbled by this recognition and nomination by RNA.
"I am proud that I was able to help so many members throughout the pandemic and that will continue. I would like to thank all of my colleagues in the Royal Naval Association community and in Central Office for their continued support and our joint development of better welfare support to shipmates.
"The hardest part about nomination was being told not to say anything to family or friends until final confirmation so when I told my partner Susie, family and friends it was as much a surprise to them as it was to me originally.
"However, all were absolutely delighted for me and considered it so well deserved - word spread around with many congratulations via Facebook and in the family WhatsApp group.
"Celebrations are muted by COVID constraints but I will have to celebrate later as this week. I will also celebrate later with RNA members."
Mr Apperley has lived in the Royston area since since 1978. His career saw him work in the pharmaceutical industry for GlaxoSmithKline, the NHS and latterly as a project and contract consultant until retirement following a heart attack.
During those careers, he was an active reservist in the Armed Forces, serving at home and abroad.
Mr Apperley is a stalwart of the Royston community. As well as being a member of the Royston Royal Naval Association Branch, he has been a Royston Royal British Legion Branch and Club in Mill Road member for more than 25 years.
He said: "I have served and continue to serve in the local Royston RNA Branch as welfare officer and until recently in the wider RNA No 6 Area as Area Welfare Officer until taking on the role of No 6 area secretary which continues. In the Royston RBL Club, I have served as a management committee member and in recent years as treasurer, secretary and currently chairman.
"I am also a member of many years of Royston and District Model Railway Club whose annual exhibitions at Bassingbourn Village College are well attended and newly joined member of Probus, a local group for retired business people.
Mr Apperley has now been appointed RNA's national welfare advisor.
The Royal Naval Association is the biggest collective group of Royal Naval veterans and serving personnel.
It provides those with a link to the Royal Navy access to a life-long community of like-minded and supportive individuals.
The RNA community provides companionship, resilience, comradeship and unity to anyone and everyone with a Naval story or interest, supporting them through life's highs and lows.
For more information on the RNA, go to royal-naval-association.co.uk.