MBE for Sully man who helped co-ordinate evacuation of ex-pats from Libya
A SULLY man who played an instrumental role in the safe evacuation of British citizens from Libya during last year’s civil unrest, has been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Richard Weeks was awarded an MBE in the June list, for ‘Services to the British Community in Benghazi’.
Consular warden for the British Embassy in second-city Benghazi, he was recognised for his work co-ordinating the evacuation of British ex-patriots from Libya aboard HMS Cumberland, after civil unrest broke out in February 2011.
He was the main point of contact in Benghazi for the embassy in Libyan capital Tripoli, as demonstrations against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime got out of hand.
Speaking to the Penarth Times shortly after arriving home in February last year, he said it was a ‘scary time’.
“As an ex-patriot community we didn’t feel directly threatened at first, despite the fact that heavy gunfire was around us, because the Libyan people have always been very kind to us,” he said at the time.
“But over the coming days, looters became a threat and when they infiltrated our base, brandishing knives and demanding valuables, the situation became more real and more serious.”
The 66-year-old has worked in Libya as a contract manager on the Great Man-Made River Project for more than 20 years.
He has also been a governor for the British School of Benghazi, which provides a British curriculum education to wealthier Libyan children, for more than ten years.
Two weeks out of every ten are spent at his home in Smithies Avenue, with the rest of the time in Libya.
“It is a very interesting place,” he said, speaking to the Penarth Times this week.
“The beaches are fantastic, the climate is wonderful and the Libyan people are very easy to get on with, so while I spend large amounts of time away from my family, it’s not such a bad place to be.”
And he said the MBE was ‘a very unexpected but welcome surprise’.
“I think it was the evacuation operation last year, during the unrest, which tipped the balance in my favour!” he said.
The father-of two, who was born and bred in Sully and attended Sully County Primary School, was named on the Diplomatic Service, Overseas, Military, Police and Fire honours lists, rather than the civil list.
His sister, Anne Hill said: “He is being very modest about his award and didn't want a lot of fuss, but I feel he needs some recognition for all his hard work.”
Mr Weeks will attend a ceremony to receive his award sometime in the autumn.
“There were, I believe, some other recipients of awards in Benghazi, including a number of nurses who stayed in the country during the outbreak of war, so there may well be a ceremony at the embassy there,” he added.
“I’m very much looking forward to it.”