Sailor will miss Christmas at home after responding to Philippines relief effort

St Helens Star: Lee Topping Lee Topping

A ROYAL Navy sailor will miss Christmas at home this year after travelling to the Philippines to assist with humanitarian aid following the Typhoon Haiyan disaster.

Lee Topping, 23, is onboard HMS Illustrious, the UK’s last remaining Invincible class Aircraft carrier serving as a member of the Warfare Department.

The ship had initially been due to return to British shores in time for Christmas, allowing Lee to return home to see his parents Sean and Sue and girlfriend, Claire Ward.

However, following the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan earlier this month, the ship’s plan has changed as it was tasked to make its way to the Philippines.

On its way to the devastated islands, the ship passed through the Malacca Straits, one of the busiest sea lanes in the world with its the narrow est point just 1.7 miles, making Lee’s role in maintaining the RADAR even more crucial.

Lee, a former break-dance teacher and youth worker, joined the Royal Navy in 2012 and has served on HMS Illustrious for the past several months.

And the former St Edmund Arrowsmith pupil has been looking forward to the unexpected extension to his service.

Lee, from St Helens, said: “As our deployment was coming to an end off the Horn of Africa I felt happy I was going home to see my family and girlfriend after four months away on my first deployment.

“But when the captain announced we were being extended to help in the Philippines, I had a real sense of excitement.

“I rang home to tell the family and I can honestly say I had a huge rush of pride.

“It’s going to be very hard work and long days, but, as a member of HMS Illustrious, I can’t wait to get stuck in.”


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