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Community heroes and pioneering Essex experts recognised in Queen’s New Years Honours list

Ray Banks, who has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Tiptree. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ray Banks, who has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Tiptree. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Trailblazing security specialists, long-serving community stalwarts and civil servants dedicated to improving the lives of children in Essex have made it onto the Queen’s New Years Honours list.

Sonia Lewis, an ex-council chairman and former mayor, is being recognised with a British Empire Medal. Picture: GREGG BROWNSonia Lewis, an ex-council chairman and former mayor, is being recognised with a British Empire Medal. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Pioneering experts, including those defending Britain on the front line from global threats, are being honoured by Her Majesty with OBEs, MBEs and British Empire Medals (BEMs) alongside individuals devoted to their communities.

Colchester’s 16 Air Assault Brigade coordinator Carol Browne is being made an MBE for services to army personnel, while Susan Lancioni, customer insight and analysis lead at HM Revenue and Customs, is being made an OBE for services to the UK and global nuclear security.

Executive director for social care at Essex County Council Dave Hill is being honoured with a CBE for services to children’s social care.

His department have been praised for turning around prospects for children in Essex in a short space of time.

Mr Hill said: “It is surprising and humbling to be honoured with a CBE.

“We have managed to turn around education and social care in Essex from being inadequate to outstanding in a short space of time, which we are very proud of.

Graham Wadley, who is being honoured with a British Empire Medal for services to church music. Picture: LUCY WADLEYGraham Wadley, who is being honoured with a British Empire Medal for services to church music. Picture: LUCY WADLEY

“It is a wonderful thing to be recognised for the professional contribution you’ve made and the positive impact you’ve had on the careers and lives of others.

“It was certainly an emotional moment for myself and my family when the letter telling me the news arrived, and one I’ll never forget.”

Ramon ‘Ray’ Banks, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Tiptree, has spent three decades performing life-saving actions through his work in the Heartwatch team, as well as inspiring youngsters as president of the town’s amateur dramatic society. He said: “I feel proud and honoured.

“It has been really hard keeping it a secret for so long, we were told in November.

“I am a verger at the church, and have been president of the Tiptree Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS) and during my time there we won several awards.

“We moved here in 1987 so I’ve been doing quite a bit in the community for 30 years.

Executive director for social care and education Dave Hill. Picture: ESSEX COUNTY COUNCILExecutive director for social care and education Dave Hill. Picture: ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL

“I was also involved in the Heartwatch team for Tiptree as it was called then in the first responders team but I stopped when I had my own heart bypass surgery procedure.

The 78-year-old added: “It came as a bolt of the blue but I’m delighted to be awarded this.”

Graham Wadley, from Wivenhoe, is also set to receive a British Empire Medal for services to church music.

“It was quite a surprise, quite thrilling to get an honour like that,” he said.

“I’ve had to keep quiet since the middle of November when we got told and that’s been really quite hard. It’s been given to me for services to church music – I have been director of music at St Mary’s Church for around 40 years now.

“I lead the St Mary’s seniors, and have been playing the organ at the church in Wivenhoe for almost 50 years I think.

Sonia Lewis, who receives the BEM for services to the community in Colchester.  Picture: ARCHANTSonia Lewis, who receives the BEM for services to the community in Colchester. Picture: ARCHANT

He added: “On a more national level I was a trustee at the Royal Society of Church Music for eight years up until last year.

“I was delighted to hear I was getting the honour and I am so pleased, as were my family.”

Robert Long, honoured with an MBE for services to the community in Maldon, said the recognition is a highlight of a long life.

He added: “I am overwhelmed and honoured that many people have remembered me from my officer and councillor days.”

Also on the list is Alison Lewis, from Colchester, who is being made an MBE for public service in her role as site lead for HM Revenue and Customs.

Shirley Wells, from Clacton,is set to receive a British Empire Medal for her work with young people. Sarah McNamara is also being honoured with a BEM for services to the community in Terling, near Braintree.

Claire Elizabeth Batt is being made an MBE for services to the Ministry of Defence Police, in her role as welfare officer at the Defence Police Federation.

Meanwhile Essex-based Gail Crouchman, senior officer at Border Force, is also being honoured with the MBE title for services to border security and the prevention of modern slavery.

And Linda Ransom, of Writtle near Chelmsford, is also being made an MBE for services to the community across Essex and in east London.

Former Colchester mayor: “I am so very honoured”

Ex-mayor Sonia Lewis’ contribution to the community is being recognised in the Queen’s New Years Honours List with a British Empire Medal.

The former Colchester council chairman famously picked 15 charities during her term as mayor, with her two main causes benefitting to the tune of £5,000 each.

Over the years she has supported a wealth of community projects and charity organisations, including the League of Hospital Friends, St Helena Hospice, the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and Riding for the Disabled based in Great Bromley.

Now in her 80s, Mrs Lewis said she is delighted to be recognised in this way.

But she added: “I am so very honoured to receive this.

“But really I am accepting it on behalf of the volunteering community in Colchester, because without them and the charities they have set up none of this would have been possible at all.

“I still help out where I can and it is great to see how far organisations have come since I began volunteering many years ago now.

“The time I spent as mayor between 2010 and 2011 meant I was able to help the charities I chose.

“I picked 15 because all of them applied and I could not possibly choose.

“It’s been a great journey and I am truly shocked by such recognition.”


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