Rugby ahoy - Navy Mark is coming home

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A CHEF who has spent the last 24 years serving in the Royal Navy - including cooking for the Queen - is preparing to settle back in Rugby.

Leading chef Mark Neal, 39, is currently serving aboard HMS Albion, flagship of the Royal Navy. He will leave the service next spring.

The 18,500 tonne assault ship is leading the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, a maritime quick reaction force consisting of ships, helicopters and Royal Marines.

Mark, who is from Hillmorton, said: “The Navy has taken me all over the world. I’m now looking forward to taking some time to play golf.”

Mark is a ‘retinue chef’ for Commodore John Kingwell who commands the UK Task Group. He cooks for VIPs and foreign dignitaries who visit the ship.

He added: “I like to think that by doing so I’m helping to strengthen the UK’s relationships around the world.”

During his time aboard, Mark has cooked for the Queen and Prince Andrew.

He said: “It was 1989 and the Queen had come to present colours to HMS Dolphin in Gosport, which is now closed but was then the Royal Navy’s submarine base. I later cooked for Prince Andrew when he came onboard the frigate HMS Brilliant.”

At the end of May the Task Group was diverted from a multi-national amphibious exercise to the Libyan coast. In an effort to increase pressure on Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, Apache helicopters from HMS Ocean were launched against selected military targets ashore, whilst HMS Albion acted as the ‘floating command platform’, from where Commodore Kingwell and his staff directed the Task Group.

In his 24 years with the Navy he has seen operational duties around the world, including Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan – racking up an impressive seven medals.

Mark’s career began in Rugby where he worked briefly at Dewhurst Butchers on Saturdays. Having attended the Rugby Sea Cadet Corps – TS Tireless – he then joined the Navy in 1988. He is now looking forward to returning to his hometown after HMS Albion has completed the remainder of its current deployment.