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Alistair Bunkall wins top award for journalism at Maritime Media Awards 2019

Sky News’ Alistair Bunkall has scooped this year’s prestigious Desmond Wettern Award for Best Journalism.

The Sky News Defence & Security Correspondent was awarded the top award for his grasp of defence issues, his perceptive reporting on naval matters and his achievement in making complex maritime issues easily understandable to a wide audience.

Richard Clayton, Chairman of the Awards Committee said:

“Alistair has achieved what all journalists should strive for—clarity with authority. His attention to detail and his ability to put defence news into context are to be applauded.”

The Maritime Media Awards, organised by the Maritime Foundation, now in their 24th year were held at the City of London’s Drapers’ Hall on 31st October 2019. The event saw the best in maritime journalism, literature, filmmaking and digital innovation gather with 200 prominent members of the international maritime community and media to recognise the immense progress being made in raising awareness of current issues across the maritime and marine sectors.

Guest Speaker, Professor Gwythian Prins said:

“For the first time in a generation the fog of ‘sea blindness’ has lifted from the public’s eyes and in the political gales that are blowing, the Royal Navy has the weather gauge. It owes it to itself and to the Nation to use it decisively, now!”

Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry CBE warmly welcomed guests, some of whom had travelled across the Atlantic to attend the dinner. He introduced Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC, the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, to present the awards.

A Maritime Fellowship was posthumously awarded to Sir Donald Gosling who unexpectedly died in September. An incomparable benefactor to the Royal Navy, Sir Donald was also a great supporter of many maritime charities including the Maritime Foundation. A specially commissioned film tribute was screened to acknowledge his generosity, particularly the funding of the restoration of HMS Victory.

The Desmond Wettern Fleet Award was presented to Major James Lawson on behalf of 40 Commando Royal Marines for their outstanding contribution to Royal Navy media operations in the last year. Their exemplary production of video content on operations worldwide and their unique contribution to the more strategic elements of Naval communications in such extreme places as the Arctic has led the way in media proactivity.

The First Sea Lord’s Award for Best Use of Digital Media sponsored by Babcock International was awarded to the 1851 Marine Trust for their eye-catching website, inspiring students with free educational resources backed by the INEOS Team UK’s sailing team giving an exciting digital education programme both ashore and afloat. Certificate of Merits were awarded to COMLSG / 3 Commando Brigade and Adventures Offshore.

The Donald Gosling Award for Best Television or Film Production was awarded to Sean McGuire and the Below the Radar team for their BBC Four film documentary Captain Jack and the Furious Few telling the story of the courageous pilots of the world’s first air force – the Royal Naval Air Service. Windfall Films’ Great British Ships for Channel 5 was awarded a Certificate of Merit.

The Mountbatten Award for Best Book was won by Rachel Slade for Into the Raging Sea for a fine piece of original research, brilliantly written in the fast-paced style of a thriller, into the loss, with all hands, of the US container ship El Faro in a hurricane in 2015. Certificate of Merits were awarded to Ian Urbina for The Outlaw Ocean for his important, ground-breaking, and gripping account of the full spectrum of lawlessness and brutality at sea.  Professor Craig Symonds for World War II at Sea: A Global History and Christina Thompson for Sea people: In Search of the Ancient Navigators of the Pacific.

Two special awards were added to the ceremony this year; a Special Award for Technical Innovation was presented to Crispin Sadler of Mallinson Sadler Productions for the Drain the Oceans series for National Geographic.  This used innovative cutting-edge sonar technology and computer generating imagery software to present stunning images and discoveries, bringing to life stories and events that would otherwise never have seen the light of day.  A Special Award for Publishing was given in recognition of the consistently high standards of presentation that Pen & Sword Maritime and their imprint Seaforth Publishing have produced over many years.

The First Sea Lord concluded the ceremony with the annual presentation of the traditional bottle of port to the winner of the Desmond Wettern Award for Best Journalism, and speaking after receiving the Desmond Wettern Award, Alistair Bunkall said:

“I am truly honoured to receive the Desmond Wettern Award for journalism. It has been an intensive period of activity for the Royal Navy and that reflects the unstable world we currently live in and I’m sure Desmond would be leading the analysis were he still alive. Desmond’s reporting was incisive and knowledgeable. He managed to be both a supporter of the service but equally critical when he needed to be. Most importantly though, he was honest and that meant he was trusted. It is a lesson to all of us who ply a similar trade at this divisive time, and I am humbled to collect the award that bears his name.”

Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry CBE who presided at the Awards added:

“The oceans are the common heritage of humanity and the world’s primary means of access and exchange.  We need to ensure the continued freedom of the seas, and their sustainability and security, in the face of man-made threats and geopolitical adventurism.”

Notes to editors: 

  • The Maritime Media Awards were established in 1993, in memory of Desmond Wettern, former naval correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Wettern was a founder of The Maritime Foundation and its purpose to promote Britain’s interests across the entire maritime sector.
  • The Maritime Foundation’s purpose is to promote Britain’s interests across the entire maritime sector and to raise public and parliamentary awareness of the importance of Britain’s maritime industries, commerce and defence through education, training and research.
  • The Maritime Media Awards Judging Committee includes distinguished maritime professionals.
  • Details of past winners can be found at

Further information about the Maritime Foundation is available at
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