Naval captain returns to Great Ballard for prize-giving

Former pupil Captain Nick Cooke-Priest returns to Great Ballard for speech day
Former pupil Captain Nick Cooke-Priest returns to Great Ballard for speech day

Nick Cooke-Priest, captain of HMS Bulwark, returned to Great Ballard School for the annual speech day.

As a former pupil of the school in the 1980s, he was delighted to accept the invitation to address this year’s pupils, parents and teachers and present prizes to children for sporting, academic and personal achievements.

Before the prize-giving, Captain and Mrs Cook-Priest took a tour of the school and met some of the pupils, including Margaux, the head of school.

During his address to the children, Captain Cooke-Priest talked about his days at Great Ballard, which he looked back on with great fondness.

He explained how many of his experiences as a full boarder at the school had helped to mould his character, which had undoubtedly enabled him to thrive in his chosen naval career.

He said he developed an appreciation of the importance of teamwork, taking responsibility for your actions, and being a good role model prepared to make the right decision, even if it was not necessarily the easy one to make.

Captain Cooke-Priest congratulated all the children on their successes over the last year and encouraged them to make the most of all the opportunities available at Great Ballard.

The Cooke-Priest Cup for making an outstanding contribution to school life was awarded to Saoirse Osborne.

Mr Evans congratulated all the pupils for their hard work and thanked Captain Cooke-Priest for returning to Great Ballard after more than 30 years.

As a pupil at Great Ballard, Captain Cooke-Priest was a keen sportsman, and Richard Evans, the current head teacher, talked about some of his successes at cricket, billiards and triathlons, winning various competitions back in 1983, as well as being captain of the football team.

Mr Evans then highlighted Captain Cooke-Priest’s successes since leaving Great Ballard.

He joined the Navy in 1990 and trained at Dartmouth, specialising as a Lynx helicopter observer. He was then deployed throughout the world, serving on various ships.

He was promoted to commander in 2009 and in July 2014, he was selected for promotion to captain, assuming command of the fleet flagship, HMS Bulwark, based in Devonport, Plymouth, on January 20, 2015. He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List.

Last summer, Captain Cooke-Priest was at the helm of HMS Bulwark during a huge humanitarian operation in the Mediterranean, rescuing more than 3,000 desperate people fleeing Syria and Africa.

He was interviewed during the BBC Remembrance Service at the Royal Albert Hall last year about the experiences of the migrant search and rescue missions.

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