Air Commodore Nick Hay was presented with a CBE from King Charles at Windsor Castle on 11 July in the presence of his family, and at the end of almost 35 years’ service in the Royal Air Force.
Nick finished his career as the Commander of the Royal Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force and received the award in recognition of being the leading figure behind delivering the UK’s Defence and Security ISTAR objectives.
He previously held other roles, including in UK Strategic Command (as a proponent for Joint Warfare Development and the Head of Capability Development for Command, Control, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities) and as the penultimate Commanding Officer of the Expeditionary Air Wing based in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan during 2014.
I was humbled to receive this personal honour, but it was undoubtedly a team game. For almost 35 years, I worked alongside thousands of determined, selfless and amazing people in Defence, whilst my family supported me unstintingly throughout. I witnessed many overcome hardship, professional and personal adversity along the way and the response of all those in the ISTAR Force over the past 4 years (2018-22) deserves special mention – they were the first in the skies and on the ground to provide senior politicians and commanders with a detailed understanding of Russia’s capabilities and intent to invade Ukraine and they continue to perform superbly today. Their actions are best described as committed, remarkable and inspirational.
My time at Brighton College taught me much and undoubtedly laid the foundations for a long career in service of my country. It was here that I learnt you could achieve almost anything if you put your heart and soul into aiming high, be that in the classroom, on the sports fields and even, despite my mediocre singing and acting abilities, on the occasional stage. It was here that I learnt about testing oneself, to listen to those whose passion was to teach and coach, the importance of challenge, tenacity, compassion, and teamwork.
Bill Blackshaw was mine and my wife, Carol’s, headmaster and he made a lasting impression – I was privileged to have known him, to have been mentored by him (even though I did not know it was happening) and it was an honour for Carol and I to be able to attend his remembrance service. There were many others on the staff, in my Boarding House and year group who also made lasting impressions (it would take too long to name them all but most were at Bill’s remembrance service), whilst an unknown benefactor helped my parents fund an education, a cricket tour to Pakistan, and a life experience that I will never forget. Since school, I have been extremely fortunate to have been supported unstintingly by Carol, my three children and an extended family who put up with many years of separated service whilst oft giving me the benefit of the doubt, encouragement and support that enabled me to serve a country that I dearly love.
Right will prevail. Per ardua ad Astra.
Air Commodore (Retired) Nick Hay CBE