May 2012 Farewell to shipmate AEWS Ben Revell
By LT CDR ANGE BARKER
Within one week in May, the family of Able Electronic Warfare Specialist Ben Revell had officially welcomed their newest member through a baptism ceremony onboard HMNZS TE MANA, and then sadly had to farewell the man himself, who had fought hard to ensure he could see his baby daughter baptised on the ship that had meant so much to him.
Early last year, at the tragically young age of 26, AEWS Revell was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. The terminal diagnosis, which directly affects muscle control, did not deter his positivity and he continued to focus on the joys of living. In July of last year Ben married his partner Malia and then, accompanied by his entire family, took a “bucket list” trip around Australia, ticking off all the things he thought he would never do.
Throughout this time it became clear to all that AEWS Revell was most definitely a fighter, and possibly his biggest display of courage was saved until the end of his young life, when he managed (against medical predictions) to see the birth of his baby daughter earlier this year. This was then followed by his insistence to see the baptism occur onboard TE MANA. Sadly, only hours after having his wish fulfilled, Ben passed away surrounded by family and friends at North Shore Hospital.
The strength and courage it must have taken Ben to ensure he was a part of the baptism celebrations cannot be underestimated, and as he now rests in peace the family are extremely grateful that he was able to experience his wish to have his baby baptised on the ship he served most of his sea time on.
On Friday 11 May, one week after the baptism on TE MANA the Revell family returned to Devonport Naval Base to farewell their husband, son, brother and friend. The funeral service for AEWS Revell, with full ceremonial honours, took place at St Christopher’s Chapel where nearly 400 mourners gathered to celebrate the life of the young sailor. Speakers at the funeral commented on his love of the armed forces and how important being in the Navy had been to him.
The most moving tribute came from Ben’s wife Malia who firstly called upon mourners to take a minute to themselves and reflect on their own personal memory of Ben. Malia then made a tribute to her husband that was reminiscent of his own levels of courage. “Four years is not long enough,” she said in a soft voice. “I thank you for giving me the precious gift of our daughter. She is three months old today”.
Following the funeral service, AEWS Revell was carried from the chapel by six of his closest Navy friends. The New Zealand White Ensign on his casket was folded by these pall bearers and presented to his widow by WOMM Mick O’Carroll. What followed was a military farewell that Ben would have been proud to receive: A firing party of 14 personnel fired three volleys in the air over his casket; he was then driven for the final time around the base, through streets lined with sailors who saluted as he passed. The final tributes involved the flypast of a Seasprite helicopter and a rousing haka which moved most of the mourners to tears as he was driven from the base for the final time.
The Revell family have been overwhelmed by the support provided to both Ben and the family themselves by the Navy community. This support has both encouraged and enlightened them during an extremely difficult time and they wish to express their sincerest thanks to all those who have contributed in many different ways.
• Motor Neurone Disease affects the muscles of the body including those that control speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. It usually strikes between the ages of 50 and 70, so it is rare that Ben suffered from this condition at such a young age, and in particular how quickly his symptoms progressed.
Donations for Baby Luisa are welcome through the Westpac Account RNZN Ben Revell Fundraiser 03-1514-0408067-000