TWO Herefordshire business bosses are among the recipients in this year's New Year Honours list.

Nationally, celebrities such as Queen guitarist Brian May and artist Grayson Perry have been knighted, but there was recognition for people in Herefordshire, too.

Among those is Gavin James who has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Ledbury, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For 50 years he worked at The Helping Hand Company, in Bromyard Road, which makes homecare products and aids for daily living, such as grabbers.


When the Covid pandemic hit, the now 72-year-old wanted to give something back to the community so helped out when he could.

That included installing a new kitchen at Bromsberrow Community Kitchen and donations to food banks in Ledbury and Hereford.

Elsewhere, Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Mark Smith has also been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Hereford during Covid-19.

The 52-year-old had been in the forces, but then set up Level Peaks.

The company helped people through Covid, including sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) for Kington Medical Practice, but day-to-day carries out a variety of activities.

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The company not only supplies outdoor clothing and equipment but works with police, maritime, air and land forces.

Level Peaks says on its website that it supplies world-class systems to the Ministry of Defence, police forces, a range of NATO military forces and specialists who demand the best capability.

It said it supplies tactical capabilities ranging from polymer rifle magazines and fully scalable integrated combat clothing systems to unmanned air systems and advanced rockets systems and multiple international and government agencies trust the firm to supply capability that works, on time and on budget.


The third Herefordshire recipient of a British Empire Medal in this year's list is Clare Donegan, a military artist from Leominster.

She has been recognised for services to art.

After taking voluntary redundancy from Shropshire Council, she moved into art full-time and has worked with

She qualified from Falmouth College of Art in 1995 in general illustration and has become a multi-award-winning, internationally-recognised military and animal portrait artist.

She said she  has enjoyed remarkable success creating bespoke Rolls of Honour for the Armed Forces in the UK and other countries around the world.

Each individual unique piece of art is handcrafted and is also ideal for commercial and sporting organisations wishing to commemorate prestigious events.

Her pieces have included work for Nick Mason of the band Pink Floyd, The Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Nationally, others to receive knighthoods include politicians who proved to be thorns in the side of Boris Johnson, including Conservative Julian Lewis, chairman of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), and Labour’s Chris Bryant, who chairs the Commons Standards Committee.

There is also a prestigious honour for former Treasury permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar, who becomes a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath having been summarily sacked by short-lived prime minister Liz Truss on her first day in office.

Elsewhere in sport, Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis, now the president of Commonwealth Games England, is made a dame, while in showbiz, actor Stephen Graham is made an OBE and comedian Frank Skinner an MBE.

Former royal aide Jason Knauf, who made a bullying complaint against the Duchess of Sussex, is among those appointed to the Royal Victorian Order (RVO), honours which are in the King’s gift and bestowed independently of Downing Street to people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way.

Senior diplomats at the forefront of the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine have been included in the mix with damehoods for Melinda Simmons, ambassador in Kyiv, and Deborah Bronnert, ambassador in Moscow.

Others who worked on the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion have also been recognised, including Dr Paul Ransom, an emergency consultant, as well as Louenna Hood, a nanny from Cambridgeshire, who organised container loads of essentials to go directly to those fleeing the war-torn country.