A GLOBETROTTING serviceman has surprised his mother with a very special birthday gift.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Artificer Sgt Maj John Richard Lewis, 39, of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), who was born in St Asaph, has been appointed an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

His mum, Christine Evans, said “It’s my birthday on December 27, so John sat us all down and told me he had a special Christmas and birthday present for me. We all exploded when he told us.”

John said: “I was very very surprised. Nobody was more shocked than me. But I had to wait as I was sworn to secrecy by the Major General.

“I still haven’t seen the citation for the award yet – so I still don’t know what it’s for, but I like to look at it as a team effort.

“One of the highlights of my career has been the people, and all the faces that have been with me in the good times and with me through the bad.”

During his career, John has received honours degrees in both electronics and electrical engineering from the University of Reading and became one of the youngest of his rank in REME history, passing the course early at 34.

John spent the first five years of his life in Abergele before moving to Llandaniel with his mother and siblings Jennifer and James.

He was educated at Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge, where he became a member of RAF Mona Air Cadets

Despite originally intending to join the Royal Air Force, at 17 he enlisted at the Army Apprentice School in Arborfield under the recommendation of his ex-serviceman grandfather, Edward Watt, leading to career that has seen him travel the world to provide his expertise in radar and ordinance.

Mr Watt said: “Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia... wherever there has been trouble, John has been there – even some places you haven’t heard of.”

John added:“I’ve been to some of the most remote places you can imagine, including Ascension Island and the Falklands in the south Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

“Kenya is one of my most memorable postings. On a mini-safari we spotted what we thought might have been the tail of elephant through the trees and drove through to find out a whole family of them. We made sure to take plenty of photos before we got out of there.

“But even though watching the sunrise over the Himalayas was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life, it’s not a patch on Snowdonia.”

John plans to serve out the last 10 months of his army career and then return to North Wales to start an engineering business.