THE ‘breath-taking’ response from armed forces and police officers in the county has been praised after their part in relief operations in the Caribbean.

More than 70 personnel plus five Thames Valley Police officers - including Barton neighbourhood officer Sgt David Keith (pictured) - have been deployed to join efforts on the frontline distributing aid following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

The violent storm has affected thousands including British nationals over the past week and devastated overseas territories, including the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.

As part of the UK’s emergency response, Operation RUMAN saw the RAF Benson’s Support Helicopter Task Force (SH TF) and the RAF Puma Force deployed at ‘extremely short notice’.

Detachment Commander of the RAF Benson team, Wing Commander Andy Baron said: “This is an incredibly rewarding deployment for my team who are here to help the people of the British Virgin Islands get back on their feet after the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

“The support provide from RAF Benson and the speed with which my team was able to assemble and deploy has been breath-taking.”

The Category 5 hurricane killed 35 people when it barrelled through the Caribbean and continued its destruction in Florida, taking another six lives.

Millions of homes have been shattered and city streets left underwater.

The team from both RAF Benson and Odiham, helping to provide hurricane relief, were flown over in three Puma helicopters to the British Virgin Islands within four days on Monday.

The 33 Squadron, based at RAF Benson, landed on the beach of Cane Garden Bay as part of the efforts to deliver essential aid to residents.

RAF Brize Norton has also been helping with the logistics of the delivery of military personnel and aid cargo to the Caribbean

Ranks from 40 Commando Royal Marines have been facilitating the delivery of crucial aid allowing for multiple Puma helicopters to assist communities in the West End, East End and the bay.

Leading photographer Joel Rouse, 30 Commando Combat Camera Team, was there to capture the moment. He said: “Although I was there as a photographer, the opportunity to step aside from this role and help give out these supplies was humbling.

“I can see how much of a difference our guys are making and it’s nice to be part of that.”

Five Thames Valley Police officers are among more than 50 British police officers in the British Virgin Islands helping with the recovery.

Chief Constable Francis Habgood said: “Getting great feedback about the team already, they are working in difficult circumstances.”