A RESCUE mission volunteer from Redditch has helped bring hundreds of stranded and scared Brits home from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Cuba.

Jack Hands, 29, was part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s rapid deployment team mission to bring home more than 600 passengers on the ship off the coast of the Latin American island.

The liner, a Fred Olsen ship named the Braemar, had been left in limbo and not allowed to dock after a number of its near-700 contingent showed symptoms and/or tested positive for Covid-19.

Eventually, UK and Cuban officials reached an agreement for the ship to dock in the Cuban capital city Havana so passengers could fly out of José Martí International Airport on four specially organised repatriation flights.

“The passengers had been through a very stressful ordeal, not knowing if and when they could get home,” said Jack, a former head boy at Kingsley College, now Tudor Grange Academy.

“I heard a few local accents on board, which is always good to hear! The passengers were remarkably resilient and the ordeal had certainly not dampened the sense of humour.

“On board, one passenger told me how at one point they thought they may be stranded forever and was thankful they held a British passport.”

Jack, who now lives in London but whose family still live in Redditch, flew out in advance to assist with the preparation to ensure there were no issues at the port and airport.

He helped deliver essential medical supplies to the ship, gave advice to passengers and worked with the Cuban authorities to ensure the logistics were in place for the flights to run smoothly.

Jack then flew back with the passengers as they returned to the UK to check on the health and wellbeing of those on board.

He added: “It was a great feeling to see the relief on the passengers when they noticed those of us wearing our uniform with the red, white and blue of the Union Jack on it.

“I hope it gave reassurance to know their Government was there for them in a time of need and get them back home.”

The Foreign Office’s Rapid Deployment Team was established after the 2002 Bali bombings and are always on call to help deal with crises affecting British nationals around the world.

Volunteers like Jack are given extensive training by the Foreign Office and are on standby each week, deploying in under 24 hours to assist a local team in an emergency.

“Personally, the opportunity to serve and help Brits overseas is always with pleasure,” added Jack.

“It’s not always easy, leaving my partner and family behind but to know fellow Brits including a few people from Redditch may have benefitted is the reason I do this job.”