Bus driver who went the extra mile is among the York Covid stars recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Chris Koksal who has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community during Covid-19. Photograph: Danny Lawson / PA Wire
9 Oct 2020 @ 10.30 pm
| News

A bus driver and supervisor with First York has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his NHS volunteering during the early months of lockdown.

Chris Koksal, 64, completed at least one volunteer duty every day over the two months he spent furloughed, totalling more than 80 trips to fetch shopping or collect prescriptions for elderly and disabled people in York.

His dedication and selfless commitment have been recognised with the award of a British Empire Medal.

He said: “It’s incredible. I can’t believe it. I just wanted to do something with my time on furlough and now it’s ended up with this honour.

“I had a letter three weeks ago but have had to keep it a secret. That’s not been easy.”

Chris is one of a number of selfless York residents to have received honours.

Others include former Yorkshire Air Museum director Ian Reed, nursery teacher Sarah Wilson, and master stonemason Kevin Calpin.

Sarah, a teacher at Fishergate Primary School, ran 18 miles in one day during lockdown to visit 66 pupils and keep their spirits high.

Among the famous faces to get honours, delayed this year to include people who have been instrumental in the Covid-19 effort, include footballer Marcus Rashford. He collects an MBE for his efforts in ensuring children in need received meals across the summer during the pandemic

Clocked up 750 voluntary hours

Chris with his First York bus

Chris, who works on the York Park & Ride, responded immediately to the call for NHS volunteers back in April, and was signed up and as soon as the scheme was launched. It proved to be the beginning of hundreds of hours availability and volunteering throughout the pandemic.

After a week logging on to the ‘GoodSAM’ volunteer responder app he decided to leave it ‘on’ permanently, rather than limit his time to a few slots during the day.

“I decided I might as well leave the app on as I’d go to bed but I wasn’t that tired,” recalls Chris, who has worked at First York for 22 years. “I don’t sleep much, so if they needed me to go somewhere, I’d be happy to.”

His journeys became so regular that he kept a stock of disposable gloves, wipes and sanitiser in his car, so that he was ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

His dedication to the NHS volunteering programme meant that he was available day or night to support those in need. After little more than a month from the start of the scheme he had clocked up 750 hours of volunteering time.

He was shopping so often when the Government advice was only to go out once day, that some security guards at a local supermarket became suspicious. He had to explain that he was an NHS volunteer and show his profile on the app.


Big name honours

Joe Wicks and Mr Motivator (Derrick Evans) receive MBEs for their accessible, live workouts to encourage people to stay physically and mentally fit during Covid-19.

There are damehoods for food writer and broadcaster Mary Berry and actress Maureen Lipman, and a knighthood for actor David Suchet.

Grange Hill and Brookside creator Phil Redmond is knighted, as is veteran singer Tommy Steele.

Co-founder and vocalist for the innovative rock band Electric Light Orchestra Jeff Lynne is made an OBE, while rapper Dizzee Rascal is an MBE, and singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading is a CBE.

There are CBEs for Professor Brian Cox, TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, actor Adrian Lester and singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading.

Former Rugby legend Gareth Thomas receives a CBE, writer Sally Wainwright receives an OBE, and cricketer Darren Gough is awarded an MBE.


Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, was full of praise at Chris’ royal recognition. He said: “This recognition of Chris’ efforts in supporting his community here in York is well deserved and the whole team at First York is immensely proud.

“It is reflective of the efforts of so many of our colleagues who during these unprecedented times have gone above and beyond to support each other and vulnerable members of our community here in York.”

Born in Turkey, Chris had been a young player with top Istanbul professional football club Fenerbahce before moving to the UK to learn English. He changed careers and worked in hospitality and a variety of other sectors before moving to York in the mid-1990s.

More York recipients

York residents honoured:

Marie-Ann Jackson – MBE. Head, Stronger Communities Programme, North Yorkshire County Council. For services to the community during Covid-19

Sarah Wilson – BEM. Nursery teacher, Fishergate Primary School. For services to Education during Covid-19.

Richard John Pennycook – CBE. Co-Chair, British Retail Consortium. For services to Retail

David William Petherick – OBE. Formerly Chair, Committee B/559, British Standards Institute. For services to People with Disabilities

Ian Phillip Dolben – MBE. Fisheries Adviser, Environment Agency. For services to the Environment

Kevin Calpin – BEM. For services to the Traditional Craft of Architectural Stonemasonry

Ian Philip Reed – MBE. Director, Allied Forces Heritage Group, York. For services to commemorating UK/France wartime cooperation.

North Yorkshire honours

Professor Catherine Jane Noakes – OBE. Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings, University of Leeds. For services to the Covid-19 response (Thirsk)

Rachel Louise Bowes – MBE. Assistant director for Care and Support, North Yorkshire County Council. For services to the community during the Covid-19 response (Selby)

Gareth Davies – MBE. Instructor, Sea Cadets. For services to the community in Scarborough, North Yorkshire during Covid-19 (Scarborough)

Philip Nesbit Graham – MBE. Signalling Volunteer, Network Rail. For services to the Rail Industry particularly during Covid-19 (Knaresborough)

Gemma Towers – MBE. Mobile Product Specialist, BT. For services to telecommunications during Covid-19 (Northallerton)

Ann Harding – BEM. For services to the community in Settle, North Yorkshire during Covid-19 (Kirkgate)

Andrew Wayne Hattersley – BEM. For services to the community in Harrogate, North Yorkshire during Covid-19 (Harrogate)

Denny Levine – BEM. Social Care Assessor, North Yorkshire Council. For services to the community during the Covid-19 response (Harrogate)

Nigel William Smith – BEM. For services to Care Home Residents during the Covid-19 response (Northallerton)

Jane Victoria Atkinson – CBE. Executive director, Engineering and Automation, Bilfinger UK. For services to Chemical Engineering (Thirsk)

Helen Mary Simpson – OBE. Trustee, St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity. For services to charity (Thirsk)

Christopher John Bentley – MBE. For services to Business and Culture (Harrogate)

Kathleen Shirley Clegg – MBE. Formerly Chair, Official Prison Visitor Scheme, HM Prison Full Sutton. For services to Prisoners (Harrogate)

Debra Moore – MBE. Independent consultant Nurse. For services to Learning Disability Nursing (Scarborough)

Hemantkumar Kiritbhai Patel – MBE. Formerly Trustee and Interim Chair, Royal Armouries. For services to Museums and Heritage (Ingmanthorpe)

Eileen Elizabeth Bellett – BEM. For services to the community in Osmotherley, North Yorkshire (Osmotherley)

Paul Jonathan Chaplow – BEM. For services to Clay Pigeon Shooting (Malton)

Jean Marie Dixon – BEM. Fundraiser and Ambassador, Yorkshire Air Ambulance. For services to charity and Patients in Yorkshire (Scarborough)

Colin William Gibbs – BEM. President, Tewit Youth Band. For voluntary service to Young People in Harrogate, North Yorkshire (Harrogate)

Florence Yvonne Grainger – BEM. For services to the community in Masham, North Yorkshire (Ripon)

Sandra Anne Rees – BEM. Manager, Community Impact Team, Scarborough Borough Council. For services to the community in Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Scarborough)

Simon Mason – Queen’s Police Medal. Formerly Detective Chief Superintendent, North Yorkshire Police / National Crime Agency.