A DARWEN chef who kept a squadron of top gun pilots and RAF personnel 'fuelled' during the Libyan conflict has received a top military medal.

Senior aircraftman Daniel McKnight, was based at Gioia del Colle, in southern Italy, supporting Operation Ellamy, which was a coalition mission to enforce a no-fly zone during the Libyan civil war to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.

Daniel, 31, cooked meals for hundreds of deployed personnel from the Armed Forces during the military intervention operation in 2011.

His most enduring memory was the intense heat of the kitchen and, three or four times a week, he would run the 7km perimeter of the air base.

After leaving Darwen Vale High School, Daniel studied IT at college before working for a company making conservatories.

At the weekends he used to help his dad Robert McKnight working at his Blackburn cafe.

He said: "It was completely different to what I'm doing now. I couldn't cook at all, I even used to burn the toast."

In 2008, he joined the air force and now works in the sergeants’ mess at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, where he is regarded as one of the RAF's 'rising stars' of catering.

And his culinary skills were rewarded when he received a NATO medal from the Air Vice-Marshal Stuart Atha in front of proud family, friends and colleagues during a special ceremony in the Officers’ Mess.

Dan said he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather Jack Pickup and said: "I'm really pleased to have been awarded my first medal.

“My granddad served in the Army as a Tank Commander during the Second World War and I'm really proud to wear my RAF uniform as it is in his honour too."

Apart from Italy, Daniel has also completed a successful deployment to the Falkland Islands.