Aircrewman poppies and medals on parade
Joining 10,000 Veterans, the Fleet Air Arm’s Aircrewman Association (ACA) marched past the Cenotaph to warm applause from crowds gathered for the annual Remembrance Sunday parade.
Among the 27 ACA members formed up alongside other Veterans on Whitehall in London, were Aircrewmen who between them have flown in excess of 78,650 flying hours in military aircraft and clocked up over 670 year service with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
One of the oldest Aircrewmen marching was Jerry Hewitt. Jerry was a seaman serving on HMS Savage in 1958, when he began his flying career on Westlands’ Dragonfly helicopters. “Back in those early days helicopters were a novelty .The ships were not built specifically with a flight deck and we were learning all the time as we pushed the boundaries.”
A glance across their chests will show these naval aviators haven’t sat back during their flying careers. Among their ranks they can boast a George Medal, several Queens Gallantry Medals, a couple of Mention in Despatches and Campaign Medals from operations as far apart as Malaya andNorthern Irelandthrough to the Falklands andAfghanistan. Some wore their fathers’ medals as well from the Second World War on their other breast.
Leading the ACA for a final time as chairman was Lieutenant Commander Pete Imrie, himself a proud holder of the Distinguished Service Medal awarded to him during the Falklands War with 846 Naval Air Squadron. Pete is still serving at Navy Command Headquarters and believes this was the best turn out he’s seen. “I've been Chairman of the ACA for three years; it’s a great privilege to march alongside the other veterans. My thoughts at this time are of the Aircrewmen we lost in the South Atlantic, and their families.”
The ACA brings together all the specialisations in which Aircrewmen have served; ‘Junglies’ from the Commando Helicopter world, Missile Aimers from the Small Ships’ Wasp flights, Communications flight crewmen who flew in fixed wing aircraft, ‘Pingers’ from the Anti Submarine world and Search and Rescue Aircrewmen from the SAR specialisation. Some also served on Royal Navy Hovercraft in the 70’s.
After the main parade, the ACA platoon marched to the Fleet Air Arm Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens, where they joined other FAA Associations for a simple short dedication and wreath laying to those from the Navy’s Air Service who’ve died whilst operating with aircraft in support of the Royal Navy.