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814 NAS Merlin and RM Landing Craft from HMS Bulwark
Merlin from 814 NAS ‘Flying Tigers’
Migrants onboard HMS Bulwark
Migrants being assisted by the crew of HMS Bulwark
Migrants boat and Bulwark’s Landing Craft


Published: 10 Jun 2015

‘The Flying Tigers’ of 814 Naval Air Squadron were poised and ready to launch their Merlin Helicopter at first light from HMS Bulwark’s flight deck on Sunday 7th June,  a day which would result in the largest Royal Navy migrant rescue to date on Operation Weald. 


As HMS Bulwark’s ‘eyes in the sky’ the Culdrose based Squadron’s mission is to support the international humanitarian operation by scanning theMediterraneanlooking out for vessels in distress on the high seas.


After only 10 minutes airborne the crew of Merlin - Callsign ‘Tiger 1’ was able to utilise their highly sophisticated maritime radar to locate and identify an inflatable a vessel with over 100 migrants crammed onboard and in distress. A total of five small inflatable vessels each with over 100 people onboard and two wooden boats each with over 300 onboard were located during the four hour morning sortie.


Royal Marine Landing Craft would later be directed to recover the migrants to the safety of HMS Bulwark – once again Merlin providing overhead coverage of each rescue mission – recovering over 1100 survivors over the course of the day.


Amongst those rescued was a heavily pregnant woman called Favor (29) fromNigeriawhose waters dramatically broke whilst waiting to be rescued. Once aboard HMS Bulwark it was clear to the Medical Team that there could be complications with the birth as Favor was now in labour, for the safety of her and the unborn baby’s life, she needed to be transferred to hospital immediately.


The nearest Hospital was inMalta, over 180 miles away.


‘Action Merlin, Action Merlin’ sounding over the Ship’s Broadcast system, signalled the Flying Crew to make ready ‘Tiger 1’ for her final – but time critical – flight of the day.


With her husband Anthony by her side and accompanied by two members of the Ship’s medical team, Favor was stretchered onboard the readied Merlin Helicopter and flown for over an hour toMaltaAirportwhere she was met by an ambulance.


Lt Cdr Chris Wood, Senior Pilot of 814 Naval Air Squadron and Aircraft Commander said: “This is what we do. We have to be ready for anything and you never know what you may come across when you get actioned. As a team we are all highly trained and equipped to do the job. Today, we were able to contribute to a whole ship effort to get Favor and her baby to safety - without us things could have been a lot worse.”


The Flying Tigers are pleased to report Favor did reach aMalteseHospitalin time where she later gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the early hours of the following morning.


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