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HMS Ocean (background), HMS Bulwark (centre) and RFA Mounts Bay (foreground)

The carrier’s first squadron refreshed, refocussed, remarinised

Published: 13 Oct 2016

For the first time in two years, all of 820 Naval Air Squadron personnel have been reunited at their home base of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

This opportunity has allowed the squadron to refresh and refocus whilst conducting remarinisation training as a single cohesive unit.

Part of the process was building on their resourcefulness and resilience by undertaking Adventurous Training (AT) at various sites around the Cornish coast.

The squadron have now embarked on board HMS Ocean and are set to return once again to the Middle East as its aviation component for the next six months.

It’s one thing to ensure your aircraft are serviceable and ready, however it is pivotal to prepare your people as well.

Commander Jon Holroyd RN

Amongst their busy schedule before deploying they took full advantage of Culdrose’s AT facilities.

“We supported 820 NAS and provided 150 personnel with a full range of activities; cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing and surfing.” says Gareth Reid, Culdrose’s AT Instructor. 

“Normally we cater for smaller groups, but with the squadron just about to deploy again, we pulled out all the stops.

“Instructors were brought in from around the base to help out, and sessions were held across Cornwall, something that has never been done before on this scale.”

They also needed to refresh currencies in Survival Training, practicing what they would do to protect themselves in the event of an emergency.

Commander Jon Holroyd, 820 NAS’s Commanding Officer, is squarely focussed on providing the first aviation component for HMS Queen Elizabeth when she leaves Rosyth next year.

Speaking about the future and the challenges ahead, Jon said: “The Merlin Mk 2 is pivotal for delivering Carrier Strike capability, particularly for HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“Our time on Ocean will allow my team to become experts at working with a large ‘flat top’ warship.

“Before deploying, we’ve taken an opportunity to re-brigade, regroup and focus on what’s important to make our time at sea safe and successful.

“It’s one thing to ensure your aircraft are serviceable and ready, however it is pivotal to prepare your people as well.”

820 NAS, one of four Merlin Mk 2 helicopter squadrons based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, is embarking for a six month deployment on board HMS Ocean. 

The deployment, known in official speak as the ‘Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime)’, will see it sail to the Middle East to join other units for a series of Maritime Operations and exercises. 

They will be keeping the sea lanes open by providing reassurance to regional nations and shipping whilst protecting the UK’s interests abroad.

HMS Ocean will form part of a Task Group commanded by Commodore Andrew Burns, Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG).

The ship is also home to 900 personnel made up of the Command Element, a Company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando Royal Marines as well as 820 NAS aircrew and engineers.

This inaugural JEF(M) deployment will demonstrate the ability to project a highly effective UK maritime component anywhere in the world, whilst reassuring our allies of the UK’s commitment to the stability of the Middle East. 

Commodore Burns said: “This deployment is a hugely important task for the Royal Navy, and for Defence, demonstrating our ability to deploy and operate worldwide, engaging closely with our allies and standing ready for whatever a deployment to an area of strategic interest to the UK can present.”


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