THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING
Today five “Junglie” Sea King Mk4 helicopters from the Commando Helicopter Force paid an emotional and fond farewell to the people of the South West. Based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton inSomersetthey flew a final flypast as a salute to the places they know it so well.
Starting in the early morning mist the aircraft lifted into brilliant blue skies on a route that took them over Salisbury, Andover, Portsmouth, the Jurassic Coast as well as Britannia Naval College at Dartmouth and Plymouth before heading north, towards the North Devon and Somerset coastlines. From there they flew over Bristol and onto Glastonbury Tor, where they ‘tipped a wing’ to the crowds gathered on its legendry slopes and then turned south to pay their final respects to Yeovil, before returning to their home of some 37 years.
Currently with 848 Naval Air Squadron, the Commando Helicopter Force’s iconic Commando Sea King will go out of service on 31 March 2016, following a disbandment parade to be held this Wednesday at RNAS Yeovilton. The aircraft has seen service in all major theatres of conflict where British Forces have been deployed; in particular it will be remembered for its operational work during the Falklands conflict,Sierra Leone,Iraqand latterlyAfghanistan. ‘The mighty King’ will also be remembered by many for its work with the United Nations in Bosnia and its humanitarian support work in the Lebanon, West Africa, the Philippines and the Caribbean.
Although 848 Naval Air Squadron is to disband, the mantle and legacy of the Sea King will be picked up and carried forward by the Merlin, which has already entered service with the Commando Helicopter Force. The Merlin has big boots to fill as the Sea King has made a particular mark in the psyche of the Fleet Air Arm and CHF.
However, as Commander Gavin Simmonite DFC, Commanding Officer of 848 Naval Air Squadron said, “Nothing stands still and everything moves on. The Sea King has been a wonderful workhorse; it is a great pleasure to fly and an aircraft that has created a thousand memories for the aircrews who have flown it and for those on the ground watching it go about its business. It just doesn’t get any better!”