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First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL and Warrant Officer Ian Zippy Thompson
First Sea Lord shares a joke with WO Thompson and Alex Stevenson
First Sea Lord chatting with the Duty SAR Crew from 771 NAS

30 years and still going strong

Published: 04 Mar 2014

A Warrant Officer Aircrewman from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose recently made a remarkable discovery when checking through his flying logbook. 

Before meeting the ‘First Sea Lord’, Warrant Officer Aircrewman Ian ‘Zippy’ Thompson checked his flying records to see when he had last flown with the current Head of the Royal Navy. Having once served together on 814 Naval Air Squadron. To his surprise they had flown almost to the day 30 years before on 23 February 1984. 

Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL was visiting the Cornish Naval Air Base meeting Sailors and Airman for the first time since becoming Head of the Royal Navy in 2013. Looking in on the duty Search and Rescue crew of 771 Naval Air Squadron, which Zippy was part of, turned into a nostalgic trip down memory lane. 

“Lieutenant Zambellas, as he was then, was one of the pilots in the Sea King Mk 5 Anti-Submarine helicopter, along with Lt’s Boyce, Osborne and me,” said Zippy. “It was a night surface search sortie that lasted an hour and five minutes flying from HMS Illustrious.” 

Over the preceding 30 years Leading Aircrewman Ian Thompson has flown Gazelles, Sea Kings and Merlin’s helicopters. He has also been involved with Flying Standards across the Fleet Air Arm over his flying career and is now the Warrant Officer Aircrewman with 771 Search and Rescue Squadron at RNAS Culdrose. The Admiral however has progress a little further up the  promotion ladder to hold the highest position in the Royal Navy, gaining a Knighthood and a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)  along the way; whilst Captain of HMS Chatham during Operation Palliser in 2001. 

“It’s remarkable when you consider the last time we flew together was 30 years ago”, continued Zippy. “I could never have imagined that someone in that crew would become The First Sea Lord. He’s done very well for himself!”


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