845NAS - 50 years as a Commando Helicopter Squadron
845 NAVAL AIR SQUADRON (NAS) celebrated their 50th birthday as a Commando helicopter squadron on 10th April.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of being awarded Commando status, the squadron hosted 50 guests, including past commanding officers and pilots. The celebrations were held on 17th April to tie in with the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day launch, which in turn will commemorate 30 years since the Falklands Conflict.
After being welcomed by Commander (Cdr) James Newton DFC, 845’s current Commanding Officer, the guests received an insight into what the squadron has been up to in recent years. Following a lively discussion on the differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’, the veterans and friends took advantage of a brief period of blue skies to venture outside and watch the famous ‘Junglie’ Assault Demonstration.
As rain threatened everyone repaired to the hangar, which had been suitably dressed for the occasion, where a hot and tasty curry was waiting. Lunch was preceded by an address from Commanding Officer Commando Helicopter Force (CO CHF) Captain Matt Briers with a look ahead to the future of 845 and her sister squadrons on the CHF as they transition to the Merlin helicopter. Adjoining this, Cdr Newton outlined the history of 845 as a Commando Squadron, and the importance that he places on its heritage.
Cdr Newton said:
“The ethos of the Junglie aviator was born in the skies over Borneo, and shaped during conflicts in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Iraq. This ethos remains alive and well in the hugely demanding environment of Afghanistan – the transition has been almost seamless.”
As the food and refreshments were consumed, old and new friends swapped stories, memories and experiences while debating the merits of the individual aircraft types they had flown, such as the long-retired Wessex and the soon to be retired Sea King HC4.
Taking the rare opportunity of so many generations of 845 aircrew getting together, several people were invited to address the party with fascinating vignettes of their own combat experiences.
Among the highlights was Harry Benson recalling tales of being a young Sub-Lieutenant flying around low-level in the Falklands with his comrades dodging bullets from Argentine guns, and bombs from their jet aircraft. Captain Alan Hensher MBE, the first commanding officer of 845 as a Commando helicopter squadron, recounted his experiences of taking the first helicopters into Borneo, flying in the jungle, having to adjust their tactics and procedures on a daily basis, so steep was the learning curve.
The day was deemed a great success, managing to reconnect so many people and invigorate new links between the squadron and its old boys. The weather behaved when it was required and everyone enjoyed the formal but relaxed celebration of a significant milestone in the 845 NAS’s history.