849 SQUADRON CELEBRATE PALEMBANG BATTLE HONOUR
Fleet Air Arm personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose gathered to mark one of the most notable battle honours of WW2, at an anniversary dinner alongside one of the only surviving veterans from the action.
Known as the ‘Palembang Raids’ the strikes on Japanese Oil refineries in Sumatra during January 1945, was the largest ever FAA operation, and was estimated to have destroyed up to two thirds of Japan aviation fuel. Launching from Carriers of the British Pacific Fleet, Avengers of 820, 849, 854 and 857 Naval Air Squadrons, each armed with four 500 lb bombs, attacked the oil depots. Additional Corsair and Hellcat fighters as well as Firefly aircraft flew escort fighter and further strike missions. The total strike force totalled a staggering 244 Royal Naval aircraft.
Palembang along with Okinawa and Normandy are still remembered as 849 NAS Battle Honours, and the three Flights named accordingly; each has the capability to deploy independently on operations over land or embarked.
“I’m exceptionally proud to be Palembang’s Flight Commander,” said Lieutenant Serena Davidson. “We formed up only 12 months ago and it’s been a very varied and incredibly busy year.”
Commissioned with engineers and aircrew from 857 NAS in February 2015 Palembang has not stood still since. Within months they were conducting a fully embarked work-up on HMS Ocean, mainly involving deck landings and in-flight refuelling training. Port visits to Sunderland and London followed where they entertained thousands to guided tours around their aircraft. By summer, the Flight was Gulf-bound, spending nearly four month ashore and embarked on RFA Fort Victoria whilst conducting surveillance operations in the region. The trip had many highlights which included several port visits to Djibouti. Although embarked the Flight also organised the first ever ‘flight deck spell out’ on an RFA, commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Japan.
Since arriving back Palembang Flight has taken time out to visit a restoration project of an old 849 NAS Gannet aircraft (XL500) in Cardiff which is hoped to take to the air this year. More recently they were in Holland taking part in ‘Exercise Skinner’s Gold’, honing their Fighter Control skills with Dutch Air Force F16 jets.
Attending the Palembang dinner as guest of honour was Olympic gold medalist Dame Mary Peters CH, DBE, who holds an honorary rank as Captain in the Royal Navy Reserve. Dame Mary spoke of the honour and privilege it was to attend the celebrations and have the chance to visit 849 NAS at Culdrose.
Serena continues, “Being a small Flight, there is a close bond with everyone. We’re looking forward to what comes up next and being able to commemorate the history of the Flight’s at a celebratory dinner is extra special.”