A BUSY YEAR FOR RNAS CULDROSE
Personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose finish off 2015 in a reflective mood as they look back at some of the achievements and events that have occurred during a busy year.
The start of the year saw the appointment of a new Commanding Officer as Captain Mark Garratt gave way to Captain Adrian Orchard OBE, who took over with 820 Naval Air Squadron still deployed on Operation Gritrock onboard RFA Argus off the coast ofSierra Leone. One of his first formal duties was to mark the 70th anniversary of thePalembangraid during WW2 and the re-rolling of 857 and 854 Sqns into new Flights of 849 NAS.
820 NAS had spent Christmas and New Year away contributing to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, by March their thoughts were of the Cornish coastline as they began their northern journey back toFalmouth. Petty Officer Russ Adams was also awarded a Queen's Gallantry Medal for rescuing the crew of Le Sillon. In May as the summer months approached 771 NAS took to the skies to thank the people ofWest Cornwallfor their support. Also during May three Merlins and 814 NAS depart for the Mediterranean to join HMS Bulwark on Operation Weald supporting international efforts to the migrant crisis.
The roar of jets around Culdrose increased during the summer as prior to Air Day, Typhoons from 2 Sqn RAF paid a visit and exercised with RN Ships off the Cornish coast. Air Day itself was one of the best ever and once again a large crowd enjoyed getting up close to the Fleet Air Arm. A special visitor was also welcomed when 92 year old former Observer Lt Freddie Harsant retold some of his WW2 experiences to 750 NAS.
Summer leave provided a break for many but deployments for Culdrose Units and squadrons continued and in particular the Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF) were busy on many ships carrying out operations around the globe. In September 820 NAS received recognition for their six month on Operation Gritrock in the shape of the West African Ebola medal. And Merlins of 814 NAS also deployed back to theMediterranean, this time embarked with HMS Ocean on one of the biggest NATO exercises in many years as part of the Navy's Joint Response Force.
By December many of our deployed Units were heading back to Cornwall, but 829 Sqn were sending a Merlin Flight onto HMS ST Albans, who after only a few days out of Portsmouth, helped in seizing over £1 million of drugs. RNAS Culdrose finished off the year with a resounding win in the Navy Rugby Cup final against storm force winds and the Royal Marines at Devonport.
The end of 2015 also saw the final days of the Search and Rescue commitment for the Air Station and the Royal Navy. 771 NAS will hand over their SAR duties to the Coastguard at the start of 2016 and the venerable Sea King Mk 5's will be retired by the end of March 2016.