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LtoR Maj West RM, Cpl Mark Haffenden RM, Lt Cdr Neil Davidson RN, C/Sgt Shane Knight

Commando helicopter force rescue Norwegian fisherman

Published: 09 Mar 2012

A Sea King helicopter from the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton was recently involved in a night time Search and Rescue mission in Norway.

The Junglies as they are known deploy annually to the Royal Norwegian Air Force Base at Bardufoss in Northern Norway to undertake Arctic survival training. Bardufoss is located 160 miles inside the Arctic Circle. Whilst some of the sailors and Royal Marines of CHF are accustomed to the Arctic conditions, where temperatures regularly plummet to 30 degrees below zero, a large number will be experiencing their first taste of some of the severest conditions on the planet.

It was during a training sortie in his Sea King helicopter that Lt Cdr Neil Davidson RN, the aircraft captain, received an emergency radio call from the Norwegians, informing him that a lone fisherman had run aground in a fishing boat. Isolated in a Fjord, with temperatures below minus 10 degrees Celsius the conditions made a rescue of the fisherman by sea extremely hazardous. The Commanding Officer of the detachment, Major David West Royal Marines put together a rescue plan to save the fisherman who was suffering from the effects of the extreme arctic weather.

Within minutes RN personnel at their base were co-ordinating the rescue operation alongside colleagues in the Norwegian Rescue Coordination Centre. Lt Cdr Davidson along with his crew of 4, which included Cpl Mark Haffenden RM, a Team Medic and Ambulance Technician, who was also an experienced Search and Rescue aircrewman, made ready for the rescue.

With the aid of night vision goggles the crew made short work of the 55 mile transit arriving on scene within one hour of initial contact, a remarkable achievement. The stricken vessel was swiftly located approximately 5 miles from the coast; it was clearly damaged and was listing heavily. Luckily the owner had managed to scramble onto the rock after crashing ashore. The 9 tonne helicopter, flown by Lt David Inglis, was skilfully manoeuvred close to the rocks ensuring the down wash from the Sea King Mk 4 situation did not aggravate the situation. Cpl Haffenden, was then lowered by Winchman Colour Sergeant Shane Night RM precisely alongside the fisherman who was then winched into the safety of the aircraft. Once onboard the thankful fisherman was flown to Tromso airport.

On completion of the rescue, Lt Cdr Davidson added, “This is not the first time that CHF aircraft have been involved in a Search and Rescue mission in Norway and it was great to see how both aircrew and ground crew quickly and professionally reacted to the situation. The manner in which everyone worked together was very impressive and the incident enhanced the excellent relationship that CHF has with the Norwegian Military and Civilian authorities. As always we were just glad to be in the right place at the right time.”



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