Commissioning of 744 Naval Air Squadron
images credit: Hannah Simms
On the 24 Oct 18, in perfect autumnal weather, 744 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) once again reformed and has now taken up active service after a period of 62 years dormant; the Sqn was last active up until 31 Oct 1956.
The commissioning service was primarily organised by Lt Martyn Allan RN, an Observer, originally from Falkirk in Scotland, with the newly formed Sqn being blessed by Reverend Monsignor Andrew McFadden. The Amesbury Volunteer Band made a very welcome addition to the day’s proceedings, showcasing their most welcome and quite brilliant musical ability. The Guest of Honour was treated to a really fantastic mode of transport, a beautiful 1914 Rover Tourer12 HP, owned and driven by Flt Rich Rogers, a Flight Test Engineer who is employed as a Weapons Integration Officer. The service was honoured to have many senior officers which included, Captain Millar RN, Captain Garratt RN (Rtd), Group Captain Littlejohns, Chief Test Pilot and Station Commander MoD Boscombe Down and Head of the Fleet Air Arm, Rear Admiral Keith Blount CB OBE FRAeS who later wrote to CO 744 NAS saying, “it was an honour to commission 744 NAS”.
744 NAS was originally formed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on the 10 Feb 1943, however the Sqn soon departed to Canada as a training unit, and was consequently re-designated to 754 Sqn in June 1944. In Mar 1944, a new 744 Sqn was formed at Maydown as a Merchant Aircraft Carrier training unit, to supply crews to 836 NAS. The Sqn undertook Anti-Submarine training until it moved to RNAS Eglinton in Oct of 1945. Soon after it transformed into the front line 815 Sqn on 1 Dec 1947. In Jul 1951 It reformed from a flight of 737 Sqn, again at Eglinton, but this time into a fixed wing development and trials unit. From Dec 1952 it flew Dragonfly HR3s for the exacting and demanding role of Search and Rescue until the unit again disbanded on 1 Mar 1954. On the same day, It reformed at RNAS Culdrose as a fixed wing anti-submarine development unit and moved in Oct 1954 to RAF St.Mawgan, where it again disbanded on 31 Oct 1956.
Previously named Mission Systems and Armament Test and Evaluation Sqn (MS & Arm TES), the newly commissioned 744 NAS is a fundamental part of the RAF Air Warfare Centre and will continue the rich history and tradition of Test and Evaluation which runs through the latter periods of 744 NAS’ history. 744 NAS, a tri service unit, commanded by Commander Jonathan Bird RN, comprises of 17 highly skilled Test and Evaluation Aircrew and Engineers. His staff predominantly have either undertaken the extremely desirable and demanding Masters Level Aero-Systems Course, run by the AWC at MOD Boscombe Down, or the Evaluator Aircrew Course, which is delivered by the Empire Test Pilots School. CO 744 NAS, Cdr Bird said, “It is a huge privilege to be the Commanding Officer of the Mission Systems and Armament Squadron, which brings together the operational experience from the majority of Defence’s frontline aircraft types and weaponry, to ensure that new aircraft, weapons and upgrades to existing platforms are safe and fit for purpose. It is an even bigger privilege to be at the helm when the Squadron re-commissioned as 744 Naval Air Squadron, exactly 62 years to the day since the last CO 744NAS flew his final Squadron sortie before the Squadron was disbanded at RAF St Mawgan”.
744 NAS has a long background in T & E with a superb Moto of “Nemo solus satis sapit” which translates to “No one or man knows enough”, the choice of Sqn number plate could not have been better.