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Flight commanders: Left to right. Lt Andy Mitchell, Lt George Ridley, Lt Cdr Mike Howe.
Flight commanders in front of a Merlin
829 NAS Merlin on board HMS St Albans at night

Culdrose 829 NAS rename their Flights

Published: 03 Feb 2018

IT MAY be a new year, but one of the Merlin Squadrons at Culdrose has given a nod to the past, by renaming their deployable ‘Flights’ to reflect the Squadron’s history and heritage.

The Merlin helicopters of 829 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) deploy all over the world flying from the flight decks of Royal Naval frigates. Instead of 01, 02 and 03 flights, they have now taken on new, more meaningful names.


01 Flight, attached to HMS St Albans, will become Tungsten Flight.  One of the six battle honours that 829 NAS has received was awarded in the operation by the same name. This was in 1944 against the German battleship Tirpitz.  At that time, 829 NAS aircraft were embarked in HMS Victorious, as a torpedo bomber reconnaissance Squadron, flying the Fairey Barracuda Mark II. The Flight Commander is Lieutenant (Lt) Andy Mitchell.


02 Flight is currently attached to HMS Westminster and led by Lt George Ridley RN.  They will be known as Kingfisher Flight, taking their name from the squadron crest that has been in existence since 829’s first commissioning in 1940.


Finally, 03 Flight, led by Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Mike Howe and assigned to HMS Northumberland, is now Mohawk Flight.  After the Second World War, 829 NAS was decommissioned but later re-commissioned in 1964 at RNAS Culdrose.  This was the first time that Squadron aircraft were tasked to provide helicopter detachments to operate from small ships and survey vessels, in the anti-submarine role, exactly as they do today. HMS Mohawk was one of the first four ships that the flights were allocated to.


Lt Cdr Mike Howe said: “Renaming the flights is a great way of continuing to remember our Squadron’s vast history, from operations that previous squadron personnel have taken part in, to the ships that they have embarked on too.  I’m incredibly proud to continue this strong tradition, especially using a Ship’s name which at the beginning of the current tasking that we do.”     


The main role of Merlin helicopters of 829 NAS, and the frigates in which they embark, is anti-submarine warfare. They also protect larger ships and merchant convoys. Last month they were protecting UK home waters by escorting Russian vessels as they transited close to our shores. They are very busy aircraft; their aviators are highly skilled, landing on the small flight deck in often challenging conditions. 


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