HRH the Duke of York visits Culdrose
Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose gave a warm welcome to Royalty when His Royal Highness The Duke of York, KG paid a visit to his former Squadron, and presented a unique ‘Green Endorsement’ to one of Culdrose’s Air Engineers.
Making an operational working visit to Culdrose in his capacity as Commodore in Chief Fleet Air Arm, His Royal Highness reminisced with current aircrew and engineers about his time in training at RNAS Culdrose flying Gazelle helicopters on 705 Naval Air Squadron in 1981, before earning his ‘Wings’. Completing a Sea King conversion course with 706 NAS, The Duke further went on to serve with 820 NAS when in April 1982 sailed in HMS Invincible as part of the Task Group to the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands.
Throughout the conflict HRH, alongside fellow aviators flew: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW), inter-ship Helicopter Delivery (HDS), Search and Rescue (SAR) and casualty evacuation missions. 820 NAS returned to Portsmouth with HMS Invincible on 17th September 1982, and were met by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. Sub Lieutenant Prince Andrew completed his first frontline tour with 820 NAS in July 1983.
Met by the Commanding Officer RNAS Culdrose Captain Mark Garratt, The Duke of York was able to see for himself some of the changes to the Air Station since his days in flying overalls. Briefs from the Sea King Force about the Sea King Airborne and Control aircraft and training at Culdrose were interspersed with meeting personnel from across the Base.
“It was a great honour to meet him,” said Warrant Officer 1 Paul Lofthouse, Base Warrant Officer of RNAS Culdrose. “The Duke of York was very attentive and was really interested in what the Fleet Air Arm has achieved since his days in uniform.”
HRH also had lunch with personnel from the Air Station before visiting his old Squadron, 820 NAS who are celebrating their 80th Anniversary, having formed in April 1933 as a Fleet spotter reconnaissance Squadron at Gosport, meeting some of those who maintain and fly the Merlin MK 2. On hand to show the prince around was Lieutenant Nick Grimmer, who has recently completed the Merlin Mk 2 conversion course. “The Prince talked about his days on the Squadron, flying Sea Kings at night on Night Vision Goggles when they were first introduced to the aviation world. It was good to hear about his experiences flying and comparing them to flying the advanced Merlin Mk 2.”
The final call on the Royal itinerary was to 829 NAS where The Duke presented a Clasp to the Long service and Good Conduct (LS&GC) medal to Warrant Officer 2 David Baxter. The clasp to the LSGC medal recognises 30 years’ service of dedicated and professional commitment to the country and the Royal Navy and is a significant milestone which very few in the Naval Service achieve.
Receiving a prestigious ‘Green Endorsement’ was Leading Air Engineer Thomas Burns for his diligence and moral courage in challenging a specifically laid down technical instruction and for his integrity in bringing the problem to light. For this Thomas becomes the first Air Engineer to be presented with a Green Endorsement, normally awarded to Aircrew.