New Wildcat squadron commissions
825 NAVAL AIR SQUADRON was commissioned into Royal Navy Front Line service on Friday, 10 October 2014 as the Fleet Air Arm’s Wildcat helicopter training and initial Wildcat front line flight parenting Squadron.
Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Boyce, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, was the Guest of Honour at this historic ceremony. Lord Boyce is the Patron of the Channel Dash Association that commemorates 825 Squadron’s role in that historic action during the Second World War.
Lord Boyce the Guest of Honour addressed the guests, saying,
“It is a huge honour and privilege to be here today on this very prestigious occasion and I stand here as Patron as the Channel Dash association. That bravery must be an inspiration and what a proud heritage it is to you, linking the past with the present.
This is a really exciting time for the Royal Navy and right at the sharp end is the Fleet Air Arm. 825 and Wildcat has such an important part to play. Thank you for asking me to be here on this your commissioning day. I wish you all the best for a very happy and successful future”
Commander Glyn Owen, the Commanding Officer of 825 Squadron said,
“We are delighted to be formally Commissioning 825 Naval Air Squadron today here in Somerset. A new, state of the art helicopter, the Wildcat offers the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm enormous potential over the coming years. The aircraft represents a real step change for us as operators and engineers. As a Squadron we will be focused on developing that full range of capabilities, and ultimately the deployment of these aircraft to Front Line operations in early 2015.”
Following the Commissioning Service, Chief Petty Officer Derek Ashurst was presented with the Queens Commendation for Valuable Service, and the AugustaWestland Engineering Officer Sword was presented to Lieutenant Charlotte Milne.
After the ceremony, Lieutenant Milne said,
“I am honoured to have received the AugustaWestland Sword today. For me this marks the end of a seven year journey to reach the trained strength as an Air Engineering Officer in the Fleet Air Arm, and winning such a prestigious award is the pinnacle of this achievement and an exceptionally proud moment for me. To receive it at such a milestone event in the Fleet Air Arm’s history adds to the significance of the honour.”
Chief Petty Officer Ashurst received the Queen’s Commendation for his outstanding contribution as the Senior Maintenance Rating of the first double manned Lynx flight to operate from the new Type 45 destroyers – HMS Dragon. He said,
“I am truly astounded by this award. What was achieved in HMS Dragon last year was very much a team effort and I feel honoured to have been singled out for such recognition. The unwavering support of a dedicated team of engineers made my job relatively painless. I am looking forward to a further deployment, with the same core group of technicians, in HMS Dragon later this month. Today I am very proud to receive this honour in recognition of all 226 Flights efforts”
825 NAS has an extremely proud and illustrious history, with Battle Honours extending fromDunkirkin 1940 to theFalklandsin 1982. A particularly significant event in the Squadron’s history was ‘Operation Fuller’, launched to counter the German ‘Operation Cerberus’; otherwise known as the ‘Channel Dash’. On the 12 February 1942, six of the Squadron’s Fairey Swordfish biplanes launched from RAF Manston in Kent to lead the operation to prevent the breakout of the largest German Battle Fleet ever assembled, which had been ordered to transit from Brest to their home ports in Germany. Despite a lack of fighter cover and intense attacks from the Luftwaffe the Swordfish attacked the enemy with torpedoes in broad daylight. The Swordfish were all lost but Admiral Ramsay wrote, “The gallant sortie of these six Swordfish aircraft constitutes one of the finest exhibitions of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty the war had ever witnessed". A posthumous Victoria Cross Victoria Cross was awarded to Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde RN, the Commanding Officer, and the five surviving aircrew were all decorated.
The Squadron’s Battle Honours include the “English Channel 1940-42” in recognition of Operation Fuller and other operations in the Channel but, more recently, operations during the Falklands war in 1982 resulted in the award of those Battle Honours to 825 Squadron; however, the Squadron disbanded shortly after the Campaign and the Honours were never formally conferred. This Commissioning Ceremony saw the rectification of the omission as the Squadron Battle Honours Board was unveiled to include, for the first time, “Falkland Islands 1982”.