RON RELIVES HIS CULDROSE DAYS
An Air Engineer who served at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose more than 68 years ago has been retracing his footsteps on a nostalgic visit to the West Cornwall Air Base.
Air Electrician Ron Dennis joined RNAS Culdrose in 1949 and worked for much of his time on 809 Naval Air Squadron who at the time was flying the Sea Hornet NF21, a specially adapted aircraft developed for Night Flying. The squadron was unique in being the only Sea Hornet front line squadron and its eight aircraft named after ‘Snow White and her seven dwarfs’.
“Generally she had a fairly good maintenance record, they were good aircraft to work on, despite having to wire-lock most of the panels before flying,” said Ron. “It was busy at Culdrose then, with many aircraft flying all day and night, everywhere you looked the sky was full of planes.”
Ron also remembers how new the Air Station was in 1949. Culdrose commissioned less than two years before he joined and not everything went smoothly. “One of our Sea Hornets had started-up, but the brakes failed and it careered off towards another squadron. Their hangar doors finally stopped it, but it wasn’t a pretty site.”
Showing Ron and his wife Maureen around their 736 NAS Hawk jet was Senior Pilot Lieutenant Commander Nick Mattock and Lt Matt Palmer who listened attentively to Ron’s recollections from the early days at Culdrose. “I never thought I’d be standing back on this patch of concrete again. We’ve holidayed in Cornwall many times since I was based here and it’s great to come back, especially as this is the same hangar and dispersal where I’d worked on those 809 Sea Hornets back in the early 1950’s.”
After Culdrose, Ron and his family moved to RNAS Hal Far in Malta, where he worked on the aircraft that supported the Royal Navy’s Fleet of large Aircraft Carriers in the Mediterranean.
However, Ron has special memories of his days at RNAS Culdrose, “The Air Station has changed a lot since I was last here, but the lay-out and the hangars are familiar. Some things that don’t change though are the views; they are still as wonderful as I remember looking out towards to sea and across the Cornish countryside.”
809 Naval Air Squadron, whose motto is simply ‘Immortal’, is to be reformed to operate the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, The Lightning II F35-B that will fly from the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class carriers from 2018.