THE CARRIER’S FIRST SQUADRON GETS NEW MAN AT THE HELM
On 8 February Commander Jon Holroyd took the helm of RNAS Culdrose’s 820 Naval Air Squadron from his predecessor Commander Ross Spooner OBE, who takes up an appointment with the Military Aviation Authority.
Cdr Jon Holroyd joins 820 NAS at a crucial time for the Squadron, as they look squarely to the future Carrier and how pivotal the Merlin Mk 2 will be as one of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s primary aviation assets.
“I’m taking over 820 at its operational and reputational peak,” said Jon, “with recent efforts in Sierra Leone against Ebola and an enduring commitment to operations in the Middle East clear in everyone’s minds. The Squadron is also the current holders of the FAA Australia Shield for operational capability and the Rolls Royce Trophy for engineering, efficiency and effectiveness. With such clearly professional and capable people, I am thrilled to be leading them into a very dynamic and exciting future.”
Heralding from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, Jon was raised in Kent prior to reading for a degree in Chemistry with Pharmaceutical and Forensic Science at the University of Bradford. On joining the Royal Navy he completed Observer Sea King ASW Flying training at RNAS Culdrose. His first front line tour was with 820 NAS, embarking in HMS Illustrious and then in HMS Cornwall conducting operations as far afield as the Gulf, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.
Converting onto the then ‘new’ Merlin Mk1 helicopter, he served with 814 NAS and then as an instructor on 824 NAS. Appointed as a Flight Commander for 829 NAS in HMS Westminster, he conducted several nationally strategic operations including deployments to the Indian Ocean. He was subsequently appointed as the Senior Observer for 829 NAS before joining HMS Illustrious as their Operations Officer during her regeneration and re-rolling to be a fully operational Helicopter Landing Platform ship.
Having led a very operationally focussed career thus far, Jon took a step back from the front-line to ‘fly a desk’, joining the Carrier Strike Capability Delivery Team where he focussed on the regeneration of the aviation capability for the aircraft carrier programme. In 2015 he was selected for promotion to Commander and subsequently appointed as the Commanding Officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron.
Speaking about his new command and the future for 820 Naval Air Squadron, Jon added:
“The capability of Merlin Mk 2 will be pivotal for delivering Carrier Strike capability, particularly for HMS Queen Elizabeth. My aircraft are superbly capable, but it’s the capability of my people who will make it work, and I’m very confident they will. I am immensely proud to be returning to my first frontline Squadron as the boss. It really is an exciting time for the Fleet Air Arm, particularly for those of 820 Squadron.”
This year, the Squadron will mark the gallantry and determination shown by her Swordfish aircrew 75 years ago during the raid on the WW2 German Battleship Bismarck, as well as 100 years since the Battle of Jutland.