Del'd: 71 - 1950 to 1967





Fleet Air Arm dragonfly

One of the six Sikorsky S-51s imported by Westland was chartered by the RN for trials on board HMS Vengeance in Jan 1949, while the Westland development programme continued. This was handed back in May 1949 and resulted in an order for 13 Dragonfly HR.1 (with wooden main rotors). First HR.1s came off the line in mid 1949 but were very sensitive to centre of gravity position. Between 13 Jan 1950 and Jun 1950, 705 Naval Air Squadron received 12 Dragonfly HR.1 with the UK Alvis Leonides 50 engine, replacing the Hoverfly. Much work was done in developing Search and Rescue (SAR), plane guard and Small Ships technique.

The Dragonfly replaced the Sea Otter in the SAR role and it also served as a plane guard, during fixed wing carrier operations (replacing a Destroyer and around 250 souls in the role) recovering the crew in case of deck accidents. 1st SAR Dragonfly unit embarked on HMS Indomitable on 12 Jan 1951. 2nd SAR unit on HMS Glory from Apr 1951 and rescued downed pilots during the Korean War.

These were followed into service by another 58 Dragonfly HR.3 (with metal main rotors). They served at numerous Station SAR Flights and aboard the UK carrier fleet. RNAS Lossiemouth (HMS Fulmar) was the 1st shore station to equip its SAR Flight with Dragonfly in Mar 1953. 15 RN shore stations and 9 RN carriers operated SAR Flights during the 1950s.

The Dragonfly HR.5 was an improved Royal Naval variant with a more powerful Alvis Leonides 5/231 engine, better communication equipment and instrumentation, introduced from 1953 (after lessons learned from the Dutch floods) by conversion of 25 existing HR.1 and HR.3 airframes, some converted at RNAY Donibristle. In some ways, the Dragonfly had a second wind in Fleet Air Arm service, as several were re-issued to Carrier SAR Flights (eg WP495) during the period that the Whirlwind HAS.7 was being re-worked to solve its initial engine problems.

There was a single Dragonfly planeguard:
  • on HMS Eagle (R05) between 1952 and 1959
  • on HMS Albion (R07) & HMS Centaur (R06) from 1954 to 1960
  • on HMS Bulwark (R08) 1955-1958
  • on HMS Ark Royal (R09) from 1955 to 1960 and
  • on HMS Hermes (R12) from 1960 to early 1962.

705 NAS operated Dragonfly types until its last HR.5 was retired in Mar 1962. The last Dragonfly HR.1 were retired from BRNC Flight at Plymouth in Jun 1967. Total of 71 HR.1, HR.3 and HR.5 were built, the last being delivered in Sep 1953. Overall, the Dragonfly served the RN with reliability and distinction for 17 years.
Plans for 18 further Dragonfly HR.3s (WP505-WP510 and WV933-WV944) were cancelled by the RN.


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Construction Numbers Help Us

C/NModBuiltID     In this OrganisationIn other Org

    wa/h/008 hr.1 1949     VX595: Spent time in storage variously at Fleetlands, Gosport and P+
Ministry of Defence (MoD) VX595: HR.1 ff 18 Jun 1949, rotor development airframe at Yeov+

Assignments at AFEE Beaulieu Jul and Nov 1949, and Jan +

conv HR.3 at Yeovil by 1953

conv HR.5 at RNAY Donibristle from Nov 1956 to Jun 195+
    wa/h/009 hr.1 1949     VX596: 705Sq Jun 1950, 705Sq/710-GJ by Jul 1951, Warrior Flt Nov 19+
    wa/h/010 hr.1 1949     VX597: Built as HR.1 ff Oct 1949. 705Sq by Jan 1950, Indomitable SA+
    wa/h/021 hr.1 1950     VZ962: ff 18 May 1950 and del RNAS Gosport 13 Oct 1950. 705Sqn by N+
Flambards Experience VZ962: To Cornwall Aero Park by Jul 1981 (marked /912-CU) and +
    wa/h/022 hr.1 1950     VZ963: ff 14 Jun 1950, dd 3 Oct 1950 Gosport to 705 Sq;RFA Fort Duq+
    wa/h/023 hr.1 1950     VZ964: ff Aug 1950. 705 Sq by Jan 1951; shipped to Far East aboard +
    wa/h/024 hr.1 1950     VZ965: ff Sep 1950, 705 Sq Nov 1950; Indomitable Flt 12 Jan 1951; s+
    wa/h/033 hr.3 1952     WG663: dd May 1952 as HR.3 to RNAS Gosport. To HMS Campania Jun 195+
    wa/h/034 hr.3 1952     WG664: dd May 1952 as HR.3 to RNAS Gosport. To HMS Campania Jun 195+
    wa/h/035 hr.3 1952     WG665: HMS Warrior SAR Flt by Dec 1953, ditched on take-off, off Ko+
    wa/h/039 hr.3 1952     WG669: HR.3 705 Sq/700-GJ by Aug 1952 to Holland 2 Feb 1953 for flo+
    wa/h/040 1951     WG670: dd to RN, soc to Blackbushe open storage.
- WG670: to Historic Aircraft Museum, Southend c 1969. Damaged b+
    wa/h/041 hr.3 1952     WG671: 705Sq/702-GJ Jul 1952 until c Aug 1953; HMS Centaur SAR Flt/+
    wa/h/050 hr.3 1952     WG719: ff 19 Sep 1952 as HR.3 Hal Far SAR Flt/901-HF by Jan 1953.
- G-BRMA: To British Rotorcraft Museum Weston-super-Mare Jun 1978+

- WG719: 03Dec16 pictured as WG719 in bare metal finish at Inter+
    wa/h/053 hr.3 1952     WG722: ff 16 Oct 1952, dd 9 Dec 1952 Gosport. To Malta in HMS Indom+
    wa/h/058 hr.3 1952     WG748: ff 10 Nov 1952. dd as HR.3 to Gosport 1 Dec 1952, 705Sq, fro+
    wa/h/059 hr.3 1952     WG749: ff Nov 1952 as HR, dd Dec 1952 to RNAS Gosport. Lossiemouth +
    wa/h/061 hr.3 1952     WG751: ff Nov 1952; 705Sq/710-GJ by Mar 1953; Yeovilton Stn Flt/948+
- WG751: Chatham Historic Dockyard; Moved between several scrap+

Jun09 pictured at the Chatham Historic Dockyard ( The w+

Sep16 still at Chatham Historic Dockyard
    wa/h/064 hr.3 1952     WG754: RN Dragonfly HR.3 d/d 15dec52; conv to HR.5; 15jul97 picture+
    wa/h/067 hr.3 1952     WH991: ff 4 Feb 1953 as HR.3, dd 24 Feb 1953 to RN at Gosport. To H+
    wa/h/076 hr.3 1953     WN499: HR.3 ff 21 Apr 1953, Illustrious SAR Flt May 1953, 705Sq/703+
Torbay Aircraft Museum WN499: Torbay Aircraft Museum Jun 1971, /-Y still there Jun 19+

to Caernarfon Airworld by 1988 still Apr 1996, in poor +
    wa/h/078 hr.3 1953     WP493: ff May 1953 as HR.3 and dd May 1953 to RNAS Gosport. Lossiem+
    wa/h/080 hr.3 1953     WP495: ff 20 May 1953 as HR.3; Ford Stn Flt/982-FD by Aug 1953; Cul+
- WP495: sold to Anglo Diesel Co Jun 1964

Royal Air Force WP495: RAF Dragonfly HR.3 f/f 20may53; 14jul58 conv HR.5; fe+

- G-AJOV: preserved at Royal Air Force Air Museum, Cosford
    wa/h/083 hr.3 1953     WP498: dd Jul 1953 to RNAS Gosport as HR.3. 4 month loan to RAN abo+
    wa/h/086 hr.3 1953     WP501: RN d/d Aug53; 728Sq /903-HF Station Flt Hal Far by Feb54; 72+
    wa/h/088 1953     WP503: built 1953, Eagle SAR Flt by Oct 1953, Lossiemouth Stn Flt, +
- WP503: to Humberside Aviation Museum in Jun 1976, wearing /901+

to Bomber County Aviation Museum 1981, until 1996.

Sunk in lake at Capernwray Diving Centre, Lancs by Apr +

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