|By Dave Taskis|
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:
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.
|Years||Units||bold : Current base of the Unit|
|1959||700 NAS||RNAS Yeovilton|
|1957/62||705 NAS||RNAS Culdrose|
|1952/60||705 NAS||RNAS Culdrose|
|1952/59||728 NAS|| Nicosia (Lefkosia)|
|1952/54||744 NAS||Eglinton / Londonderry|
|1950/53||705 NAS|| Gilze-Rijen|
List of Aircraft
|C/N||Mod||Built||ID In this Organisation||In other Org|
|wa/h/008||hr.1||1949|| VX595: Spent time in storage variously at Fleetlands, Gosport and P+|| 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+
to RAF Museum store at Henlow by Mar 1986.
|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+|| VZ962: To Cornwall Aero Park by Jul 1981 (marked /912-CU) and + |
- VZ962: to British Rotorcraft Museum W-s-M by 1990, still Dec 1+
|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/049||hr.3||1950|| WG718: HR.3 Del RN|| - WG718: Stored at Long Marston from early 1992, until Jul 1995. |
Spares use by Yorkshire Helicopter Preservation Group J+
|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/055||hr.3||1952|| WG724: HR.3 built at Yeovil. ff Oct 1952, del RN 17 Nov 1952.|
|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;
|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 +
Yorkshire Helicopter Preservation Group Jun 2006.
|wa/h/077||hr.3||1953|| WN500: Indomitable SAR Flt by Jul 1953; 705 Sq/704-GJ by Sep 1953; +|
|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 |
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 +