Royal Navy, March 24, 2016 - For the very last time green Junglie Sea Kings fly over RNAS Yeovilton as Britain’s second most senior sailor takes the salute at the decommissioning of 848 Naval Air Squadron.
Two days after a triumphant circuit of south-west and southern England to wave goodbye to their friends and supporters over the past 37 years, the final three operational helicopters flew around the Somerset air station.
On a beautiful early spring morning, the 100 or so personnel still assigned to 848 squadron (more than 400 men and women strong when the Sea King was in full flow) gathered on the standings at Yeovilton with the Royal Marines Band for the disbanding ceremony.
Taking the salute was the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Ben Key. Among those in attendance was Major General Richard Felton, Commander Joint Helicopter Command.
“What the aircraft and the Junglie Sea King stands for is an astonishing chapter in the Fleet Air Arm and Naval aviation,” Admiral Key told the assembled ranks.
“An aircraft designed in the 1960s and still flying today has flown to Mars and back in air miles. Everyone, past and present involved with the aircraft can be proud to be part of this story.”
Just the grey bagger Sea Kings of 849 NAS at Culdrose are now still flying; they’ll retire in a couple of years’ time, bringing 49 years of front-line service by the helicopter in its many guises to an end.
"What the aircraft and the Junglie Sea King stands for is an astonishing chapter in the Fleet Air Arm and Naval aviation", Vice Admiral Ben Key, Fleet Commander
The iconic Sea King goes out of service having been involved in most major theatres of conflict where British forces have been deployed; in particular it will be remembered for its operational work during the Falklands conflict, Sierra Leone, Iraq and latterly Afghanistan.
The mighty Sea King will also be remembered by many for its work with the United Nations in Bosnia and its humanitarian support work in the Lebanon, West Africa, Philippines and the Caribbean.
The mantle and legacy of the Sea King will now be picked up and carried forward by the Merlin, which is already in service with the Commando Helicopter Force.
The Merlin has big boots to fill as the Sea king has made a particular mark in the psyche of the Fleet Air Arm and Commando Helicopter Force.
However, as Commander Gavin Simmonite, Commanding Officer of 848 Naval Air Squadron said, "nothing stands still and everything moves on."
He added, "The Sea King has been a wonderful workhorse; it is a great pleasure to fly and an aircraft that has created a thousand memories for the aircrews who have flown it and for those on the ground watching it go about its business. It just doesn’t get any better!"