Royal Navy, October 19, 2017 - Commando fliers completed a unique 'tor of duty' when they helped conservation work on an iconic Somerset landmark.
846 Naval Air Squadron were asked to help the National Trust prevent Glastonbury Tor being worn away by the hundreds of thousands of visitors it receives every year.
The Somerset Hill, crowned by the ruins of an ancient church, is not just a useful navigational marker for Merlins and Wildcats returning to nearby RNAS Yeovilton… it's also one of the most spiritual sites in the country, with tourists clambering the 518ft to the summit to catch the stunning views and admire the ruins of St Michael's Church.
Unfortunately those same tourists are beginning to erode the very hill they love to climb, so the National Trust needed to reinforce the hill by treading stones into the earth.
So many tonnes were needed that wheeling barrows up and down the hill wasn't an option, so the trust turned to the Commando Helicopter Force and its heavy-lifting helicopters.
Enter one Merlin piloted by Lieutenants Fred Durrant and Tristan Rowan, with Royal Marines aircrewmen Sergeant Graham Smith and Sergeant Julian Marchant in the back of the cab.
The Merlin lifted nearly 40 tonnes of stone and deposited them on the Tor - members of the Mobile Air Operations Team were at the top of the hill to guide the aircraft safely in, not least because its powerful downdraft is equivalent to winds of over 70mph.
Once the stone had been deposited on the Tor and the Merlin withdrew National Trust ranger Rebekah West and a team of volunteers were on hand to un-bag and to begin to spread the stone.
Due to the proximity of onlookers and nearby dwellings and buildings, 846 NAS executive officer Lieutenant Commander Tom Cackett was present throughout, ensuring the safety aspects of the flying.
"It's a rare privilege to carry out community-related tasks - especially on such an iconic site that has such meaning to many in Somerset, especially those who work and fly out of Yeovilton," he said.
"The Commando Helicopter Force has always had a special place for Glastonbury and its Tor. Whenever there is an event to celebrate, the Tor is the main landmark on the flypast route and we always dip a wing in salute.
"To work on a project with Rebekah and the national institution that is the National Trust has been a real pleasure."