771 Naval Air Squadron was formed in 1939 at Lee-on-Solent as a Fleet Requirements Unit flying a variety of fixed wing aircraft. In Sep 1945 it received the Hoverfly, making 771 the first naval air squadron to operate helicopters, which it used until May 1947. It disbanded in Aug 1955 when it combined with 703 Squadron
to form 700 Squadron
. 771 Squadron reformed and assumed a helicopter trials and SAR role with the introduction of the Whirlwind
HAR.3 in 1961 at RNAS Portland
, until 1964 when it disbanded and became 829 Squadron
. It reformed at RNAS Portland in Jun 1967 with Whirlwinds and began to introduce the Wessex
in Nov 1969.
It moved to RNAS Culdrose
in Sep 1974. 6 of its Wessex were left at RNAS Portland, to form the basis of 772 Squadron
. The Wessex HAS.1 was replaced by the twin turbine powered Wessex HU.5 in 1979. In 1985, it absorbed 707 Squadron
s Wessex when it took over Commando Helicopter Training and the Wessex were replaced by the Westland Sea King
HAS.5 in Oct 1987 as the Squadron assumed a long range, day/night and all weather SAR capability and then converted to the HAR.5. In July 2001, 771 Squadron assumed the responsibility for Advanced and Operational Flying Training for Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Pilots and Observers, as well as the residual Sea King HAS.5 & HAS.6 Pilot Conversion and Refresher Courses. On 1 Nov 2001, the unit took administrative responsibility for HMS Gannet SAR Flight
, when it absorbed 819 Squadron
Between late 2012 and early 2013, 771 NAS began stencilling its Sea Kings on the sponsons and rear hulls with notable (ie dangerous) rescue missions it had accomplished. Where known, these are recorded in the individual airframe histories.
771 NAS must be one of the very few British units to have the unique privilege of witnessing a birth in flight
. Baby Marcus
was born to a mum from St. Martins in the Isles of Scilly, during a medevac mission to the Royal Cornwall Hospital
on 1 Oct 2013.
A special Farewell Flight
by six Sea Kings of the unit started out on 21 May 2015; the aim was to fly around the Cornish Coast but ever on call, one Sea King was diverted to a rescue near Plymouth and the tour continued with just 5 airframes. On 31 Dec 2015, 771 NAS stood down and handed over Search and Rescue operations to the MCA from Newquay
. Decommissioned on 23 Mar 2016 in a ceremony at RNAS Culdrose.