5-Aug-2013 Source: Fleet Air Arm Museum
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is proud to launch a summer exhibition from July 31 to September 5 as part of the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Royal Navy Helicopter Search and Rescue.
In 1953, the Royal Navy took delivery of its first Westland Dragonfly aircraft to form dedicated search and rescue squadrons and units around the UK. And, in the intervening six decades, these brave men and women have rescued tens of thousands of stricken or stranded souls.
At the heart of this exciting summer-long display will be the Sea King flown by Prince Andrew in the Falklands Conflict – which was used to conduct a rescue mission during the campaign – and a Dragonfly, the small helicopter which began this rich tapestry of life-saving and heritage.
The exhibition opens on July 31 but on August 2 at 2pm there will be the opportunity to meet serving members of the Royal Navy’s Search and Rescue Force, as well as Commander Mike Norman, who received an Air Force Cross for his part in the rescue of the crew of the fishing boat Ben Asdale, which foundered at Maenporth in Cornwall on New Year’s Eve 1978. Between them they have decades’ experience of saving lives at sea and on land and they will talk visitors through what airborne lifesaving is all about in a special presentation, answering questions afterwards.
On August 7 and 8 at 2pm each day, visitors can enjoy a presentation by Sgt Tony Russell, awarded the George Medal for his bravery in rescuing two yachtsmen in stormy weather and mountainous seas – Tony’s medal, as well as two other awards he was presented with for the rescue, will also be on display, as will the yacht’s pennant, gifted by the crew.
And on August 21 and 22 at 2pm two former Royal Navy rescuers – Lt Cdr Paul Belding and Lt Cdr David Elliott – will also make presentations before sharing their experiences of rescues conducted in the 70s with Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth, as well as at 771 Naval Air Squadron and on board aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. They will also be available in the morning on both days to chat to members of the public visiting the Search and Rescue Display Area from 10am until 12 noon.
Display boards tell the story not only of the history of naval rescue aviation, but a little of what being part of Royal Navy search and rescue at its two bases in Scotland and Cornwall is all about, as well as charting 60 years of some of the service’s most remarkable and daring rescues, and the brave aviators who risked their lives to save others.
Also on show, will be a number of artefacts gifted to the crews by grateful survivors.
And young visitors can really get a feel for what it is to dress like the rescue heroes with flight overalls and helmets to try on. And they can experience what it may feel like to await rescue at sea by trying out a life raft – add a little imagination of towering waves and gale force winds and they can easily consider how much the sight of the rescue helicopter means to those in peril.
771 Naval Air Squadron is based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose and providing 24-hour coverage the length and breadth of the Cornish peninsula, taking in towering cliffs and beautiful and unpredictable waterways, as well as wind-blasted heath and some of the busiest beaches in the country, down to the Isles of Scilly and the UK’s South Western Approaches out to a distance of 200 nautical miles at sea.
At HMS Gannet in Ayrshire, a Sea King Mark 5 aircraft covers the Lake District to the south, Edinburgh and Dundee in the east, Northern Ireland and a multitude of Scottish islands in the west, up to Ben Nevis in the north. Like their Cornish colleagues, they too extend their reach 200 nautical miles out to sea from the coast of Northern Ireland – their area includes two of Britain’s highest peaks and some of its trickiest mountain terrain, as well as the notorious Corryvreckan whirlpool.
See www.fleetairarm.com for further information about this exhibition and the museum’s other summer highlights.