845 Naval Air Squadron
A Merlin HC3 used by 845 NAS
Active1 January 1943–present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
TypeLand based and amphibious squadron
RoleCommando Air Support
Part ofCommando Helicopter Force
Garrison/HQRNAS Yeovilton
Nickname(s)Junglies
Motto(s)Audio Hostem
(Latin: "Hear the Enemy")
EquipmentAgustaWestland Merlin HC4/HC4A
Battle honoursJava 1945
Malaya 1945
Falklands 1982
Iraq 2003[1]
Commanders
Current
commander
Cdr Rich Sturman RN

845 Naval Air Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. Part of the Commando Helicopter Force, it is a specialist amphibious unit operating the AgustaWestland Commando Merlin HC4 helicopter and provides troop transport and load lifting support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. In 2012, the squadron celebrated 50 years since it was awarded "commando" status.[2][3]

The squadron is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.

Role

The primary role of the squadron is to support the Royal Marines in amphibious assaults and wartime environments. It conducts medium-lift frontline operations in a variety of environments including desert, arctic, jungle and maritime. The squadron mainly conducts troop carrying, load-lifting, and maritime interdiction missions but can also perform CASEVAC and deployed SAR duties. They are the spearhead of the Commando Helicopter Force, held at high-readiness, and are a key part of the Royal Navy's expeditionary wartime capability.

History

Beginnings

An 845 NAS Avenger taking off from Empress
An 845 NAS Avenger taking off from Empress

845 NAS formed on 1 January 1943, at USNAS Quonset Point, as a Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (TBRS) flying the new Grumman Avenger, designed as a much needed replacement for the ageing Fairey Swordfish. The squadron took part in its first active service by dive bombing an oil refinery at Surabaya, Java, in May 1944. For the following year, the squadron saw action over Malaya, Ceylon, and Sumatra before being disbanded in 1945.

845 reformed on 15 March 1955, at Gosport to be an Anti Submarine unit flying the newly proved Westland Whirlwind HAS.22's, with which it saw service on several ships in the Mediterranean and Indonesia. Its job was to prove the new sonar technology and the navigational reliability of the Whirlwind. After returning to the UK, the squadron was disbanded briefly in October, before being reformed on 14 November 1955. In April 1956, the squadron deployed on Ocean and Theseus to partake in the fleet review and various training exercises. Much training was conducted with the Royal Marines in the vicinity of Malta and put them in great stead for the approaching Suez Crisis.

Although politically a failure, militarily, and particularly for the Navy, the Suez episode was a huge success. 845 NAS were involved in landing 515 Marines and 89 tons of equipment in history's 'first vertical assault'. Several aircraft were damaged from small arms fire, with one ditching on the way back to Theseus. Thankfully, all survived. The lessons of the Suez Crisis were not lost on the Government, which set about establishing amphibious forces capable of rapid deployment and response. The backbone of these forces would be helicopters operating from large ships designed for amphibious warfare.

Having re-equipped with Whirlwind HAS.7's, the squadron joined Bulwark for a commission in the Middle and Far East in late 1957. During this time, the squadron was involved in various exercises and troop moves as a result of the deteriorating situation in Aden. Shortly after this, the squadron was heavily involved in a salvage operation when two ships collided and caught fire in the Persian Gulf. A fire party was boarded and the wounded evacuated in 845 NAS helicopters. For its part in this long and difficult operation, the squadron was awarded the Boyd Trophy for the Navy's most outstanding piece of aviation in the year. During the 1950s, 845 NAS was the only squadron to operate as a front line ASW unit and was responsible for developing most of the doctrine used by today's ASW squadrons.

After disbanding yet again in mid-1959, the squadron was reformed on 10 April 1962, as a Commando Helicopter Squadron with Westland Wessex HAS.1's. It was the first commando squadron to have these helicopters. While embarked aboard Albion later that year, the ship was ordered to make best speed for Singapore to help quell the rebellion in Brunei and the subsequent Indonesian inspired insurrection. Troops were landed in Borneo and the squadron was immediately committed to supporting British Forces ashore. They alone facilitated troops in being able to patrol vast areas of the jungle while operating from the most basic of clearings. In 1964, the squadron won the Boyd Trophy for a second time as a result of this operation, and the nickname 'Junglies' was born. After being relieved in 1965, by 848 Squadron, 845 returned to Culdrose, to re-equip with the new twin-turbine Wessex HU.5, B Flight of 845 returned to Borneo, in June 1966, and were the last Junglies. Bulwark embarked B Flight in October 1966, in Labuan.

After a few quiet years involving exercises all round the globe and the inclusion of Lieutenant The Prince of Wales in Red Dragon flight, the Ministry of Defence announced that a permanent presence was to be established in Northern Ireland, which resulted in a six weeks rolling roulement for all commando aircrew. 845 NAS established a hard earned reputation for trying its utmost to help the troops in all weathers. Its aircraft were some of the first to render help to the mortar devastated Forkhill Special Forces base. In one month alone the Squadron flew 80% of all support helicopter task hours with just one third of the available assets.

In November 1971, the squadron prepared to abandon ship and evacuate Bulwark when a serious boiler room fire broke out while off the coast of (then) Jugoslavia. An area of flight deck aft from the rear hangar lift was all that could be used for flying because the crew were mustered for Emergency Stations on the flight deck. Plans for how to launch 21 aircraft from three spots in quick succession were rapidly made. The fire was brought under control and the squadron was stood down. One Marine Engineering Mechanic died in the fire. In January 1972, 845 embarked on Bulwark for Operation Exit, the withdrawal from Malta. Bulwark lay in Grand Harbour for 11 weeks and flew more than 1,000 missions. Prince Charles served in the squadron in the 1970s.[4]

An 845 NAS Wessex HU.5 (background) and RAF Puma (foreground) at Farnborough in September 1982
An 845 NAS Wessex HU.5 (background) and RAF Puma (foreground) at Farnborough in September 1982

Falklands

April 1982 brought the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, which resulted in all crews being recalled from Ireland on 4 May to be on 24 hours notice. Others had already departed to the South Atlantic with the rest of the task force. After initially being tasked with resupplying the convoy while passing the Ascension Islands, the squadron inserted SAS troops into South Georgia, which preceded its recapture. The squadron continued to assist ground troops during the war before the white flag was eventually raised over Port Stanley.

1990s

Sea King HC4 of 845 NAS over Northern Norway in 2014
Sea King HC4 of 845 NAS over Northern Norway in 2014

After the Falklands War, 845 NAS caught up with its sister squadron 846 in being equipped with the Sea King HC4 helicopter. Since then, 845 NAS has trained hard to be the UK's main contingency force capable of operating around the world. 1990 brought Operation Granby, which saw a force normally used to operating in Arctic conditions, deployed to the Arabian deserts of the Gulf. Consequently, the squadron was heavily involved in the First Gulf War, before returning to the UK and re-establishing a presence in Northern Ireland between 1992 and 2002. The 1990s also saw 845 NAS deploy on operations in Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars.[5] It supported UNPROFOR and NATO peacekeeping missions in the country, providing transportation and evacuating refugees and casualties.[6] The first British helicopter squadron into Bosnia, 845 NAS was also the last squadron to leave in 2005.

2000s

Besides Bosnia, the squadron was also called to the initial deployment to Afghanistan after the 11 September attacks, on Operation Oracle.[7]

During the same period, 845 NAS also met commitments in Sierra Leone, and in 2003 took the first troops into Iraq during the assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula. Having left Iraq in 2007, the squadron then deployed to Afghanistan[8] where they have been operating in Helmand Province and primarily based at Camp Bastion.

2010s

In October 2011, they returned from Afghanistan to their base in Somerset.[9][10] Back in the UK, the squadron provides aviation support to infantry training, and takes part in numerous amphibious exercises, thereby ensuring that the UK is able to effectively operate in the littoral environment and so is prepared for any contingency. This was shown in 2011 during Operation Ellamy in and around Libya. 845 received its Merlin Helicopters from the former 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF in July 2015[11] and participated in Exercise Black Alligator from mid-August to early October 2015.[12]

In June 2019 the squadron embarked on RFA Argus for a deployment to the Baltic Sea as part of the UK Joint Expeditionary Force. The squadron practised amphibious landings alongside the Wildcats of 847 NAS as part of exercise Baltic Protector in the Baltic Sea.[13]

It is stated that it is one of the FAA squadrons for the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime).[14][15]

Aircraft operated

A Royal Navy Merlin HC3, similar to that operated by 845 NAS.
A Royal Navy Merlin HC3, similar to that operated by 845 NAS.

The squadron operated a variety of different aircraft and versions:[16]

References

Citations

  1. ^ "Lords – Hansard text for 9 Jun 2005". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 9 June 2005.
  2. ^ "Squadron celebrates golden anniversary". Western Gazette. 10 May 2012. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013.
  3. ^ "The highest standards and practices in Naval Aviation". royalnavy.mod.uk. 1 October 2012.
  4. ^ Prince of Wales biography
  5. ^ "House of Commons – Hansard Written Answers for 27 Jan 2003 (pt 31)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 27 January 2003. col. 632–633.
  6. ^ "The Longest Days of Courage". Navy News. February 2001. p. 28.
  7. ^ "House of Commons – Hansard Written Answers for 3 Feb 2003 (pt 16)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 3 February 2003. col. 56W–60W.
  8. ^ Royal Navy – Current Operations: Afghanistan
  9. ^ "Commando Sea Kings return from Helmand after four years". royalnavy.mod.uk. 12 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Navy Sea Kings complete Afghanistan mission". MOD. 14 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Royal Air Force Merlin squadron handed over to Royal Navy". Blackmore Vale. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  12. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. November 2015. p. 8.
  13. ^ "RFA Argus takes part in front-line operations". 10 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Auriga". royalnavy.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 11 December 2010.
  15. ^ "House of Commons – Hansard Written Answers for 23 Oct 2012 (pt 2)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 23 October 2012. col. 811W–812W.
  16. ^ Sturtivant & Ballance 1994, p. 259.

Bibliography

Official website