Tell your story to mark the RN helicopter's 60th anniversary of search and rescue

The Royal Navy helicopter search and

rescue (SAR) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

To mark this diamond milestone, the life-saving service which works across land and sea is asking the country for its help.

An appeal is being made to both former Royal Navy search and

rescue crew members, as well as those who have been rescued by one of the

Senior Service helicopters, to come forward with their stories.

These tales will help form the back

bone of an on-going project to bring together all aspects of the service within

a comprehensive archive – preserving the history for years to come.

In 1953, the Royal Navy’s helicopter SAR service was founded and over the past six decades, it has operated out of a total of 11 bases, eight

of which are now either decommissioned or no longer in RN hands.

These are: 

  • RNAS Eglinton/HMS Gannet near Londonderry, Northern


  • RNAS Ford/HMS Peregrine near Littlehampton in Sussex

  • RNAS Brawdy/HMS Goldcrest in SW Wales near


  • RNAS Gosport/HMS Siskin in Hampshire

  • RNAS Lee-on-Solent/HMS Daedalus in Hampshire

  • RNAS Portland/HMS Osprey in Portland Harbour, Dorset

  • RNAS Culdrose/HMS Seahawk in Helston, Cornwall

  • RNAS Yeovilton/HMS Heron in Somerset

  • RNAS Lossiemouth/HMS Fulmar near Elgin in north east


  • RNAS Anthorn/HMS Nuthatch on the Solway Coast in

  • RNAS Prestwick/HMS Gannet in Ayrshire

Of the above, Royal Naval Air

Station Culdrose and HMS Gannet in Prestwick continue to operate this

lifesaving service – together carrying out well over 500 sorties a year to

people in distress.

HMS Seahawk has operated the full

range of naval search and rescue helicopters – the Westland Dragonfly,

Whirlwind, Wessex and Sea King – during a period from 1953 to the present day.

The base’s range extends up into Devon, throughout Cornwall, down to the Isles

of Scilly and 200 nautical miles out to sea across the Western Approaches.

Personnel from the unit have been

involved across the West Country and far out to sea in some of the UK’s most

difficult and memorable rescues, including the 1979 Fastnet Race disaster, the

1989 rescue of the crew of the MV Muree, the Boscastle Floods of 2004 and the

grounding of MSC Napoli in 2007.

In all these cases, and many others besides,

members of 771 Naval Air Squadron were decorated for their life-saving efforts.

HMS Gannet, as first 819 Naval

Air Squadron and later Gannet SAR Flight have both used variations of the

familiar Sea King, which still patrols our skies today. HMS Gannet is the only

unit to have operated search and rescue from two locations – HMS Gannet was

previously based at RNAS Eglinton in Northern Ireland until the base closed in


As with Culdrose, rescuers from

HMS Gannet have been decorated with operational honours for their part in some

notable rescues, including that of three climbers in a blizzard from the

notorious Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis in 2007, six crew from the stricken MV

Riverdance ferry in Blackpool in 2008, a climber from an avalanche in Glencoe

in 2009 and, most recently, a climber with an ankle injury from Argyll’s Beinn

Sgulaird in 2011.

Three of these were carried out under cover of darkness and

all were in the grip of horrendous weather.


Were you rescued in the last 60

years by one of the Royal Navy’s helicopters? Do you know someone who was and

who may like to tell their story?

Or, alternatively, are you a former crew

member of one of the RN search and rescue squadrons with tales to tell?

The Royal Navy would love to hear

all about memories held across the nation. 

If you would like to share your

experiences, please email your story to

including your name and contact details, as well as when you served or were


Please do not send pictures, though letting us know if you have any

available would be much appreciated. Alternatively send your memories to RN SAR

60, 771 NAS, RNAS Culdrose, Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7RH.


for more information and to download the form.