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.