Monday, 19 November 2012

Search and Rescue

Having just voted for the successful candidate for the local Police Commissioner (Tony Hogg) I was reminded of the fact that I used to sit next to him when I was flying Sea King helicopters on 814 Naval Air Squadron from Culdrose in the seventies.  Over the Christmas period of 1979 several of us volunteered to act as the duty Search and Rescue crews over the holiday period - probably because we got home early and missed out on a rather boring exercise off Norway.  Little did we know what we were getting in to.  Until New Year, absolutely nothing happened and then on New Years Eve all hell broke loose.  We weren't even on duty and I was about to go to bed thanking my lucky stars, as it was snowing and blowing a gale when my recall bleeper went off.  The on duty crew were stuck in a cabbage field near Marazion, having gone to rescue a pregnant lady.  The weather was so bad it caused the electric power to trip out and Culdrose's approach radar with it, so they opted for the cabbage patch which they could just about see.   The standby crew had got stuck somewhere else so it was up to us to take the next call out.  Suffice it to say it was hairy.  A trawler on the rocks, in a Force 10 snow storm and in a helicopter that didn't have any anti icing equipment fitted.  The full story is here  Ben Asdale rescue
It didn't end there either. It took us several hours to get the helicopter back in the hangar before we managed to get some sleep as we were now on duty properly. That afternoon we rescued the other Sea King from its cabbage patch.   Over the next few days we searched the Channel at night for almost eight hours for survivors of an ore carrier that had capsized in yet another Force 10, picked up four yacht survivors off a merchant ship and then finally flew to Bantry Bay in southern Ireland where a 25,000 ton tanker had literally blown up taking twenty five crew with her.  All in all an interesting few days.

The snowy airfield the next day - the Wessex helicopter didn't have the night capability that we did in the Sea King
 The Ben Asdale a few months later.  It looked quite different by day with no Snow!

All three 814 SAR crews - I'm the good looking one second left.  Our new illustrious Police Commissioner is third right.

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