Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Huge turnout for Junglie Sea Kings across the South and South-West on farewell fly-past

Junglie Sea King farewell flypast
22 March 2016
They gave three cheers on the parade ground at Dartmouth. They held smart phones aloft in Portsmouth and panned across the heavens. They stood on the beach in Sidmouth. On the Jurassic Coast cliffs of Portland and overlooking Durdle Door.

School children sat in the stands overlooking the parade ground at HMS Raleigh or paused in the yard of the Downs School in Bristol.

Air engineers unfurled an oversized White Ensign on the slopes leading up to Glastonbury Tor, whose 518ft summit was packed with well-wishers.

For the last time the distinctive throb of Rolls-Royce Gnome engines was heard across much of southern and south-west England as five green Sea Kings performed a 475-mile, six-hour farewell tour.

The Junglie Sea Kings – the flying steeds of the Royal Marines since the end of the 1970s – bowed out with an emotionally-charged fly-past over some of the sites or units most associated with them over the past three and a half decades.

Used to carry Royal Marines and their kit into battle, the venerable aircraft has done so repeatedly from the Falklands and two conflicts with Saddam Hussein, to the Balkan civil wars of the 1990s, Sierra Leone in 2000 and Afghanistan over much of the past decade.

The Sea King has been a wonderful workhorse; it is a great pleasure to fly and an aircraft that has created a thousand memories for the aircrews who have flown it

Commander Gavin Simmonite, Commanding Officer 848 Naval Air Squadron

They have also proved indispensable in humanitarian missions, helping with the evacuation of civilians from the Lebanon in 2006 and delivering aid to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

With the veteran helicopters being replaced by the battlefield Merlin, the final five green Sea Kings still operational lifted off from their home at RNAS Yeovilton for a clockwise tour.

Leading the formation was Commander Gavin Simmonite, 848’s final Commanding Officer, a veteran of more than 2,000 hours in a Sea King cockpit and winner of the DFC for his skill and bravery handling a damaged helicopter on operations in Afghanistan back in 2009.

“The Sea King has been a wonderful workhorse; it is a great pleasure to fly and an aircraft that has created a thousand memories for the aircrews who have flown it and for those on the ground watching it go about its business. It just doesn’t get any better,” he said.

“Nothing stands still and everything moves on. The mantle and legacy of the Sea King will be picked up and carried forward by the Merlin. It has big boots to fill as the Sea King has made a particular mark in the psyche of the Fleet Air Arm and Commando Helicopter Force.”

Beginning at Yeovilton at 8.30am, the quintet – plus a Merlin as chase cab for the media – passed over Joint Helicopter Command in Andover , Portsmouth and Plymouth Naval Bases, the Royal Marines bases at Poole, Lympstone, Stonehouse, Bickleigh, Chivenor (where there was an hour-long pause to refuel) and Norton Manor, plus Portland, BRNC Dartmouth, HMS Raleigh, Okehampton Camp, Charlton Farm Hospice near Portishead, Abbeywood, Bristol , Glastonbury Tor , Yeovil (where the aircraft rolled off the Westland production line until the mid-80s), finally landing back to base around 2.30pm.

Still to come is the formal act of decommissioning the squadron, followed by winding down and dispersal of personnel and machines, which will complete in June, allowing the second battlefield Merlin squadron, 845, to move in to 848’s hangars and buildings from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

Photos and video posted on social media by the general public can be seen here

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.