Whilst the RNLI Service will continue into 2016 and beyond the iconic 771 Red/Grey Sea King aircraft will no longer be carrying out a UK Search and Rescue role; being replaced by two state-of-the-art Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopters operated by Bristow Helicopters at Newquay. Bristow Helicopters will take over responsibility for Search and Rescue from 1st January 2016.
And so after a period of over 40 years of saving lives the Royal Navy’s Sea King Helicopter Search and Rescue Role will end. A sad day for all but looking back there can be a great sense of achievement and pride for the search and rescue accomplishments over the decades. A great team effort from all the service personnel, squadron engineers and aircrew providing this 24hr service 365 days every year at RNAS Culdrose.
Notable examples of rescues include, the Fastnet Race in 1979, MV Muree 1989, Boscastle flood in 2004 and the MSC Napoli in January 2007. All these rescues (and more) included aircrew recognition with awards for their life saving acts/heroism.
This sums up the gratitude of those rescued, during the MV Muree incident one of the rescued crew wrote on a lifejacket:
“to the angels who come in the guise of men, the lord has chosen you to perform the most profound of miracles-save life, you are what the world was made for”!!!
With many lives being saved sometimes in the most treacherous of sea conditions the squadron has certainly lived up to its motto “non nobis solum” –not unto us alone or in modern terms “for the greater good.”
The 771 aircraft will continue until March 2016 when the 771 squadron will be de-commissioned.