Hurricane helicopter heroes rewarded at 815 Naval Air Squadron

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm

The achievements of 815 NAS (Naval Air Squadron) have been recognised at a ceremony in Yeovilton.

Surrounded by her Flight comrades, Lieutenant Amy Gilmore received the Osprey Trophy.

The tireless actions of the Flight Commander/Observer and her team in the Caribbean last autumn saved lives, brought hope and delivered vital supplies to hundreds of British citizens whose lives were blighted by a series of hurricanes which smashed through the region.

Lt Gilmore’s Wildcat, operating from RFA Mounts Bay, was the first military assistance to arrive on devastated islands on at least two occasions during Operation Ruman, the UK response to the storms.

During 90 hours of missions by 216 Flight and its helicopter ‘Checkmate’, the aircraft carried out reconnaissance flights to survey damage, delivered 37 tonnes of aid to inaccessible areas, evacuated medical emergencies, flew in water and food, and rescued three people from a capsized boat.

“As we had spent an amazing week in the British Virgin Islands before Hurricane Irma hit, it was very upsetting to see our favourite place in the Caribbean in such dire need,” Lt Gilmore said.

“I was able to get out on the ground in some of the most isolated and badly-affected areas and was really humbled to speak to those affected who were doing a brave job of confronting reality. Locals invariably requested water, food, shelter and medical supplies and were extremely grateful when we were able to deliver.

“I am hugely grateful that we were able to help many of the people affected and I will certainly remember the events of September 2017 for the rest of my life.”

Her nine engineers worked around the clock to ensure Checkmate was available for every mission required of her.

Those collective efforts earned them the Osprey Trophy, presented for the past 11 years to the 815 NAS Flight which has contributed the most to the ethos, reputation and standing of the Lynx – and now Wildcat – Helicopter Force over the preceding year.

It is presented in memory of the four men killed when 229 Flight from HMS Portland was lost on a search-and-rescue sortie in December 2004.

Pat Cole, the mother of 229 Flight’s Commander Lt Dave Cole, handed over the trophy to Lt Gilmore during an ‘end of term’ celebration for the squadron in its Yeovilton home, ahead of summer leave.

Other awardees included Lt Simon Hall, who received the Fleet Air Arm Sword which is presented by the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators to a crew or individual achieving the finest feat of aviation during the year.

Lt Hall was serving with HMS Monmouth when his Wildcat was called on to fly an extremely challenging long-distance rescue mission – resulting in the life of a tanker crewman being saved.

Awards were also given for efficiency, to the officer, senior and junior rate of the term – the latter was Leading Air Engineering Technician Joe Harper, who regularly stood in for his bosses and demonstrated “a great work ethic with standards that are beyond reproach” – alongside numerous Long Service Good Conduct medals handed out.

I am hugely grateful that we were able to help many of the people affected and I will certainly remember the events of September 2017 for the rest of my life

Lieutenant Amy Gilmore, 815 Naval Air Squadron