Wildcat helicopter returns to Yeovilton after groundbreaking deployment

A kiss to show how much you’ve been missed as Flight Commander Lt Lee Holborn embraces his wife Alice on the standings at Yeovilton.

The couple can now enjoy a belated honeymoon after the flier brought his Wildcat helicopter back to base following seven months away – most of them in the Pacific.

Around the same time as HMS Sutherland – the helicopter’s home since January – was sailing into Plymouth for a tumultuous welcome from families, the Wildcat was doing the same in front of 815 Naval Air Squadron's HQ.

It’s the first time a Wildcat Flight has been sent to the Pacific Rim with a Type 23 and the helicopter proved indispensible to the Fighting Clan’s mission, used as the frigate’s eyes and ears

The Flight have all worked exceptionally hard to constantly provide the Wildcat for operational sorties in new and interesting areas around the world

Lieutentant Lee Holborn, Wildcat Flight Commander 815 Naval Air Squadron

It clocked up more than 200 flying hours while deployed – a demanding tempo often in demanding climatic conditions… and a very long way from home at the end of the supply chain.

For Lt Holborn, the deployment was “tremendously rewarding”. He continued: “The Flight have all worked exceptionally hard to constantly provide the Wildcat for operational sorties in new and interesting areas around the world.

“Exercising with foreign navies such as the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy, and reinvigorating closer ties with allies was a highlight – and the opportunity to visit countries the far side of the world including Japan, Singapore and Malaysia as part of the day job was amazing.”

His CO at 815, Cdr Jamieson Stride, added: “Having operated as far afield as Australia and almost everywhere in between there and the UK, they have blazed a trail for the Wildcat, operating in new areas for the aircraft and impressing operational commanders everywhere they went.

“I would like to thank their families for their unstinting support during this deployment; being apart from your loved ones for over seven months is incredibly tough and their loyalty and devotion has been much needed.”