HMS Queen Elizabeth's flying guardians return to warm welcome at Culdrose

820 Naval Air Squadron disembarked from HMS Queen Elizabeth as she passed Cornwall on her way to Portsmouth yesterday.

Four of the squadron’s Merlin Mk2 helicopters flew into their home of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Helston, with over 100 of the squadron’s personnel delivered by helicopter and into the arms of their families waiting for them at 820 NAS HQ.

The squadron has been at sea since August, flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, conducting a variety of roles for the ship. They have been integral in providing airborne search and rescue for the ground-breaking F-35 flight trials that the ship has been conducting.

Other roles include force protection (both above and below the sea surface), personnel transfers between HMS Queen Elizabeth her escorts and ashore, cargo delivery (both inside and slung underneath the helicopter) and providing the over the horizon eyes and ears for the ship.

It’s fantastic to be getting home but we are already looking forward to next year, taking our capability further again and delivering even more for HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Cdr Chris Knowles RN

During the deployment, half of the squadron left HMS Queen Elizabeth for a month to fly down to the US Navy underwater ranges off Andros Island.

Here they conducted highly successful tactical development of the Merlin Mk2 submarine hunting capabilities and engaged in a large scale Anti-Submarine training exercise with the US navy – impressing their American colleagues.

As HMS Queen Elizabeth transited home across the Atlantic over the last two weeks, the squadron’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Chris Knowles, reflected on his squadrons achievements over the past four months.

“It’s been truly remarkable to be part of this historic first deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth, as the Carriers dedicated Squadron we have been there from the very first landing off Scotland right up to the highlights we will all take home from this deployment; seeing the flight deck full of Merlins, F-35 jets and US visitors including V-22s has shown just what a potent capability we have. 

“It’s fantastic to be getting home but we are already looking forward to next year, taking our capability further again and delivering even more for HMS Queen Elizabeth.”

All the squadron’s personnel are looking forward to some leave, and are particularly pleased they made it back in time to spend Christmas at home with their families.

For some, though, they are about to get even busier – AET Adam Workman is getting married and moving house just before Christmas and then having a baby just after!

Of the deployment, he said: “It’s been an amazing experience to be one of the first to work on the Queen Elizabeth.

“Difficult at times, and it’s never nice being away from home, but I think it might have been easier at sea compared to my next few weeks!”

820 NAS will take Christmas leave and come back to work refreshed and ready in the New Year to continue their work with HMS Queen Elizabeth throughout 2019.