First Wildcat to land on HMS Queen Elizabeth returns home in time for Christmas

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm

After four months away and 120 hours airborne in support of Britain’s biggest warship and her jets, 213 Flight and their Wildcat returned home to Yeovilton, mission complete.

Since leaving their 815 Naval Air Squadron home in mid-August, the Flight, which was based on frigate HMS Monmouth – due home in Devonport tomorrow – has flown 120 hours.

Those 120 hours included the first Wildcat landings on both new tanker RFA Tidespring and new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during the latter’s maiden trials with the new F-35 stealth fighter.

The agile helicopter also provided smooth rides for TV presenter/adventurer and honorary Royal Marine Bear Grylls and Prince Michael of Kent and worked with multiple units of the US Navy to develop tactics vital to the future operations of the carrier.

And first and foremost, the Wildcat – callsign Blackjack – helped Monmouth in her primary duty of providing security for the 65,000-tonne carrier throughout her trials off the Eastern Seaboard of the USA.

Flight Commander Lieutenant Ollie Brooksbank was met by his wife Frankie and their two-year-old daughter Evelyn.

"It’s great to be home,” he said. “We've had a pretty exciting time over the past four months and what we have seen during this period is probably setting the tone for the Royal Navy for the next 50 years. I look forward to bringing lessons back into the Wildcat Maritime Force.”

Sophie Hume waited to be reunited with husband, Flight Observer Lieutenant James Hume: "It has felt like a very long time and I'm so excited to see him,” she said. “It’s been hard but I'm so proud of his achievements.”

Also welcoming 213 Flight home was 815’s Commanding Officer Commander Jamieson Stride who praised the small team of air and ground crew for a “hugely successful deployment.”

He continued: “Their Wildcat – superbly maintained by 213 Flight engineers – was always serviceable and available for the wide range of tasks the Carrier Strike Group staff required. 213 Flight's families should be rightly proud of the team's achievements and I wish them all a very Merry Christmas."

Port stops included Mayport, Florida, Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Baltimore in Maryland, allowing personnel to sample the delights of US culture along most of the Eastern Seaboard.

In Baltimore, for Maryland Fleet Week, the ship was open to visitors and the Flight was able to show the Wildcat to civilians and military personnel alike.

213 Flight's families should be rightly proud of the team's achievements

Commander Jamieson Stride RN