Royal Marines squadron marks 50 years of commando support

October 3, 2018 -The ‘flying eyes’ of the Royal Marines past and present gathered in Yeovilton to celebrate 50 years of keeping the commandos at least one step ahead of their foes on the battlefield.

3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron – which today has morphed into 847 Naval Air Squadron – started life as an aerial reconnaissance unit, but over its varied lifespan (five helicopter types in five decades) has conducted battlefield scouting, overwatch for convoys, tank busting outside Basra, fire support direction and casualty evacuation.

3 BAS – as it was abbreviated – started life in Singapore with the tiny Sioux helicopter in 1968, before relocating to Coypool in Plymouth as part of the withdrawal from East of Suez in 1971 with a mix of Sioux and more powerful Scouts as it became an anti-tank/general duties/reconnaissance squadron.

As the 1970s progressed the squadron received the legendary Gazelle – and took the bulbous helicopters, plus Scouts, to the Falklands in 1982 where the 15 helicopters clocked up over 2,000 hours in support of the islands’ liberation.

Air and ground crew faced grim conditions and frequent air attack, especially during the first few days after the San Carlos landings, and three helicopters were brought down by enemy fire; four aircrew were killed and two wounded.