Monday, January 31, 2011

800 Naval Air Squadron pass into history

ANOTHER day, another great name in the Royal Navy passes into history with the demise of the Fleet Air Arm's only fast jet squadron.
800 Naval Air Squadron formally decommissioned - alongside the rest of Joint Force Harrier - in front of 600 friends, family and veterans, plus the ranking officers of the Senior and Junior Services.
On a bitterly cold January day at RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, the Ensign of 800 NAS and the standards of their RAF sister formations 1(F) and IV Squadrons were paraded for the final time in their present incarnations as Harrier units.
The Harriers the men and women have flown and maintained made their final flight shortly before Christmas.
Proceedings at Wittering, the home of Harrier training until the shock decision to axe the jump jet in last autumn's defence review, were focused on the decommissioning (or disbanding in RAF terminology) of the three squadrons.
The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope both thanked the squadrons for their commitment, dedication and, in times of war, blood shed for their nation.
It was, said Air Chief Marshal Dalton, "only adieu, not farewell" as the squadrons would one day re-form with new aircraft.

"The record of your squadrons is testimony to your courage," Admiral Stanhope told the airmen and ground crew. The decision to pay off the Harrier force "was one not taken lightly or easily. It has been a painful one for a close-knit community which has given outstanding service over very many years.
"We need to move on. The implications reach far beyond the Harrier community. The challenge we now face is to recreate carrier strike capability which for so long has been - and will again be - at the heart of the future forces which will safeguard our country.
"That is not only your future, but also your legacy."
As the squadrons marched out of the hangar holding the ceremony - to the strains of Auld Lang Syne from the RAF Band - guests spontaneously rose from their seats and applauded the parading sailors and airmen.
It was a moment which 800 NAS' final CO, Cdr David Lindsay, said "left a lump in my throat - it shows what a significant day this is.
He added: "It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be the commanding officer of the last Harrier squadron in the Fleet Air Arm.
"It is the end of an era of hard sacrifice, some of it in blood. We have to take that legacy and move on into the future. I am a born optimist. Hopefully we will recommission as the first squadron flying the Joint Strike Fighter."
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