Thursday, 2 June 2011

809 Squadron HMS Ark Royal

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HMS Ark Royal R09

By 1970, Ark Royal  had a complement of 39 aircraft. This typically comprised 12 Phantom FG MK.1s, of 892 Squadron, 14 Buccaneer S MK.2s of 809 Squadron, 4 Gannet AEW Mk.3s of B Flight 849 Squadron, 6 Sea King HAS Mk.1s of 824 Squadron, 2 Wessex HAR Mk.1s of the Ship's Flight and 1 Gannet COD MK.4. later replaced by a AEW3. The Buccaneers doubled as tanker aircraft, using buddy refuelling pods, In July 1976, she represented Britain at the United States Bicentennial Celebration in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In 1972, the Buccaneers aboard HMS Ark Royal took part in a long range strike mission over British Honduras shortly before its independence to deter a possible Guatemalan invasion.

In the late 1970s, the ship made a return to television. A major BBC documentary series, Sailor was made, showing life on board the ship during a February to July 1976 Western Atlantic deployment. Her commanding officer at this time was Captain Wilfred Graham, a later Flag Officer Portsmouth and the ship's Commander (executive officer) was Commander David Cowling. The theme tune for the programme was "Sailing" by Rod Stewart - a song that came to be associated with the ship and her successor. She visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida from the 30th May until the 14th June 1978.

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In 1978 She entered HMNB Devonport for the last time on 4 December 1978 and decommissioned on 14 February 1979 when the White Ensign was lowered for the last time. On 29 March 1980,the MOD announced that she would she sold for scrap ending plans to preserve her. She left Devonport on 22 September 1980 under tow to be scrapped at Cairnryan near Stranraer in Scotland, arriving on the 28th. Breaking up took until 1983. Various parts of the ship remain as souvenirs or memorials for instance, an anchor outside the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton. During her service career, she had 21 commanding officers
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On the 15th of January 1963, 809 squadron was reformed at Lossiemouth in the strike role out of 700Z Flight, eventually reaching a strength of 14 Buccaneer S1 aircraft.  It operated as the Operational Flying Training Squadron for all Buccaneer crew training,  809 lost its identity on the 26th March 1965 when it was downgraded to second-line status and re-designated as 736 Squadron.  809 next reformed at Lossiemouth on the 27th of January 1966 with 6 Buccaneer S2 aircraft later increasing to 8.  The squadron embarked on HMS Hermes in January 1967, returning in September having toured the Mediterranean an the Far East.  809 re-embarked in November returning to Lossiemouth in February 1968 having toured the Ascensions, Cape Town, Aden and the Seychelles.  The squadron remained largely shore-based until embarking in HMS Ark Royal in June 1970 for the Mediterranean followed in 1971 by a visit to the United States in June and July and the Mediterranean in September.  February 1972 saw another visit to the United States followed by a period in Home waters, The squadron's shore base changed to RAF Honington in October 1972.  In February 1973 the Ark Royal again sailed for the Mediterranean, making a further visit to the United States in June.  Later That year the aircraft were updated to S2c's and similar S2d's equipped with the Martel missile system.  The following years saw visits to the Mediterranean and the United States although the squadron was almost entirely shore base between October 1976 and September 1977.  In November 1978 the aircraft were disembarked to RAF St. Athan for disposal to the RAF.  809 squadron was officially disbanded at Lee-on-Solent on the 13th of December 1978.

RN Unit, RAF Honington

The squadron transferred its home base from RNAS Lossiemouth which was being transferred to RAF control, later becoming the home base of the last RAF Buccaneer sqns to RAF Honington. 809 NAS continued to alternate between RAF Honington and HMS Ark Royal until November 1978, when after flying off the carrier for the last time in the Mediterranean, the squadron flew direct to RAF St Athan, where the aircraft were formally handed over to the RAF. 809 squadron was officially disbanded at HMS Daedalus on the 13 December 1978, and the aircraft were used to form 216 squadron in 1979.
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Above: Buccaneer S MKII being launched during Northern Wedding, Arctic 1970.
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Above: Buccaneer S MKII 034 having caught a wire during Northern Wedding, Arctic 1970.
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Above: Buccaneer S MKII against the setting sun off Virgin Gorda, early 1972.
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809 Sqdn HMS Hermes 67- 68 Photos

809 Sqdn Ark Royal  70-73 Photos


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