845 Naval Air Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. Part of the Commando Helicopter Force, it is a specialist amphibious unit operating the AgustaWestland Merlin HC3/HC3A helicopter and provides troop transport and load lifting support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. In 2012, the squadron celebrated 50 years since it was awarded "commando" status.
The squadron is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.
The primary role of the squadron is in supporting Royal Marines Commando troops in amphibious assaults.
845 NAS formed on 1 January 1943 as a Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (TBRS) flying the new Grumman Avenger, designed as a much needed replacement for the ageing Fairey Swordfish. The squadron took part in its first active service by dive bombing an oil refinery at Surabaya, Java, in May 1944. For the following year, the squadron saw action over Malaya, Ceylon, and Sumatra before being disbanded in 1945.
845 reformed on 15 March 1955 at Gosport to be an Anti Submarine unit flying the newly proved Westland Whirlwind HAS.22's, with which it saw service on several ships in the Mediterranean and Indonesia. Its job was to prove the new sonar technology and the navigational reliability of the Whirlwind. After returning to the UK, the squadron was disbanded briefly in October before being reformed on 14 November 1955. In April 1956, the squadron deployed on HMS Ocean (R68) and HMS Theseus (R64) to partake in the fleet review and various training exercises. Much training was conducted with the Royal Marines in the vicinity of Malta and put them in great stead for the approaching Suez Crisis.
Although politically a failure, militarily, and particularly for the Navy, the Suez episode was a huge success. 845 NAS were involved in landing 515 Marines and 89 tons of equipment in history’s ‘first vertical assault’. Several aircraft were damaged from small arms fire, with one ditching on the way back to HMS Theseus. Thankfully, all survived. The lessons of the Suez Crisis were not lost on the Government, which set about establishing amphibious forces capable of rapid deployment and response. The backbone of these forces would be helicopters operating from large ships designed for amphibious warfare.
Having re-equipped with Whirlwind HAS.7’s, the squadron joined HMS Bulwark (R08) for a commission in the Middle and Far East in late 1957. During this time, the squadron was involved in various exercises and troop moves as a result of the deteriorating situation in Aden. Shortly after this, the squadron was heavily involved in a salvage operation when two ships collided and caught fire in the Persian Gulf. A fire party was boarded and the wounded evacuated in 845 NAS helicopters. For its part in this long and difficult operation, the squadron was awarded the Boyd Trophy for the Navy’s most outstanding piece of aviation in the year. During the 1950s, 845 NAS was the only squadron to operate as a front line ASW unit and was responsible for developing most of the doctrine used by today’s ASW squadrons.
After disbanding yet again in mid-1959, the squadron was reformed on 10 April 1962 as a Commando Helicopter Squadron with Westland Wessex HAS.1's. It was the first commando squadron to have these helicopters. While embarked aboard HMS Albion (R07) later that year, the ship was ordered to make best speed for Singapore to help quell the rebellion in Brunei and the subsequent Indonesian inspired insurrection. Troops were landed in Borneo and the squadron was immediately committed to supporting British Forces ashore. They alone facilitated troops in being able to patrol vast areas of the jungle while operating from the most basic of clearings. In 1964, the squadron won the Boyd Trophy for a second time as a result of this operation, and the nickname ‘Junglies’ was born. After being relieved in 1965 by 848 Squadron, 845 returned to Culdrose to re-equip with the new twin-turbine Wessex HU.5, B Flight of 845 returned to Borneo in June 1966 and were the last Junglies. HMS Bulwark embarked B Flight in October 1966 in Labuan.
After a few quiet years involving exercises all round the globe and the inclusion of Lieutenant The Prince Of Wales in Red Dragon flight, the Ministry of Defence announced that a permanent presence was to be established in Northern Ireland, which resulted in a six weeks rolling roulement for all commando aircrew. 845 NAS established a hard earned reputation for trying its utmost to help the troops in all weathers. Its aircraft were some of the first to render help to the mortar devastated Forkhill Special Forces base. In one month alone the Squadron flew 80% of all support helicopter task hours with just one third of the available assets.
April 1982 brought the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, which resulted in all crews being recalled from Ireland on 4 May to be on 24 hours notice. Others had already departed to the South Atlantic with the rest of the task force. After initially being tasked with resupplying the convoy while passing the Ascension Islands, the squadron inserted SAS troops into South Georgia, which preceded its recapture. The squadron continued to assist ground troops during the war before the white flag was eventually raised over Port Stanley.
After the Falklands War, 845 NAS caught up with its sister squadron 846 in being equipped with the Sea King HC4 helicopter. Since then, 845 NAS has trained hard to be the UK’s main contingency force capable of operating around the world. 1990 brought Operation Granby, which saw a force normally used to operating in Arctic conditions, deployed to the Arabian deserts of the Gulf. Consequently, the squadron was heavily involved in the First Gulf War, before returning to the UK and re-establishing a presence in Northern Ireland between 1992 and 2002. The 1990s also saw 845 NAS deploy on operations in Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars. It supported UNPROFOR and NATO peacekeeping missions in the country, providing transportation and evacuating refugees and casualties. The first British helicopter squadron into Bosnia, 845 NAS was also the last squadron to leave in 2005. Besides Bosnia, the squadron was also called to the initial deployment to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, on Operation Oracle.
During the same period, 845 NAS also met commitments in Sierra Leone, and in 2003 took the first troops into Iraq during the assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula. Having left Iraq in 2007, the squadron then deployed to Afghanistan where they have been operating in Helmand Province and primarily based at Camp Bastion. In October 2011, they returned from Afghanistan to their base in Somerset. Back in the UK, the squadron provides aviation support to infantry training, and takes part in numerous amphibious exercises, thereby ensuring that the UK is able to effectively operate in the littoral environment and so is prepared for any contingency. This was shown in 2011 during Operation Ellamy in and around Libya.
It is stated that it is one of the FAA squadrons for the Response Force Task Group.
845 received its Merlin Helicopters from the former 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF in July 2015 and participated in Exercise Black Alligator from mid-August to early October 2015.
HRH Charles, Prince of Wales served in the squadron in the 1970s.
The squadron operated a variety of different aircraft and versions:Grumman Avenger I
Grumman Wildcat V
Westland Whirlwind HAS.22, HAR.3 & HAS.7
Westland Wessex HAS.1 & HU.5
Hiller HT 2
Westland Wasp HAS.1
Westland Sea King HC.4
AgustaWestland Merlin HC.3/3A