Joint Helicopter Command on Public Display
Units from right across JHC have been showing their wares during the past few months.
In June a flypast by historic aircraft, a parachute display and martial music entertained guests at a centuries-old Beating Retreat ceremony at Colchester Garrison, on the occasion of the annual 16 Air Assault Brigade and Colchester Garrison cocktail party. The event was held to recognise and thank members of the civilian community for the support they have provided to the Brigade and Garrison.
Local dignitaries were treated to music from The Band of The Parachute Regiment and Pipes and Drums from both Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment. Their performance included the 1812 Overture accompanied by the firing of 105mm Light Guns from 7 RHA.
A flypast was made by a Spitfire and Dakota from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, an RAF Chinook, an AAC Apache and a Hercules from the USAF followed by a parachute display by the Red Devils, the Parachute Regiment’s display team, before the singing of the National Anthem.
The following day a Wattisham Apache dazzled the crowds at the Suffolk Show with an exhilarating demonstration of their flying and fighting capabilities. The helicopters were a star attraction at the annual agricultural show in Ipswich, where they took to the sky to put on a simulated combat mission for the crowds.
The role demonstration began with ground crew from 653 Sqn 3 Regt AAC setting up a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP). One of the Apaches landed to quickly take on extra fuel and weapons. As it flew off, ‘insurgents’ launched an attack on the crews working on the ground below. Amid gunfire, the Apache wheeled round and engaged the enemy with 30mm cannon and Hellfire missiles, decisively winning the engagement.
Elsewhere on the showground, a static Apache was on display with soldiers who have flown and maintained it on operations in Afghanistan talking to the public about their experiences.
The Wattisham Military Wives Choir also performed Sing, the official song for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Several members of the choir joined the Commonwealth’s most talented and diverse musicians in the recording of the single.
Wattisham Stn Cdr Col Andy Cash said: “The Suffolk Show is the key opportunity for Wattisham Flying Station and the Attack Helicopter Force to engage with, and thank, our local community for their support. It allows us to demonstrate the professional people and impressive equipment we have and the capability they provide. I hope we have given the public an insight into the nature of our business at Wattisham that has been both enjoyable and informative.”
Further south, CHF was also on display in front of an estimated 80,000 members of the public, when 845 NAS took up an invite to attend this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. Members of the squadron took a Junglie Sea King as a static display, part of the increasingly popular Aviation Exhibition section of the Festival.
Over the course of four days, members of the public of all backgrounds and ages came to have a look, and found the experience an unforgettable one. In excess of 7,000 people climbed aboard, meeting the engineers and aircrew, and getting their first taste of the inside of a Royal Navy battlefield helicopter.
It was an experience not easily forgotten, with people being surprised not only at how big the Sea King Mk4 is, and ‘how many switches and dials’ there were in the cockpit, but also the extensive operational experience of CHF crews in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.
The Festival of Speed wasn’t all work however, with the team getting a chance to see the newest, fastest cars and motorbikes, as well as some vintage vehicles. The ‘Junglies’ were taken aback by the response from their fellow exhibitors who were very extremely welcoming. Lotus, the festival’s main sponsor, granted exclusive access to their F1 team set-up, and gave the opportunity to get up close and personal with their F1 cars. Other teams also offered invites to meet key team members, which saw the contingent rubbing shoulders with Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Nico Prost.
Lt Sean Davenport, the 845 Dep AEO, said: “We were all thrilled at the opportunity to experience the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed and see some of the cars we’ve heard so much about, but to be invited into exclusive areas, including paddocks and start lines was something truly sensational.“
The weekend was a very worthwhile experience for CHF. Lt Charlie Peschardt concluded: “It’s great to be able to display our helicopter at such a famous event, enabling us to meet many members of the public who have been overwhelmingly generous in their support of the job 845 NAS performs around the globe.”
Beating Retreat has its origins in the early years of organised warfare when the beating of drums and the parading of Post Guards heralded the closing of camp gates and the lowering of flags at the end of the day. Retreat once formed part of a soldier’s daily routine, with the term originating in the French word ‘retraite’ meaning retire (as in to bed in the evening) rather than withdrawal from the enemy. Over the years Beating Retreat has become a spectator event where military bands put on a musical display.