723 Squadron History Part 2

 
 

HMAS Albatross and HMAS Creswell conducted a combined Freedom of Entry march through the streets of Nowra on 31 August 2013, celebrating the 65th anniversary of the commissioning of Albatross and the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Australian Naval College. As part of the event, three Squirrels and two Bell 429s joined aircraft from 808 and 816 Squadrons to conduct a flypast. The event served as precursor for a much larger event to take place just a few weeks later.

 

 

 

723 Squadron's Squirrels lead the flypast during the Freedom of Entry march in Nowra, August 2013.
723 Squadron's Squirrels lead the flypast during the Freedom of Entry march in Nowra, August 2013.

The squadron made history in two navies that September when two Squirrels embarked in the Spanish fleet replenishment ship ESPS Cantabria. The event was significant for both the Spanish Armada and the Royal Australian Navy as it was the first occasion of a foreign helicopter flight embarkation for either navy. The 723 Squadron Cantabria Flight consisted of two aircraft and 25 personnel, and was the culmination of months of hard work by both navies. Embarked training was conducted in deck landings, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), transfers and anti-surface warfare. Maintenance personnel also gained valuable experience, the deployment being the first time that the majority of them had been a member of a flight at sea, and had the challenge of maintaining and supporting multiple aircraft on a warship at sea. The detachment disembarked from Cantabria on 18 October.

723 Squadron's ESPS Cantabria detachment on the flight deck. Note the Squirrel on the right wearing it's 2013 International Fleet Review livery.
723 Squadron's ESPS Cantabria detachment on the flight deck. Note the Squirrel on the right wearing its 2013 International Fleet Review livery.

 

The squadron participated in the International Fleet Review in Sydney between 4 and 9 October with as many as nine aircraft taking part aerial displays and flypasts for both the fleet review and the combined navies march. As well as RAN and RAAF aircraft, the fleet review flypast also featured aircraft from France, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, while the combined navies march on 9 October included more than 3,000 sailors marching through the streets of Sydney.

Squirrels conducting an aerial display during the International Fleet Review, 2013 (Photo: ABCIS Myfanwy Rees)
Squirrels conducting an aerial display during the International Fleet Review, 2013. (Photo: ABCIS Myfanwy Rees)

 

In 2014 the Squirrels celebrated 30 years of service in the RAN. The light and versatile Squirrel has proven to be one of the most successful airframes in RAN history, amassing an enviable record in both operations in training and doing so with remarkable reliability. The actual anniversary, 14 May, passed without fanfare as the Squadron was occupied conducting training and other taskings. A dedicated ceremony was held later in the year.

From 23 June to 7 August 2014, a Squirrel was embarked in HMAS Parramatta (IV) during the ship’s deployment to Pacific in support of Operation SOLANIA, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to maritime surveillance in the Pacific region. The ship visited Noumea, Port Vila and Honiara, and conducted exercises with French naval units in New Caledonia and civil aid tasks in Honiara following recent flooding. The Squirrel conducted numerous surface search sorties over the course of the deployment while also conducting embarked training.

he embarked Squirrel Helicopter practices Vertical Replenishment with the Flight Deck Team on the forecastle of HMAS Parramatta during Operation Solania.
The embarked Squirrel Helicopter practices Vertical Replenishment with the Flight Deck Team on the forecastle of HMAS Parramatta during Operation SOLANIA.

 

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Steward Stacey Licence, directs the Squirrel Helicopter to leave the flight deck of HMAS Parramatta during training leading up to Operation Solania.

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Steward Stacey Licence, directs the Squirrel Helicopter to leave the flight deck of HMAS Parramatta during training leading up to Operation SOLANIA.

Chronology

Date

Event

01/1945

Formed as a RN Squadron

31/05/1946

Disbanded

07/04/1952

Reformed at NAS Nowra as a Fleet Requirements Unit with a variety of aircraft

11/03/1953

Takes delivery of the RAN's first rotary-wing aircraft, three Bristol Sycamore HR 50 helicopters

27/10/1953

A detachment departs Australia for HMAS Sydney's second tour in Korea

04/05/1954

HMAS Sydney's second tour in Korea ends

18/06/1954

Takes delivery of the RAN's first jet aircraft, a de Havilland Sea Vampire Mk T.22

25/10/1956

Decommissioned at NAS Nowra

18/02/1957

Recommissioned at NAS Nowra flying Sycamores, Auster J5-G Autocars and Fireflies

11/1962

723 Squadron becomes an all-helicopter squadron

18/04/1963

Takes delivery of first Westland Scout helicopters

10/02/1964

HMAS Voyager disaster, 723 Squadron assists in search and rescue efforts

20/05/1964

Takes delivery of the RAN's first Iroquois helicopter

15/07/1965

Sycamores decommissioned

28/08/1967

First RANHFV formed

27/07/1973

Scouts decommissioned

10/10/1973

Takes delivery of the first Kiowa helicopter

01/1976

Receives Westland Wessex helicopters from the decommissioning HT725 Squadron

Commanding Officers

Assumed Command

Commanding Officer

07/04/1952

Lieutenant Commander JA Gledhill, DSC

27/04/1953

Lieutenant Commander GA Beange, DSC

18/05/1953

Lieutenant Commander DC Johns

07/09/1953

Lieutenant Commander JBG Campbell, DFC

23/05/1955

Lieutenant Commander CMA Wheatley

18/02/1957

Lieutenant Commander JRN Salthouse

01/07/1957

Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE

24/07/1959

Lieutenant Commander JRN Salthouse

27/11/1960

Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell

06/06/1962

Lieutenant Commander A Ignatieff

11/09/1962

Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell

19/08/1963

Lieutenant Commander KA Douglas

13/12/1963

Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell

17/09/1964

Lieutenant Commander DJ Orr

06/10/1965

Lieutenant Commander PJ Vickers

25/10/1965

Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE

27/03/1967

Lieutenant Commander N Ralph

05/06/1967

Lieutenant Commander SBE Courtier

03/07/1967

Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE

16/12/1969

Lieutenant Commander GR Rohrsheim, DSC

03/11/1970

Lieutenant Commander DD Farthing, DSC

10/07/1972

Lieutenant Commander WS Lowe, MBE

03/11/1972

Lieutenant Commander IM Speedy, DSC

21/09/1973

Lieutenant Commander BC Crawford, DSC

01/12/1974

Lieutenant Commander JC Buchanan, DSC

26/01/1976

Lieutenant Commander BJ Boettcher

12/04/1977

Lieutenant Commander JM Leak

20/10/1978

Lieutenant Commander CF Daley

23/06/1980

Lieutenant Commander VT Battese

19/10/1981

Lieutenant Commander MA Perrott

11/10/1983

Lieutenant Commander MJ Lehan

17/02/1984

Lieutenant Commander CF George

10/01/1986

Lieutenant Commander RJ Luxton

04/12/1987

Lieutenant Commander PJ Cannell

08/12/1989

Lieutenant Commander PJ Machin

24/01/1992

Lieutenant Commander VEB Di Pietro

01/01/1994

Commander VEB Di Pietro

15/04/1994

Lieutenant Commander AFE Di Pietro

01/01/1996

Commander AFE Di Pietro

01/01/1996

Lieutenant Commander MT Jerrett

01/01/1998

Commander MT Jerrett

30/11/1998

Lieutenant Commander SG Elms

01/01/1999

Commander SG Elms

20/11/2000

Lieutenant Commander SA Harwood

31/12/2002

Commander SA Harwood

30/04/2003

Lieutenant Commander AM Whittaker

29/04/2005

Lieutenant Commander NMD Gunn

04/2007

Lieutenant Commander C Brightling

05/06/2009

Commander DL Dezentje, CSM

10/06/2011

Commander MM Shand

28/06/2013

Commander AC Moore

25/05/2015

Commander PJ Wynter

Further Reading

  1. Australian Naval Aviation Museum, Flying Stations: A Story of Australian Naval Aviation, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1998.
  2. Eather, Steve, Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1995.
  3. Gillett, Ross, Wings Across the Sea, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1988.
  4. Perryman, John and Brett Mitchell, Australia's Navy in Vietnam, Topmill Pty Ltd, Silverwater NSW, 2007.
  5. In relation to the 'Black Christmas Bushfires' 2001  http://www.navy.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Navy_News-January-21-2002.pdfhttp://www.navy.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Navy_News-February-4-2002.pdf
  6. In relation to Fire Fighting Operations conducted by 723 SQN 2002  http://www.navy.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Navy_News-December-9-2002.pdf
  7. 723 SQN's part in plotting the bushfires around the ACT 2003  http://www.navy.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Navy_News-February-13-2003.pdf
  8. In relation to Operation SAMOA ASSIST 2009  http://www.defence.gov.au/news/navynews/editions/5222/5222.pdf
  9. 723 SQN Celebrate their 60th Anniversary 2012  http://www.defence.gov.au/news/navynews/editions/5507/5507.pdf