723 Squadron History - Part 2

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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.

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.

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 3000 sailors marching through the streets of Sydney.

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.
723 Squadron’s ESPS Cantabria detachment on the flight deck. Note the Squirrel on the right wearing its 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.
Squirrels conducting an aerial display during the International Fleet Review, 2013. (Image by ABCIS Myfanwy Rees)
Squirrels conducting an aerial display during the International Fleet Review, 2013. (Image by 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.

The 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 of 723 Squadron History

 
Date Event
Jan 1945 Formed as a RN Squadron
31 May 1946 Disbanded
07 April 1952 Reformed at NAS Nowra as a Fleet Requirements Unit with a variety of aircraft
11 Mar 1953 Takes delivery of the RAN's first rotary-wing aircraft, three Bristol Sycamore HR 50 helicopters
27 Oct 1953 A detachment departs Australia for HMAS Sydney's second tour in Korea
04 May 1954 HMAS Sydney's second tour in Korea ends
18 June 1954 Takes delivery of the RAN's first jet aircraft, a de Havilland Sea Vampire Mk T.22
25 Oct 1956 Decommissioned at NAS Nowra
18 Feb 1957 Recommissioned at NAS Nowra flying Sycamores, Auster J5-G Autocars and Fireflies
Nov 1962 723 Squadron becomes an all-helicopter squadron
18 Apr 1963 Takes delivery of first Westland Scout helicopters
10 Feb 1964 HMAS Voyager disaster, 723 Squadron assists in search and rescue efforts
20 May 1964 Takes delivery of the RAN's first Iroquois helicopter
15 Jul 1965 Sycamores decommissioned
28 Aug 1967 First RANHFV formed
27 Jul 1973 Scouts decommissioned
10 Oct 1973 Takes delivery of the first Kiowa helicopter
Jan 1976 Receives Westland Wessex helicopters from the decommissioning HT725 Squadron

Commanding Officers of 723 Squadron

 
Assumed Command Commanding Officer
07 Apr 1952 Lieutenant Commander JA Gledhill, DSC
27 Apr 1953 Lieutenant Commander GA Beange, DSC
18 May 1953 Lieutenant Commander DC Johns
07 Sep 1953 Lieutenant Commander JBG Campbell, DFC
23 May 1955 Lieutenant Commander CMA Wheatley
18 Feb 1957 Lieutenant Commander JRN Salthouse
01 Jul 1957 Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE
24 Jul 1959 Lieutenant Commander JRN Salthouse
27 Nov 1960 Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell
06 Jun 1962 Lieutenant Commander A Ignatieff
11 Sep 1962 Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell
19 Aug 1963 Lieutenant Commander KA Douglas
13 Dec 1963 Lieutenant Commander JA O'Farrell
17 Sep 1964 Lieutenant Commander DJ Orr
06 Oct 1965 Lieutenant Commander PJ Vickers
25 Oct 1965 Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE
27 Mar 1967 Lieutenant Commander N Ralph
05 Jun 1967 Lieutenant Commander SBE Courtier
03 Jul 1967 Lieutenant Commander G McPhee, OBE
16 Dec 1969 Lieutenant Commander GR Rohrsheim, DSC
03 Nov 1970 Lieutenant Commander DD Farthing, DSC
10 Jul 1972 Lieutenant Commander WS Lowe, MBE
03 Nov 1972 Lieutenant Commander IM Speedy, DSC
21 Sep 1973 Lieutenant Commander BC Crawford, DSC
01 Dec 1974 Lieutenant Commander JC Buchanan, DFC
26 Jan 1976 Lieutenant Commander BJ Boettcher
12 Apr 1977 Lieutenant Commander JM Leak
20 Oct 1978 Lieutenant Commander CF Daley
23 Jun 1980 Lieutenant Commander VT Battese
19 Oct 1981 Lieutenant Commander MA Perrott
11 Oct 1983 Lieutenant Commander MJ Lehan
17 Feb 1984 Lieutenant Commander CF George
10 Jan 1986 Lieutenant Commander RJ Luxton
04 Dec 1987 Lieutenant Commander PJ Cannell
08 Dec 1989 Lieutenant Commander PJ Machin
24 Jan 1992 Lieutenant Commander VEB Di Pietro
01 Jan 1994 Commander VEB Di Pietro
15 Apr 1994 Lieutenant Commander AFE Di Pietro
01 Jan 1996 Commander AFE Di Pietro
01 Jan 1996 Lieutenant Commander MT Jerrett
01 Jan 1998 Commander MT Jerrett
30 Nov 1998 Lieutenant Commander SG Elms
01 Jan 1999 Commander SG Elms
20 Nov 2000 Lieutenant Commander SA Harwood
31 Dec 2002 Commander SA Harwood
30 Apr 2003 Lieutenant Commander AM Whittaker
29 Apr 2005 Lieutenant Commander NMD Gunn
Apr 2007 Lieutenant Commander C Brightling
05 Jun 2009 Commander DL Dezentje, CSM
10 Jun 2011 Commander MM Shand
28 Jun 2013 Commander AC Moore
25 May 2015 Commander PJ Wynter
08 Dec 2017 Commander B Willington
13 Dec 2019 Lieutenant Colonel RA Green
15 Dec 2021 Commander SR Dale

Further reading