RN Aircraft carrier Bulwark lost aircraft at sea near Nowra, Australia 1963-5.
Around the years of 1963-5 I was flying an RAAF Dakota at Canberra, when weather forced us to divert to the RAN Air Station at Nowra, NSW. In the evening a bunch of Royal Navy pilots landed at Nowra from the RN aircraft carrier "Bulwark" which had been conducting exercises off the coast near Jervis Bay.
From the conversation I overheard in the wardroom at Nowra I gathered that several aircraft from the carrier had crashed into the sea in bad weather and the remaining pilots had diverted to Nowra. I believe the carrier sailed on to Sydney. I don't recall the aircraft types but they may have been Sea Hawks. The drama was kept from the media and not one word got out to the public about the disaster (if indeed there was one of course).
Does anyone have information on the events of that day?
Thanks so far. I checked my log book and there is no doubt that the date of the incidents/ accidents was 25th October 1965. If my memory is astray and it wasn't HMS Bulwark then was there another British aircraft carrier in the area of RANAS Nowra that night?
A37575, an interesting story. Joined the FAA mid '66 and not a story that I heard of in my 7 years in the Nowra wardroom. Will email a chap who was front line at Nowra on Gannets at the time and report back.
Meantime I will try and locate the second pilot on that Dakota trip to Nowra, Flying Officer Gary Beck (completed his RAAF career as an AVM) and see if he recalls the glum faces of the pilots in flying overalls that were in the ward room that evening.
A37575, sorry but I don't bring much joy. Here is a reply from a fellow aviator who held a senior position at Nowra at the time.
I certainly do not have any knowledge of any mishaps from any RN Carrier in October 1965. I was at ALBATROSS at that time and feel somehow I would have been involved had such accidents occurred. It is stupid to suggest that in peacetime fatal accidents were covered up. There were plenty of people at ALBATROSS who would have been on the phone to the Daily Telegraph in the hope of making a quick buck. Sorry but I think another myth has been shot down.
Does anyone know if there is a data base of FAA (UK) aircraft losses available? The FAA (UK) museum may be of help to you.
Not so fast! The Royal Navy paid a visit to NAS Nowra around that time and had a Gannet taxi into a hanger door @ the completion of night flying. H hanger, western end. That would put a frown on the aircrews face, and about the same time a Sea Vixen (may have been a Buc) landed and blew a tyre and put a few extra holes in the aircraft. I was a young NAMAE on 724 squadron @ the time...a long time ago now!
You ask if there is a record of all Fleet Air Arm losses. The answer is yes - contained within "Fleet Air Arm Fixed-Wing Aircraft since 1946" by Ray Sturtivant, Mick Burrow and yours truly and published by Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. Both Mick and I are currently finalising the rotary-wing companion volume to this (nine years in the making!) with a hoped-for publication towards the end of this year. This will have detailed individual histories for all helicopters owned/operated by the Royal Navy since 1943.
I've checked our Wessex histories and there is nothing showing for any incident on 25 October 1965. With regard to the 820 Sqn loss in the Straits of Malacca, only one is recorded - XS122 ('295/E') which suffered an engine failure, ditched but remained afloat (a rarity!) allowing it to be recovered aboard Eagle and returned to the UK for repair. Sadly it was written off in a later crash in 1972.
I'm still on the lookout for the loan of photographs that anyone might have in order to illustrate the book, so if anyone can help, please drop me a PM.
Just read your note regarding your request for Photo's of Helicopter Crashes.
I was the crewman of Wessex 5 XT774 which crashed on board HMS Bulwark 17/0/1969. We were off Cyprus at the time rembarking our Commando Unit. Unfortunatley one of the Flight Deck stores party was killed and another seriously injured. The Pilot and I were only slightly injured although the aircraft was a right off
When was 'Operation Swordhilt' which was held off the coast of Australia (1965?, 1966?). HMS Victorious with 801's Buccaneers and 893's Sea Vixens, took part in Operation Swordhilt, before visiting Sydney.
Edit; I think that 'Swordhilt' might have been October 1966, so a year out.
Last edited by Captain Airclues; 30th Jan 2010 at 17:00.
We execrcised down the Oz coast before we went into Garden island dockyard in October 1968 -I know 'cos I had my 25th birthday alongside. So that was HMS Hermes 801 (Bucc), 893 (Vixen) 849B (Gannet) and 824 (Ithink ) - during our ops off Jervis Bay an 849 Gannet taxied into a hangar at Nowra. - I think it got lightered back on before we left the area for Garden Island.
That was HMS Hermes deployment May 1968 to April 1969 .
While coming over for lunch on the Bulwark the aussie copter's blades hit the deck and ditched into the sea. Apparently it was overloaded, no causualties. Somewhere off Manila during exercises in 1960. Have a photo of copter in the sea just after the crash.