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Formation of 3 Brigade Air Squadron (3 BAS)

Location: Sembawang, Singapore

Period/ Conflict: 1960's

Year: 1968

Date/s: 12th August 1968

Almost co-inciding with the Commando Carriers (HMS Albion & HMS Bulwark) being replaced by the Landing Platforms Dock (LPD) HMS Fearless & HMS Intrepid, and to give more effective support to Commandos in the field, Brigade Flight, 40 Cdo RM Air Troop, 42 Cdo RM Air Troop and 29 Cdo RA Air Troop began to be amalgamated at Sembawang, Singapore from 1967 and was officially recognised on 12 Aug 1968 as 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron.

The unit began life with 14 Sioux AH.1, at least 13 of which were embarked on HMS Intrepid for Exercise Coral Sands in Sep-Oct 1968. On 12 Aug 1969, the unit was the first to land a Sioux on the casing of a British submarine, HMS Rorqual, off Pulau Timoman.

In Jan 1970 six Scout AH.1 arrived in Singapore to replace six of the Sioux with HQ Flt. By Jul 1971, 3 CBAS had returned to the UK and added 41 Cdo RM Air Troop, 45 CDO RM Air Troop and 29 Cdo RA Air Troop, bringing a further mix of Sioux and Scout AH.1 to the unit.

The flights were given names related to the Commando:

  • 40 CDO - Dieppe Flt

  • 41 CDO - Salerno Flt (remained based in Malta until 41 CDO was disbanded in Apr 1977)

  • 42 CDO - Kangaw Flt

  • 45 CDO - Montforterbeek Flt

  • BDE HQ - Brunei Flt.

In 1971, 3 BAS returned to the UK and added 41 Cdo RM Air Troop and 45 Cdo RM Air Troop bringing a mix of Sioux and Scout AH.1 to the unit.

Scout and Gazelle of 3 BAS at Coypool airfield, Plymouth 1979

Between Feb & Dec 1975, the Sioux AH.1 were replaced by the Gazelle AH.1. Between Sep 1976 and Oct 1977, the unit maintained a detachment of Gazelle, through 2 tours at RAF Aldergrove.

3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Westland Scout helicopter landing on HMS Hermes, off the coast of northern Norway

During the Falklands War in 1982, 3 BAS operated 9 Gazelles (3 each) on RFA Sir Geraint (A Flt), RFA Sir Galahad (C Flt), and RFA Sir Percivale (M Flt and some B Flt Scout), with 6 Scouts (3 each) on HMS Fearless and RFA Sir Lancelot.

Commanded by Major Peter Cameron RM, who was awarded the Military Cross. Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs) were awarded to Lieutenant R J Nunn (posthumously) and Captain J P Niblet RM.

The squadron was involved in every major ground battle during the campaign in a variety of roles; reconnaissance, liaison, the movement of ammunition to the front line, and the recovery of casualties from forward positions. Its six Scout and nine Gazelle helicopters flew a total of 2,110 hours in just over three weeks reflecting a remarkable rate of serviceability and flying

3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Scout fitted with SS.11 guided missiles, as used in the Falklands Conflict.

Shortly after the Falklands conflict in Sep 1982, the unit moved from Coypool to RNAS Yeovilton and the Scouts began to be replaced by six Lynx AH.1 in B Flt. In Apr 1991 after Operation Desert Storm, campaigns of internal repression were waged by the Iraqi government. The unit was put on notice to deploy to northern Iraq and sailed for Turkey with six Lynx and four Gazelle on RFA Argus on 20 Apr (with 846 NAS) to participate in the multinational Operation Haven. It staged through south eastern Turkey and operated from a number of forward bases inside northern Iraq, until the last elements withdrew from Sirsenk on 15 Jul 1991.

After distinguished service at home and overseas, 3 BAS was replaced by 847 Naval Air Squadron on 31 Aug 1995.

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