royalnavy.mod.ukTop Class Employer with Top Class People
Royal NavyRoyal Navy

Jungly Squadron Provides Help in Norwegian Helicopter Rescue

Lt Cdr Steve Doubleday RN (The Wells Journal), Cpl Andy Firth (The Hull Daily Mail), Cpl Ady Bennett (The Bristol Evening Post) and Lt James Coleman (Western Gazette – Yeovil)
Jungly Squadron Provides Help in Norwegian Helicopter Rescue
Jungly Squadron Provides Help in Norwegian Helicopter Rescue

The Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Somerset provide training facilities for service personnel requiring arctic training in the mountainous, frozen and wind swept environment of Bardufoss, Northern Norway.  Whilst standards of living accommodations are good, the base is frequently battered by relentless Arctic and Siberian weather, seeing wind chill adjusted temperatures dip to 50 degrees below zero on a regular basis.  Lieutenant Commander Steve Doubleday RN from Wells in Somerset is the Commanding Officer.  In addition to training pilots and aircrewmen, he is kept extremely busy ensuring the base is administered effectively for the 400 visitors who attend training.

2009 was to be a great celebratory event for the Service men and women of the CHF who were enjoying the 40th Anniversary of the ‘Junglies’ being based at Bardufoss.  However, this year would see circumstances result in a Sea King helicopter of the CHF being involved in an extremely challenging rescue of a passenger from a crashed aircraft.

It was whilst Lt Cdr Doubleday was conducting a snow landing sortie around Bardufoss that he received a request from the Norwegians to assist in the location of a civilian aircraft, believed to be a Squirrel helicopter.  Lt Cdr Doubleday had been involved in several reactive tasks before, in both peacetime and conflict and was extremely keen to assist.  Further information was received about the location of the missing aircraft and as he proceeded to the area, Bardufoss Air Traffic Control requested he assume the role of On Scene Commander.

As the helicopter headed to the area, flying conditions gradually deteriorated with reduced visibility and low cloud.  The route led the crew up a major valley and over a very large frozen lake, which was covered in heavy snow, flying became more challenging as visual references that assist the pilot gradually disappeared; everything was simply white. However, after much perseverance the aircrew spotted a dark object on the valley floor.

Pressing on, it soon became clear that the object was indeed a small helicopter.  Badly damaged, with all 3 rotor blades missing and its tail boom damaged, debris was scattered around the aircraft.  Despite the size of the Sea King, extreme weather conditions and the slope of the ground a decision was made to land close to the downed helicopter.  On landing it was apparent that the pilot had been killed in the crash, however, there were a number of footprints around the aircraft, which indicated a possible survivor.  Whilst relaying this information back to additional search aircraft the crew were informed that a man has been spotted running out of a log cabin on the banks of the frozen lake who turned out to be the passenger of the stricken helicopter.

Lt Cdr Doubleday remained with his helicopter on the ground, waiting for the police to complete their compilation of evidence before flying the body of the pilot back to Bardufoss. After the gruelling sortie Lt Cdr Doubleday said,“ Today my crew demonstrated their considerable ability and skill in a tremendously hazardous environment.  I am extremely proud of them, my only regret was that we could not help the pilot”.