Coachlines - October 2018

03.10.18 Tony Sparks

A day with Commando Helicopter Force

48 hours after his election as our new Master, Graham Cole found himself back on familiar turf at the Landowners’ Day at Merryfield where a select band of Coachmakers were invited to join local farmers for a thrilling Merlin helicopter ride. A BBC TV crew was also in attendance and the day was covered on Points West that evening. The event took place at Merryfield Airfield, 20 miles west of Yeovilton on Wednesday 5th September.

The majority of remote Helicopter Landing Sites (HLS) within the Yeovilton air operating area belong to private landowners who permit helicopters to land on a goodwill basis. These sites are vital to the training carried out by CHF and other aviation units to help deliver operational capability. To continue this essential link with the local community, a Landowners Day takes place annually, which acknowledges the support shown by farmers
Opened in 1944, the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces, and during the World War II it was used primarily as a transport airfield.

In June 1944, 90 aircraft left Merryfield and took part in the D-Day landings. The mission was declared a success with only three aircraft lost.
The next day another 50 aircraft left with another success being reported, this time there was no loss of aircraft.

The Merlin Mk3 is a new aircraft type for Commando Helicopter Force (CHF). The UK Royal Navy Merlin medium lift helicopter is a variant of the EH101 helicopter developed by AgustaWestland, which was until recently, chaired by our new Master.
We were also treated to a ride on a Bv 206, an extraordinary vehicle which was designed to carry troops and equipment through snow and bog-lands in northern Sweden.

A delicious lunch was also served from a field kitchen – known to the Royal Navy as a tent galley. For our Master, this was a perfect and fitting start for what will no doubt be an action packed year as our leader – we wish him well.