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LYNX Helicopter Ditches at sea 1982

Westland Lynx
Contributed by Frank Parker 'Fez' LAEM(M) 1981-1983
Filght Commander Phil Henry's acccount


Westland Lynx HAS2 of 815 squadron- Aircraft XZ247*


1982 – 3 Months after Falklands return   - 30th september 1982

The mission

Left Rothsay in search of an Alpha class Soviet Submarine with a tug in company.

The Crew

Crew – Al Bucknall (Pilot) Phil Henry (Flight Commander) and Frank Parker (Photographer)

The Location

North Sea
30-40 Minutes into flight (dawn) taking photographs of tug –Some 30 miles from the ship.

The Fire

Smell of burning – On checking hydraulic systems No.3 failure- auxiliary (gauge Reading 0)

The Decision is made to abort the mission and return to the ship for precautionary landing.

(30 miles from the ship). No 1 Hydraulics failure and flames in rear of cabin.

Fez notifies Pilot & Obs who respond     “Put the B******d out!”

Fez pulls off soundproofing and uses fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
Fire re-ignites. The extinguisher is empty. Rear of the cabin is on fire.

The aircraft is now 50 Feet over rough sea. Fez gets the MS5 life raft ready. “Mayday” called.

Phil Henry opens door and jumps into the sea.

Fez kicked the life raft out into the 30 foot waves in the force 8 gale. It is immediately blown away.

Fez jumped into the sea.

When he comes to the surface he sees the aircraft 100 yards away on fire and watches as the pilot makes a powered ditching with floats deployed.

A wave pushed the aircraft over to port and the rotor blades smashed on contact with the sea. The tail cone assembly also detaches from the main aircraft body.

Fez began swimming towards the crash and sees Al Bucknall in his personal life-raft.

Fez joins AB and they see PH nearby and swim over and Fez, who only has a lifejacket, lies across the two personal life rafts. After a period of time Fez ends up in the water after a wave overturns the two life rafts, all three personnel right themselves and Fez (who is now feeling the cold) swaps places and climbs into ABs life-raft.    

Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft
AN RAF Nimrod who was in the area responded to the Mayday and dropped canisters, containing further life-rafts near the downed crew. The adverse weather conditions blew these away from the survivors and were lost. They could only make out two survivors in the water and reported this back to the ship.  Word quickly spread throughout the ship that Fez was missing, this was due to the colour of his immersion suit blending in with the same colour of the life-rafts, a few passes later and the Nimrod crew were able to confirm that three survivors were located.  This was greeted with disappointment from his mess mates who had already drank his three tins, used up his dhoby dust and sold his kit !!!!!!!!  

The Rescue

The soviet tug began heading towards the survivors, but were turned away by a radio message from Ambuscade. At the time the tug turned the survivors were unaware of how close the ship was and therefore sucked back on the expletives raining down on the tug boat crew!

In the mean time AMBUSCADE is approaching at full speed in the heavy seas.

The Gemini is launched and Mitch Gardiner picks up the survivors.

Because of weight restrictions the Gemini could not be lifted with crew, (Mitch Gardiner actually told the helicopter crew that the First Lieutenant wanted them to get back in the sea so they could be brought back onboard by the swimmer of the watch) an evolution fraught with disaster during normal peacetime exercise procedures, let alone using safeguard survivors! The decision by the PH was to close to the forward flight deck area where the torpedo winch was used to lift them on to the ship.

Fez now had the privilege of a warm bath where the temperature of the water was increased over a timed period in order to offset the possibility of a delayed shock reaction, due to climbing into a hot bath.  With this was free nutty from FOB yet another privilege! along with a mention over the national radio network about our incident.

A Sea King helicopter from RNAS Prestwick was now on standby and Fez was asked by PH if he would like to fly ashore, he was not to keen to “Get back on his horse” at this time and elected to remain onboard with PH and AB. 

Once alongside in Faslane the gangway soon became busy with Accident investigators and teams of worried looking Westland Helicopter staff who were quite clearly desperate to ascertain the fullest debrief from the survivors.     


In the 90s A Scottish trawler pulled up a rotor head in its nets which was sent to the MOD and found to belong to HMS Ambuscade’s lost aircraft.

Contributed by
Frank Parker 'Fez' LAEM(M) 1981-1983

Filght Commander Phil Henry's acccount

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