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Navy blue bucket hat commemorating the 817 Squadron and Sea King helicopter

Date: 2011
Dimensions:
Overall: 140 x 290 mm
Medium: cloth, thread
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Bucket hat
Object No: 00051341
Related Place:Sasebo, Southeast Asia, Taehan Min'guk, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Darwin, Cornwall,

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    Description
    A navy blue bucket hat with 'Navy Sea King' embroidered on the front below the number 7 Sea King helicopter, commemorating the 817 Squadron and the Sea King Helicopter in their final year before decommission.

    817 Squadron was a helicopter unit of the Fleet Air Arm of the RAN that performed anti-submarine warfare patrols, search and rescue operations, and provided assistance and relief during times of natural disasters in Australia and internationally. The Sea King served for 35 years before retirement in December 2011 when the Squadron was also decommissioned.
    SignificanceSouvenirs and memorabilia were produced in the final year of the 817 Squadron and commemorate the 35 years of military and civil service provided by the Sea King helicopters.
    HistoryThe original 817 Squadron was commissioned as a torpedo and reconnaissance squadron in the Royal Navy on 15 March 1941. They performed anti-submarine patrols and torpedo and bombing missions against enemy ports and shipping in Norway, Biscay, North Africa and Sicily. They were disbanded on 23 August 1945.

    Less than 5 years later the Squadron was re-commissioned in Cornwall, England as a Royal Australian Naval Air Squadron on 25 April 1950 and formed part of the 21st Carrier Air Group, along with 808 Squadron, arriving in Australia in December the same year. In August 1951, aboard HMAS SYDNEY, 817 Squadron comprising of Firefly AS.5s were deployed to Korea. The Fireflys were built by Fairey Aviation Co Ltd in Middlesex, England and were fighter, anti-submarine and reconnaissance aircraft. In Korea the aircraft bore the black and white markings of the United Nations (UN). 817 Squadron provided patrol duties, spotting tasks, anti-shipping strike missions and rail and road interdiction. The Squadron quickly gained a reputation for exceptional performance, flying 89 sorties in a single day on 11 October 1951. Only 3 days later Typhoon Ruth struck the Japanese port of Sasebo where HMAS SYDNEY was berthed and battled waves 45 feet high. 13 of the Firefly aircrafts were lashed to the deck, exposed to the force of the typhoon. At least one was washed overboard with four others written off from damage, even the carrier itself sustained damage. Later during winter the icy conditions and subzero temperatures of Korea resulted in cases of frostbite and introduced the hazard of aircrew freezing to death if they were forced to ditch at sea. HMAS SYDNEY and the squadrons onboard arrived back in Australia on 22 February 1952.

    HMAS SYDNEY participated in Operation Hurricane in October 1952. The role of 817 and 805 Squadrons was to maintain the 72 km exclusion zone around the nuclear test site on the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. In 1953 HMAS SYDNEY, with 817 Squadron onboard sailed to England for Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Fleet Review and participated in the flypast. On the return voyage they also participated in training exercises with the Mediterranean Fleet and Canadian warships in the Atlantic Ocean.

    817 Squadron embarked for a short time aboard HMAS VENGEANCE before decommissioning on 27 April 1955. The Squadron was recommissioned four months later at RNAS CULDROSE in Cornwall, England and were equipped with Fairey Gannet AS.1 anti-submarine aircraft. The Squadron participated in the flying trials for the RAN's new aircraft carrier, HMAS MELBOURNE (II), arriving in Australia with the ship on 23 April 1956. After participating in various exercises the Squadron was again decommissioned on 18 August 1958 for five years. On 18 July 1963 the Squadron was reformed and equipped with Westland Wessex 31A anti-submarine helicopters and embarked on HMAS MELBOURNE. When the carrier underwent a modernisation programme an element of the Squadron 817 was allocated to HMAS SYDNEY to provide anti-submarine warfare responsibilities on trooping runs to Vietnam.

    In 1969, equipped with the upgraded Wessex Mk 31.B helicopter, the full complement of 817 Squadron was stationed once again aboard HMAS MELBOURNE along with Squadrons 805 and 816. They took part in the 'Sea Sprite' SEATO training exercises in South East Asia during which MELBOURNE collided with USS FRANK E EVANS with 74 lives lost all aboard the US ship. For rescue actions on that night LCDR Des Rogers, commander of 817 Squadron, received the Air Force Cross for his and the squadron's efforts, and the squadron received a Meritorious Unit Commendation from the US Secretary of the Navy. Within a short period the squadron adopted the US-style prefix of HS817 indicating it was a rotary-wing anti-submarine unit.

    In 1975 HS817 was recalled from Christmas holidays to provide relief after the Darwin disaster of Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974. The Squadron conducted search and rescue sorties and transported vast amounts of supplies to the stricken city. By February 1976 the Squadron was equipped with the new Westland Sea King Mk 50 anti-submarine helicopters.

    HMAS MELBOURNE was decommissioned in 1982 and HS817 operated permanently from NAS NOWRA. Sea Kings were embarked at various times throughout the 1980s and 1990s on HMA Ships STALWART, JERVIS BAY, SUCCESS, TOBRUK, KANIMBLA and MANOORA. In 1992 the Sea Kings of HS817 assumed the role of a utility helicopter as the Sikorsky Seahawk was introduced into service with 816 Squadron. During this time HS817 saw operational and civil aid service in East Timor, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and flood and fire stricken regions of NSW and Victoria. They were instrumental in reaching inaccessible areas during the 1998 and 2003 bushfires. The Squadron has also been regularly involved in flying the White Ensign and demonstrations for the many ceremonies, celebrations and commemorations of the RAN. After 20 years in service the Sea Kings began their first modernisation program in 1995.

    10 years later, in 2005, HS817 was deployed to Indonesia as part of Operation Sumatra Assist 2, a relief operation following the March earthquakes of the region. One of the Sea Kings, Shark 02, loaded with a full crew and Air Medical Evacuation team crashed at the village of Amandraya. It had been travelling to the village to provide urgent medical assistance. Nine of the crew onboard died and two were seriously injured.

    The badge for the 817 Squadron depicts a shark pierced by a harpoon with the motto AUDE FACERE or 'Dare to Do' below. As part of the 1988 bicentennial celebrations the Squadron was adopted by the only inland port, Goolwa, situated on the Murray River in South Australia. The crew made their final Freedom of Entry Parade into the town in February 2011 ahead of the retirement of the Sea King helicopters and the Squadron's final decommissioning in December 2011. Sea King helicopter Shark 07 is located at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Nowra in recognition of the significant role the Sea Kings performed for 35 years.

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