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a good deal of communication between the ship and the helicopter crew says LT CDR Gilchrist. Project Protector and the new Navy vessels will present new challenges for the Seasprite crews and the many others involved in its safe aircraft operation. The Squadron will be looking to conduct extensive trials to establish their operating envelopes says LT CDR Gilchrist. While the Australian Defence Force (ADF) also operates Seasprites (a modified version) they are not as advanced into their introduction to Service as we are, says LTCDR Gilchrist, ‘and are yet to embark!’ ‘They are about where we were two to three years ago. Their ultimate aims are similar to ours but their different sensor suite will enable them to conduct their missions in a different manner,’ he says.

The Seasprite’s operational capabilities mean the Squadron has a bright future. The helicopters bring much to the ship and we are still expanding that capability says LT CDR Gilchrist. The introduction of NVG capability and the ability to do more night flying at sea will for example bring massive advances. While no upgrades are planned at present the Squadron envisions a mid-life upgrade in about 8-10 years and smaller incremental modifications to sensors before then as they


sion of being a fast machine, and with the tail plane mounted well up the tail fin, an easily recognizable profile that became well known throughout the world.

as an Orion Navigator/Tacco before transferring to the Air Force reserve in 1973. Here he shares a brief and personal account of the No. 6 Squadron’s TAF years (1952-1957).

While by early 1944 Japan’s air power was all but defeated and its naval operations were non-existent its anti-aircraft batteries, especially at Rabaul were still taking a toll.

The term ‘Dumbo’, derived from the friendly Walt Disney cartoon elephant character, came to be bestowed by Allied aircrews on their search and rescue (SAR) missions looking for downed airmen. The ‘Dumbo’ missions became a popular and morale-boosting reassurance for airmen and cartoon Dumbos were often painted on the fuselages of flying boats – one for each successful rescue. Indeed, while the Squadron’s Catalinas were used in anti-submarine patrols it was their SAR missions that became their stock in trade. Between 3 May 1943 and 19 September 1945 No. 6 Squadron made 27 successful Dumbo missions and No. 6 with (the reformed) No. 5 Squadron rescuing over 150 downed airmen.

After 24 months of service and having established a fine maritime history No. 6 Squadron was, like many of the RNZAF’s wartime Squadrons, again disbanded at the end of the war in August 1945.

No. 6 Squadron was reformed as a Territorial Maritime Squadron in May 1952. The Squadron included regulars and, until the establishment of the Maritime Operational Conversion Unit (MOCU) in May 1955 when a territorial officer SQNLDR Sheehan DFC was appointed Officer Commanding (OC) No.6 Squadron, it was commanded by regular officers: SQNLDR R.L. Scott; FLTLT D.F. Clarke, DFC; SQNLDR J.B. Wilson and SQNLDR R.K. Walker, AFC. In January 1956 a second territorial officer, SQNLDR J.B. Spencer became O.C. and served in that position until the Squadron’s disbandment in July 1957.

The Chief of Air Staff (1951-1954) AM D.V. Carnegie C.B. C.B.E., RAF was keen for a territorial flying boat to be established. Publicity in the news media led to the recruitment of ex-wartime aircrew and some ground crew. A wide range of experience was represented with some men having served on flying boats previously. Post-war territorial aircrew trainees were mainly pilots who went to the fighter Squadrons but three navigators joined No.6 Squadron (myself included) in 1955 and two in 1957.

NO.6 SQUADRON TERRITORIAL AIR FORCE (TAF) The Squadron was to get another life extension as a Territorial Air Force Squadron during the 1950s.

SQNLDR (rtd.) Norman Atkins spent five years in the Territorial Air Force and three in the Active Reserve. He served in No.6 Squadron (TAF) as a member of one of the four crews made up almost entirely of men who had flown during World War II. In 1961 SQNLDR Atkins joined the RNZAF as a regular and flew as a navigator on Sunderlands for both the Maritime Reconnaissance Support Unit and No. 5 Squadron. He later flew

The small nucleus of regulars provided some instruction, both in the air and on the ground, and at times flew as ‘screens’. The TAF soon had four crews and flew catalinas at weekends. An Auster floatplane was also used to give pilots extra seaplane experience. Evening lectures were held on weeknights at the Air Force’s Fanshawe Street premises. Annual camps were held at Bay of Islands, Kawau Island or Hobsonville and gave squadron members valuable experience, especially from the opportunity to fly 40 to 50 hours in a concentrated period. When such hours were added to the weekends flying a Squadron member could average between 175 and 200 flying hours annually.



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