Pirate FM News

PHOTOS: Simon Le Bon Pays Tribute to Cornish SAR Crews

SAR Dinner

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 11:33am 17th February 2016. (Updated at 12:21pm 18th February 2016)

Simon Le Bon's been in Cornwall to honour the Duchy's former search and rescue crews.

Heroes of 771 Squadron at Culdrose have been at a celebratory Gala Dinner to mark the end of operations.

It is after private company Bristow took on operations for the Coastguard in the New Year, relocating with new high tech choppers to Cornwall Airport Newquay.

The Dinner was attended by past and present members who have served on SAR helicopter Squadrons and Naval Air Stations across the country.

Many were decorated in bravery and gallantry medals that reflected a history stretching back 62 years.

The very first call to the service was a rescue mission in response to severe flooding in January 1953. Twelve Dragonfly helicopters from 705 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Gosport were tasked rescuing more than 840 people in East Anglia and Holland.

Ironically, the very last rescue mission - carried out by Gannet SAR - saw them rescuing stranded bus passengers from floods in Ayrshire in December 2015.

Among the guests of honour and VIP attending was Rear Admiral Keith Blount OBE, head of the Fleet Air Arm and former 771 NAS SAR pilot.

He said: "This unique gathering of people spans many of the years of the RN SAR commitment. No other Force has been awarded as many awards and decorations, all of you should feel extremely proud of your achievements."

Another VIP guest, Pop Star Simon Le Bon, was able to thank his rescuer personally at the dinner.

In 1985, he was spectacularly rescued by SAR Wessex from 771 NAS, when his ocean-going super yacht 'Drum' capsized during the 'Fastnet Race' in the English Channel trapping him and his crew beneath the boat.

Petty Officer Larry Slater, the SAR Diver on the Wessex, dived under the hull to lead the trapped crew to safety. The rescue earned Larry a George Medal and TV fame when he starred in his own 'This is your Life' programme.

Chief Executive of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, Vice Admiral Paul Bossier, took the opportunity to present a RNLI Vellum to the Royal Navy for its significant contribution to life saving around the British Isles.

The evening was summed up by retired Aircrewman Warrant Officer Rab Butler. He said: "The evening went extremely well with some prominent people praising the virtues of us all. This event will never be repeated, I'm glad I was there."

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