The second day of the Iraq invasion saw a US helicopter crash on 21st March 2003, all 12 people on board were killed comprising 8 Brits and 4 Americans, but the aircraft wasn’t shot down, it turned out the helicopter had a mechanical fault. Not a good start for any military operation, but things were not about to get any better.
Two Sea King helicopters from 849 Squadron A Flight based at
Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose were carrying out operations from the Ark
Royal in the early hours of 22nd March. One was returning from a
sortie while the second had just refuelled on the deck and was taking off.
Their job was to conduct surveillance work in the Al Faw region of
As one was taking off the other one was inbound and both aircraft sighted each other, they were warned that they were heading close to which they both acknowledged that they had each other in sight. But nothing prepared anybody for what was about to happen. The two Sea Kings collided in mid air much to the horror of those tracking the two craft.
To this day nobody knows what happened and why they hit each
other. As the wreckage dropped into the sea just a few miles away from the ship
it was obvious that there were no survivors. All 7 personnel in the two
helicopters died – Six from the Royal Navy, one from the
Over the next few days the debris from the aircraft was recovered along with the bodies of the seven crew, an investigation shedding no more light on what caused the crash than before. Tributes were paid by Captain Alan Massey, commanding officer of the Ark Royal as well as those high up in the Royal Navy and Government.
HMS Ark Royal was eventually decommissioned in 2011 to be
scrapped two years later in