825 Naval Air Squadron Wings Parade

The Commanding Officer of 825 Squadron, Commander Ben Dando, kindly invited representatives of the Worshipful Company of Distillers to attend the wings parade of Course 9. The Guest of Honour was Commodore Stuart Finn RN, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. As the representatives of the Distillers, we felt honoured to be guests at what is possibly one of the most important days in the careers of those passing out.

Out of an exclusive set of only 6 that made the grade to start the course from the Royal Navy, only two successfully received their wings – one as an Observer and one as a pilot. Why only two? The course is hard, very hard and only the very highest standards are accepted. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that not all that start the course will complete it and receive their wings.

Honorary Steward Bob Russell with 825 NAS
Honorary Steward Bob Russell with 825 NAS

Sometimes the strain of month after month of intense training, even for those who have the natural capability, takes too much of a toll on the individual or their nearest and dearest and, in this instance, they will either need to reconsider their career direction, or look to take a break for a time.

The Royal Navy needs these pilots and observers to pass the course and take on their operational roles on the front line, 825 Squadron is responsible for ensuring that this happens and does everything it can to get the talented men and women through the course, but it will not settle for anything less than excellence. This Wings Parade was evidence to the fact that only the very best and committed will receive their wings.

The Distiller’s Prize is awarded to the junior rank, studying their engineers course, who has scored highest. The engineers are crucial to the operations of the flight crews as they are the ones who keep the helicopter in the air and working effectively and safely.

Bob Russell with LAET Matthew Spicer RN
Bob Russell with LAET Matthew Spicer RN

The Distiller’s Prize was awarded to LAET Matthew Spicer RN by Honorary Steward Bob Russell on behalf of the Master. LAET Spicer is a dedicated individual that is clearly calm under fire, when asked by Bob Russell, “How was the 5 hour grilling at the board?” (questions put to him over various scenarios) LAET Spicer replied “It’s only a grilling if you don’t know the answers!”

After the wings parade the Black Cats, the Royal Naval helicopter display team, treated us to a preview of next year’s routine.

The Wildcats demonstrated the level of precision and control that Naval Helicopter pilots need to have by formation flying at low level.

Matthew Russell