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10 April 26, 2012
ON May 21, 1966, two 723
Squadron Iroquois heli-
copters were scrambled to
search for survivors from
the capsized dredge W.D. Atlas, 18km
south east of Jervis Bay.
In 45-knot winds, the two Iroquois
hovered a few feet above 10-metre
waves and winched four survivors
from the wreckage.
Navy News reported: "The pilots...
do not think they are heroes, dare-
devils or stuntmen; just men doing
With this same understatement
belying a rich naval aviation heritage,
723 Squadron celebrated its 60th
anniversary on April 7.
723 Squadron personnel celebrated
the anniversary at HMAS Creswell
with a sports and 'banyan' day and a
60th anniversary cake.
CO 723 Squadron CMDR
Matthew Shand said it was a special
honour for all personnel to be
continuing the tradition of the unit.
"A lot of people have served in
the squadron over the 60 years and
considering what the squadron has
been involved in, it is a huge honour
to be a part of that history," CMDR
With battle honours in Vietnam,
the Middle East and East Timor, 723
Squadron has a proud and diverse
It originated in the Royal Navy
during WWII and was commissioned
as an RAN unit at Naval Air Station
Nowra on April 7, 1952.
Operating a fixed wing fleet, the
squadron took delivery of the RAN's
first rotary wing aircraft -- three
Bristol Sycamore HR 50 helicopters
in 1953, expanding its role in the
Australian Joint Anti Submarine
Warfare School to include search and
rescue, training and fleet support.
723 Squadron had its first taste of
flood relief in 1955, rescuing more
than 100 people in Dubbo, Maitland
The squadron has since rescued
hundreds more people during disaster
relief operations, including the
aftermath of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin
and after the Tasman Bridge collapse
More recently, two AS350BA
Squirrel aircraft provided assistance
When 723 Squadron celebrated its 60th anniversary, it looked back on a
rich history of service. LSIS Paul Berry reports.
A lot of people
have served in
the squadron over
the 60 years and
the squadron has
honour to be
a part of that
-- CMDR Matthew
SWEET CELEBRATION: CMDR Matt Shand, CO of 723
Squadron, and AB Brock Hazlett, the youngest member of the
squadron, cut the 60th anniversary cake at HMAS Creswell.
Photo: ABIS Hayley Clarke
LONG SERVICE: RAN aircrew and their helicopter gunship in Vietnam.
Note the Taipan callsign, still used by 723 Squadron today.
Photo: 723 Squadron
to civil authorities during the Wagga
723 Squadron was officially
allocated the RAN Helicopter Flight
Vietnam (RANHFV), with four
contingents of that unit serving in
Vietnam between 1967 and 1971
alongside the US Army's 135th Assault
The squadron has operated 15
different aircraft types during its 60
"Very often in our history we have
operated a mix of types rather than
just one type of aircraft," CMDR
"We are about to bring the Bell 429s
into service, which we expect to start
flying on April 30, so we'll continue to
operate a mixed fleet with the current
Squirrel aircraft and that's been a theme
through the unit's history."
RAN pilots, aviation warfare
officers and aircrewman at 723
Squadron receive their initial rotary
wing training before
converting to either the
S-70B-2 Seahawk or
In addition, the
unit conducts journal
development for aviation
CMDR Shand said
the squadron is just as
important as it's ever
"With 270 personnel
and 16 aircraft, the
to make a significant
contribution to RAN
"With the introduction
of the Bell 429 aircraft
this is set to continue for
a number of years yet,"
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