Change of Command in UK carrier’s primary squadron

820 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, whose Merlin’s are set to be the first helicopters on the Queen Elizabeth carrier, now have a new commander.

On February 8, Commander Jon Holroyd took the helm of RNAS Culdrose’s 820 Naval Air Squadron from his predecessor Commander Ross Spooner OBE, who takes up an appointment with the Military Aviation Authority.

Holroyd joins 820 NAS at a crucial time for the Squadron, as they look to the future Carrier and how pivotal the Merlin Mk 2 will be as one of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s primary aviation assets.

Commander Holroyd said: “I’m taking over 820 at its operational and reputational peak. With recent efforts in Sierra Leone against Ebola and an enduring commitment to operations in the Middle East clear in everyone’s minds.”

“The Squadron is also the current holders of the FAA Australia Shield for operational capability and the Rolls Royce Trophy for engineering, efficiency and effectiveness. With such clearly professional and capable people, I am thrilled to be leading them into a very dynamic and exciting future.”

On joining the Royal Navy Holroyd completed Observer Sea King ASW Flying training at RNAS Culdrose. His first front line tour was with 820 NAS, embarking in HMS Illustrious and then in HMS Cornwall conducting operations as far afield as the Gulf, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

Converting onto the then ‘new’ Merlin Mk1 helicopter, he served with 814 NAS and then as an instructor on 824 NAS. Appointed as a Flight Commander for 829 NAS in HMS Westminster, he conducted several nationally strategic operations including deployments to the Indian Ocean.

He was subsequently appointed as the Senior Observer for 829 NAS before joining HMS Illustrious as their Operations Officer during her regeneration and re-rolling to be a fully operational Helicopter Landing Platform ship.

In 2015 he was selected for promotion to Commander and subsequently appointed as the Commanding Officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron.

This year, the Squadron will mark the gallantry and determination shown by her Swordfish aircrew 75 years ago during the raid on the WW2 German Battleship Bismarck, as well as 100 years since the Battle of Jutland.