Sunday, 14 Apr 2024

Helicopter flown by Prince Andrew in Falklands War handed to Ukraine

Charles and Camilla meet Falklands veterans in Portsmouth

A military helicopter flown by Prince Andrew during the Falklands War is one of two donated to Ukraine this week – with a third due to arrive in the next few weeks. The Sea King helicopters, which were retired by the Royal Navy a few years ago, will provide invaluable for Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops against Russia’s invading troops.

And now one of them has been traced back to the 1982 conflict, where it was flown by now-retired naval pilot Ralph Wickes-Sneyd, the BBC reported.

The aircraft was central to one of the key moments of the war, flying through a storm on June 14, 1982 to take British land forces commander General Jeremy Moore to Port Stanley to accept Argentina’s surrender.

Mr Wickes-Sneyd said: “It was quite an interesting operation.

“The ceasefire hadn’t been signed up to this stage, and so the aircraft was flying into Stanley competing not just with the weather but also some still rather unfriendly Argentines.”

The Duke of York flew the same helicopter when he was a young naval pilot, Mr Wickes-Sneyd added.

He explained: “He would have flown the aircraft from time to time. It was his first tour.

“So he did what everybody else did, which was sometimes pretty mundane, sometimes quite exciting.”

The two Sea Kings will enable Ukrainian forces to undertake vital search-and-rescue operations, with Royal Navy providing a six-week training programme in the UK for 10 crews in Ukraine’s armed forces and associated engineers.

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During his speech at Westminster Hall in February, Mr Zelensky made an impassioned plea for aircraft, saying: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: combat aircraft for Ukraine. Wings for freedom.”

Sea Kings are a very different proposition from combat jets such as the UK’s Typhoons.

However, one Ukrainian engineer, Ihor, said they would still come in useful.

He explained: “They are old but they have gone through modernisation, and we need them very much.

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“I believe this is just the start of our work together.”

Pilot Vasil added: “It is so practical. We would like to receive more helicopters like these.”

Prince Andrew was posted to HMS Invincible, one of two Royal Navy aircraft carriers deployed to the Falklands in the wake of Argentina’s invasion, and Queen Elizabeth personally insisted he should remain with the vessel rather than being placed on desk duties.

In his memoir, Sea Harrier Over the Falklands, Commander Nigel Ward described Prince Andrew as “an excellent pilot and a very promising officer”.

The Duke famously referenced the Falklands War during his interview with Emily Maitlis in 2020, claiming the conflict has left him with a rare condition in which he had lost the ability to sweat.

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