Ninety-five sailors from RNAS Culdrose have now returned from an intensive month-long training deployment on the new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

On top of flying sorties day and night, they faced the brunt of Storm Ciara in the North Sea – where the navy’s flagship was lashed by 100mph winds and huge sea swells.

This was the first time that the detachment from 824 Naval Air Squadron, the Merlin Mk2 helicopter training unit at Culdrose, has used the new carrier in this way. The aircrews were also able to work alongside the navy’s new F35B Lightning fighter jets, exactly as they will when they deploy in the future on carrier-strike operations.

Speaking on their return to Culdrose on Friday, February 14, Lieutenant Commander Roger Angliss, the flight commander from 824 squadron, said: “It’s been amazing experience for everyone and excellent to get this experience on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“We did run into a bit of weather and the storm hit us quite hard last weekend. The ship was moving significantly although she’s got a stable deck really.”

For the three helicopter pilots, six observers and four aircrew men, who will qualify for their flying ‘wings’ after years of training, it was the first time they had to live and work aboard the carrier.

Many will serve on the ship or her sister HMS Prince of Wales when they take up their front line anti-submarine deployments later this year.

It was also useful experience for the rest of the detachment of instructors, engineers and support personnel. Many of the instructors were able to keep up to date with deck landing experience, including in the dark using night-vision gear. The staff aircrew also provided search and rescue cover for the F-35s.

Commander Martin Russell, the commanding officer of 824 squadron, added: “I’m hugely proud of what we have achieved so far and how well we have been able to integrate so seamlessly with the ship’s company. The support my team has had has enabled us to deliver the highest standard of training to our students. I am immensely grateful to everyone onboard.”