Helicopters at the Coronation Fleet Review Postcard

In 1953 helicopters were still something of a novelty, the rotary aircraft having only been developed into a practical machine at the very end of World War II. The Royal Navy were quick to recognise the potential of the helicopter and in 1950 a license built version of the Sikorsky S-51 helicopter entered service, known as the Westland Dragonfly. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 saw a review of the fleet at Spithead and as part of that review, the Dragonfly was flown over the surface vessels and is the subject of this week’s postcard:

A number of ships, mostly cruisers, can be seen on the water:

Whilst overhead hover four Dragonfly helicopters:

These four helicopters came from 705 Naval Air Squadron and led the flypast over the massed ships. They were part of a flight of twelve helicopters flown for the review and as well as showcasing the new technology, they acted as air sea rescue cover for the fleet in case of accidents and ‘man over board’ like incidents.

As the first helicopter in widespread service, it is unsuprising that the technology moved on quickly and they were replaced in British service by the Whirlwind in the late 1950s, they had however proved the concept and laid the groundwork for all future helicopters in the British armed forces.

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