The Gazette takes a look back over the history of the A Flight 22 Squadron at Chivenor.

For 57 years A Flight of 22 Squadron at Chivenor has patrolled the sky above North Devon and saved thousands of lives.

The squadron has flown some 10,500 sorties since it moved to the then RAF Chivenor in 1958 with its Whirlwind helicopters.

These were replaced by the Wessex in 1981 and the familiar Sea King in 1994.

Over the years, crews have rescued an estimated 6,500 people and been involved in some of the most famous and difficult rescue operations on record.

These included the rescue of six fishermen from the wreck of the 273 tonne French trawler Jeanne Gougy that ran aground in 1962, with winchman Sergeant Eric Smith awarded the George Medal for his bravery.

In 2004, the two Chivenor helicopters made the difference between life and death for more than 60 people when flash floods swept away the village of Boscastle.

In 2007, the base was in action again in similar circumstances, this time rescuing stranded people in the Gloucestershire floods.

Then, in 2009, crews worked around the clock to save lives when the town of Cockermouth in Cumbria was left devastated by more floods.

Reflecting on the history of 22 Squadron in 2008, Squadron Leader Olly Padbury told the Gazette: “Having talked to people who served on A Flight, you realise how the job has changed and how different it would have been 50 years ago.

“One of the major changes has been the use of night vision goggles and infra-red, which allow crews to continue operations in the black of night and in the worst of weather.”