Chivenor’s 22 Squadron has thanked North Devon for its support as it says goodbye.

Crew members of Chivenor’s 22 Squadron have spoken for the first time since being stood down from search and rescue duties.

The A Flight team will still be training around the area, in preparation for service in the Falklands in November.

They will serve there until the spring, when the search and rescue teams will go their separate ways and head onto new paths in the RAF.

Flight Lieutenant Christian ‘Taff’ Wilkins said: “We have always had a very close relationship with the North Devon community. It’s hard to over-emphasize how much strength that gives you, knowing the people you are doing this for are on your side.”

Sgt Tom Wilson, radar and winch operator, said he was sad to see the back of the Sea King – described fondly as the ‘Ford transit of helicopters’.

He said: “After one night of being battered with hail and winds, I looked at the Sea King and thought, that thing saved our lives.”

Chivenor was the last RAF search and rescue base to stand down, ceasing 74 years of operations nationwide.