The Army Air Corps, based at Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton answered Santa’s call for assistance after his reindeer needed to take a breather.
1 Regiment Army Air Corps (1AAC), realising the importance of the request immediately sprang into action.
The ground crew prepared a Wildcat helicopter, and the pilot and his crew began planning their route to deliver gifts to pupils at local schools across Somerset.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Rivett, Commanding Officer 1 Regiment Army Air Corps said:
“As the only Regular Army Unit in South Somerset, 1 Regiment Army Air Corps has established itself as a major presence in the county. Our engagement with the local community in which we all live, and work is key to our ability to operate and we relish the opportunity to support local activities.”
Once briefed, Father Christmas together with his sacks of gifts for the children of Somerset climbed aboard the Wildcat helicopter and headed off to local schools as part of his world festive delivery tour dropping off gifts and putting smiles on faces.
Adds Lieutenant Colonel Rivett:
“This Santa visit initiative has only been possible through the relationships that have been established with the network of local civilian organisations. While the reindeer are resting up, we are absolutely thrilled that 1 Regiment is able to step in with the Army’s Wildcat reconnaissance helicopter to deliver Santa and spread some festive joy.”
Formed in 1957, The Army Air Corps (AAC) is the combat aviation arm of the British Army, recognisable by their distinctive blue berets. AAC soldiers deliver firepower from battlefield helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to overwhelm and defeat enemy forces. And, when called upon assist Father Christmas with his deliveries when his reindeer need a rest.
Although nowhere near as fast as Santa’s sleigh, the Wildcat has a top speed of 157 knots (180 mph) and can be flown in extreme conditions all year round, so if snow were to fall, there would be no issue in getting these important gifts delivered safely.
Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) Michael Hartley and his team at 1AAC made sure the Santa Wildcat dash went ahead without a hitch. And, as he explains, the day was also used to benefit the personnel too:
“This event provides an excellent training opportunity to both the groundcrew and aircrew. The ground crew deploy and conduct recce’s on previously unvisited potential landing sites. In turn, producing comprehensive briefing plates which they may have to do if deployed in the future. This also provides the aircrew with the opportunity to fly into previously unvisited landing sites each providing a unique set of conditions”
And he adds:
“Initiatives like this are great for the local community. These children see military helicopters flying overhead every day. So, a Helicopter bringing Santa to their school would be something we would only have dreamed about as children. Helping spread a bit of Christmas cheer in challenging times is the main focus of the event”
During Santa’s Wildcat tour he visited eight schools including Birchfield Community Primary in Yeovil. Headteacher, Judy Parker said:
“It was our absolute pleasure to welcome our friends from The Army to school this morning. We had over 450 children on site, aged between two and eleven, who were lucky enough to see the helicopter land and Father Christmas arrive.”
Headteacher, Judy Parker added:
“Santa spent a magical time handing out Christmas gifts to each class. We can’t thank the Army enough for delivering such a special opportunity and creating such a wonderful memory for our children.”
Once the tour of South Somerset was complete, it was back to RNAS Yeovilton and mince pies all round to celebrate a job well done.
Talking about his day with 1 AAC in the Wildcat, Santa said:
“It’s not as fast as I usually travel with my reindeer and sleigh, but it certainly did the trick getting these presents delivered to all these local children. Thank you, Army Air Corps and Merry Christmas, everyone.”
Source: British Army
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