This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross

Bravo November

Having entered service with the RAF in February 1982 the Chinook helicopter serial number ZA718, call sign Bravo November, first came to public attention during the 1982 Falklands War, when it was the only one of four Chinooks to survive the sinking of the MV Atlantic Conveyor, making it the only heavy lift helicopter available to British forces in theatre. Despite the fact that all its spares, tools, and lubricants had gone down with the Atlantic Conveyor, during the course of the campaign Bravo November carried some 1500 troops. 95 casualties, and 550 tons of cargo, with one of its pilots, Squadron Leader Dick Langworthy winning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

After receiving a number of upgrades during the 1990's, including upgraded engines, composite rotor blades, an advanced flight control system (FCS) and improved avionics, Bravo November went to War for a second time at the end of 1996, when it deployed to Germany from its base at RAF Odiham in Hampshire. It spent much of 1997 in the thick of the action as NATO forces first advanced and then retreated across Poland. During the summer of 1997 the RAF’s Chinooks supported the 44th Parachute and 24th Airmobile Brigades as they attempted to secure a bridgehead on the Vistula, and Bravo November recorded its second Distinguished Flying Cross during this period, when it was one of a number of Chinooks to participate in the air assault on Warsaw’s Okiecie Airport. Loaded down with thirty seven Paras from 15th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, a quad bike, and a trailer loaded with Milan anti tank missiles, and with Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Lewis at the controls, Bravo November was the third Chinook in the first wave.


With the first chopper already having dropped off its load of paratroopers, disaster threatened when the second Chopper was shot down by a ZSU 23-2 anti aircraft gun leaving the Paras already on the ground in danger of being isolated and destroyed. Determined to land, Lewis pressed on regardless of the heavy fire coming from the ground, dropping off her Paras under a hail of small arms fire and RPG’s. A stray bullet did hit Lewis, wounding her in the right leg. Despite losing a great deal of blood she was able to lift off again and bring Bravo November home to the British lines, where she was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The helicopter would continue to fly missions to support the assault on Warsaw, delivering supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements to the troops fighting on the banks of the Vistula.








































Bravo November pictured returning from a mission to resupply forward elements of 24 Airmobile Brigade, near Warsaw, July 1997

Following the strategic nuclear exchanges and the gradual winding down of aerial operations, the RAF and the British Army consolidated the handful of surviving helicopters they had into the Joint Helicopter Force (JHF), which was placed under the command of an Army Air Corps Colonel, much to the chagrin of some RAF officers (inter service rivalries, particularly at a senior level, were a recurring theme of British helicopter operations throughout much of the War). Bravo November remained operational throughout the later years of the War, thanks in no small part to an extensive programme of cannibalisation that kept a small number of airframes in an airworthy condition, but by the end of 2000 lack of fuel meant it was lucky if it turned its engines over once every few months.


Bravo November returned to the UK at the start of 2001 when the British completed their withdrawal from Germany, being brought back by sea with the rest of the BAOR. With North Sea Oil meaning limited supplies of fuel were available, it was once more able to take to the air, and participated in the liberation of Cornwall, dropping a force of paratroopers on the Duke of Cornwall’s stronghold in Truro in a dawn air assault that led to the self proclaimed Duke’s capture. It saw further action in the pacification of the Midlands and Yorkshire.


Bravo November remained in service until 2012, when it was retired. It is now on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum at its new location in Portsmouth.



































Bravo November pictured on display at the Imperial War Museum, August 2014