Aircraft History:

  • First Flight 18/02/63. 
  • On board HMAS Melbourne, ‘Spithead Deployment’ 28/04/77. 
  • RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset UK. 22-28 June ’77 to participate in mass flypast for Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations, only RAN helo to take part. 
  • Ditched 13/07/77, North Sea, Europe. The aircraft was performing plane guard duties from the HMAS Melbourne on Exercise “Highwood” in the Irish Sea. The carrier was in the process of launching A4 Skyhawks at the time. LEUT Pinniger, Aircrewman Bob Cousins and ships diver ABATA Richard Stanford exited the aircraft. The aircraft was then cut in half by the destroyer HMAS Brisbane that had steamed in to position to pick the aircrew up. 
  • Divers from Melbourne attached crane cables and airframe less its tail section was raised onto the deck. 
  • Front end reportedly returned to Australia where it was used in the design of the proposed Wessex LOTE (not confirmed).  On cancellation of the LOTE project the front end was reportedly used as a training aid at RAAF Wagga with much of the cabin removed and an electric motor driving the MRG (not confirmed).
  • Portion of fuselage in private ownership at Auburn NSW in 1998. Current status unknown.


A Wessex with balls!  When HMAS Melbourne’s catapult was unserviceable for the whole RIMPAC 73 exercise, 817 Squadron offered an alternative strike capability .  RAN photo


Aircraft Accident:




Left and above.  Two views of the recovery of 823. The tail section was not salvaged. 

Below. Two images (courtesy of Gina Wilson via Friends of the Wessex 31) which purportedly show Wessex 823 being used as a template to map out the proposed Life of Type Extension.  This LOTE was to replace the single Gazelle engine with two Rolls Royce Gnomes, similar to the RN Wessex 5.  The project was abandoned for various reasons.  The left image shows the nose of an RN Wessex (sand coloured) being mated to the fuselage of 823.