HS 817 Squadron was originally a Royal Navy air squadron. It was first commissioned on 15 March 1941 as a torpedo/reconnaissance squadron flying Fairey Albacore aircraft.
The squadron saw action throughout World War 2 in Norway, North Africa and Sicily. In 1943, the squadron was re-equipped with Fairey Barracudas and continued in the torpedo/reconnaissance role. On 23 August 1945, the squadron was disbanded.
On 25 April 1950, 817 squadron was commissioned at RNAS St Merryn, UK, as a Royal Australian Navy air squadron equipped with Fairey Firefly Mk 5 aircraft. The squadron formed part of the RAN 21st Air Group and returned to Australia in HMAS Sydney to be based at HMAS Albatross on the NSW south coast.
On 1 September 1951, 817 Squadron with 12 aircraft was embarked in HMAS Sydney which was on its way to the Korean War. By the end of Sydney’s deployment, 817 had flown over 450 sorties over North Korea. Four aircraft were lost and 43 hit by enemy fire.
After returning to Australia, the squadron took part in two more notable events – the atomic tests carried out at Monte Bello Islands in September 1952 and the Queen Elizabeth coronation fly past on 15 June 1953.
On 27 April 1955, the squadron was again decommissioned before re-commissioning with Fairey Gannet anti-submarine aircraft on 23rd August 1955. The squadron continued to fly Gannets until it was disbanded on 18 August 1959.
On 18 July 1963, the squadron was again commissioned, this time with Wessex 31A aircraft. During the years of Wessex operations, HS 817 demonstrated the versatility of embarked helicopters, involving itself in many and varied exercises in Australia, Asia and the Pacific.
HS 817 also provided support for HMAS Sydney during voyages to Vietnam to transport men and equipment.
On 2 February 1976, the squadron was re-equipped with the larger Sea King helicopter, which greatly improved the RAN’s anti-submarine warfare capability. With the paying off of the RAN’s only aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, in 1982, the squadron became permanently based at Albatross.
In recent years, HS 817 has relinquished the anti-submarine role and has been deployed as a maritime utility helicopter. The squadron has regularly operated from HMA Ships Success, Tobruk, Manoora and Kanimbla.
HS 817 was involved in support of operations in Somalia in 1993 and the Bougainville peace-keeping operations in 1994. In 2003, HS 817 was operating from HMAS Kanimbla in the Iraq conflict.
The squadron has also been heavily involved in providing Defence aid to the civil community such as during floods at Nyngan and bushfires in NSW.
In 2005, the squadron was operating from Kanimbla in support of relief operations at Nias, an Indonesian island devastated
by an earthquake. On 2 April 2005, Sea King Shark 902 crashed with the loss of nine lives, a tragedy felt deeply by the
squadron and the nation.
The squadron continued to operate Sea King helicopters till decommissioned on 16 December 2011, when the last of these helicopters was retired after 36 years service in the RAN.
Sea King Shark 907 was donated to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Nowra Hill NSW.