End of an era Junglie Legend David West MBE bids farewell to the Royal Marines and the arctic after 43 years.
A Royal Marine stalwart who has been at the forefront of Arctic flying for three-and-a-half decades has completed his final winter in the frozen north – just as his youngest son Royal Marine Angus West completes his first.
Falkland War veteran and Commando Helicopter Force legend Lieutenant Colonel Dave West MBE is leaving the Royal Marines after serving 43 years as part of the Royal Navy’s elite, he does so as his youngest son, Angus, completes his first Arctic deployment.
Dave has wrapped-up his 35th winter mission and 43-year career that has seen him fly countless flights as a helicopter pilot and instructor over the high north, help modernise Arctic flying training and herald a new era of Royal Navy rotary aviation in the transition from Sea King to Merlin aircraft.
In a moment he will ‘treasure forever’ Dave – who has spent up to six months most years in the Arctic since 1984 – was able to watch his son Angus go through a commando’s rite of passage, the infamous ice-breaking drills to test responses to cold shock, on his final outing in Norway. The Arctic baptism-of-ice that every Norway newbie must go through marked a passing of the mantle from one West to another after a three-and-a half decades.
“Completing the ice-breaker drills with my dad watching was a really proud moment” said Angus. “He’s been a massive support throughout my career, offering advice wherever it was needed.
“For him to be at this milestone was a huge privilege for me, just as it was when he was the one to hand me my green beret at the end of my ’30 miler’, something I will never forget.
“Being able to go out to Norway before my dad’s retirement has been quite fitting because my first trip to Norway was my dad’s last.
“I am immensely proud of his career and everything he has achieved. To listen to people that have worked with dad hold so much respect for him is genuinely heart-warming.
“Although I am proud to follow his footsteps it is hard to fully grasp the full extent of his achievements within his career.
“Anyone who knows him will agree he is a very modest and, of course, well-respected member of the Royal Marines”
Dave has been at the helm of Exercise Clockwork — the cold weather flying training 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle in northern Norway.
Dave’s time in-charge crossed over with the 50th anniversary of Clockwork, which was marked with a royal visit from Prince Harry.
The Norwegian winter is as stunning as it is brutally cold, but Dave has a great affinity for it having flown Lynx, Gazelles, the iconic Sea King MK4. Dave’s final flight in Norway was in the British Army’s Apache attack helicopter over the icy landscape.
Dave started out with 42 Commando in 1978 and was with the unit during the Falklands War in 1982.
Prior to the Falklands Dave completed the Cold Weather Warfare Course that new generations of marines still go through today.
Four years later he qualified as an aircrewman flying Wessex MK5s and Sea-Kings MK4s, he was back in the frozen north regularly from then on.
Dave subsequently became a pilot and later qualified as a helicopter instructor, becoming a member of the Naval Flying Standards team as one of the most experienced pilots in the British Military.
Dave came through the ranks, becoming a Warrant Officer First Class before being commissioned in 2002, now leaving as a Lieutenant Colonel Royal Marine.
“There are too many highs and lows over 43 years of service to mention” said Dave, adding that he hopes son Angus has the same opportunities that he had.
Dave received national recognition for Services to the Royal Marines when he was awarded his MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in October 2021.
We salute you Lt. Col. David West MBE and thank you for your time in service. Welcome home.