I rather libelled the poor old Royal Australian Navy Westland Wessex HAS Mk31 in that last post. A British re-engining of the American Sikorsky S58, the Wessex was intended to be a sub-hunter; but in a long and useful career it saved far more people than it ever threatened.
Reliable and roomy, the Wessex proved very handy for search and rescue work; but even though it carried the latest in dipping sonar and homing torpedoes, it had some flaws as a military attacker. The cockpit was high off the ground, leaving the crew of a low flying Wessex far more exposed to gunfire than the Bell Huey or the more cockroach-like Blackhawk. It was also made of magnesium, which corrodes rapidly near seawater – not a good thing for a Naval aircraft – and of course magnesium also burns like crazy, so getting involved in a firefight could mean exactly that. I have also been assured that the flotation gear was less than effective, meaning that a downed Wessex gaily sprouted yellow balloons from its wheel hubs and slowly slipped beneath the waves; thereby emulating its supposed submarine prey and earning it the affectionate title of “Wettex”.
But it filled a gap in our defences at a time when “Fly Navy” really meant something, and for its day it was a robust, reliable, roomy, long range search and rescue helicopter. There would be a number of people dead today if they hadn’t been brought to safety by the good old Wettex.