3 November 1962: The French fishing trawler F/V Jeanne Gougy with a crew of 18 ran aground during a storm at Armored Knight Rock, Land’s End, Cornwall, England. 15-foot waves rolled the ship over on its port side. The seamen were trapped aboard the wreck.
The waves prevented the life boat from the Royal National Life Boat Institution (RNLI) Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station was unable to approach the wreck because of the heavy weather, but recovered two dead fishermen offshore.
A Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 helicopter from No. 22 Squadron’s Search and Rescue Detachment at RAF Chivenor on the north coast of Devon was assigned to attempt a rescue. The Whirlwind was flown by Flight Lieutenants John Lorimer Neville Canham, D.F.C., and Flight Lieutenant John Trevor Egginton, with winch operator Sergeant Eric Charles Smith.
Sergeant Smith was lowered into the sea to recover another body, which was then hoisted aboard the helicopter. The Sennen Cove lifeboat and the Whirlwind returned to their respective bases.
Later that morning, observers from the shore saw several men inside the Jeanne Gougy‘s pilot house. A helicopter and the Penlee lifeboat, Soloman Brown, hurried to the scene, but conditions were still too extreme for a lifeboat to approach the trawler.
The helicopter hovered over the capsized fishing trawler while Sergeant Smith was lowered to the ship’s pilot house. A rescue line was also rigged to the nearby rocks. Sergeant Smith rigged two men for hoisting to the hovering helicopter and continued searching for additional survivors. Four sailors were rescued by the line to the shore. Twelve of the fishermen did not survive.
For his bravery during the rescue, Sergeant Smith was awarded the George Medal by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Société des Hospitalers Sauveteurts Bretons.
The Président de la République française, Charles de Gaulle, conferred the honor of Chevalier du Mérite Maritime on Flight Lieutenant Canham, Flight Lieutenant Egginton and Sergeant Smith.
The Westland Whirlwind was a license-built variant of the Sikorsky S-55. The HAR.10 was a dedicated search-and-rescue helicopter, powered by a 1,050 shaft horsepower de Havilland Engine Co., Ltd., Gnome H.1000 (Mk.101). The engine was based on the General Electric T58-G-6 turboshaft.
In 1965, Flight Lieutenant Egginton attended the Empire Test Pilots’ School at RAF Boscombe Down. On graduation, he was assigned as a helicopter test pilot with D Squadron (now the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron, or RWTES). In 1969, Egginton returned to the Test Pilots’ School as a helicopter flight instructor.
Squadron Leader Egginton retired from the Royal Air Force in 1973. He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, 2 June 1973.¹
Egginton joined Westland Helicopters at Yeovil as deputy chief test pilot, and later became the company’s chief test pilot. He from Westland retired after 15 years.
In the 1989 New Year’s Honours List, Squadron Leader Egginton was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.).
Eggington is credited with three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed records, including the Absolute Speed Record for Helicopters, 400.87 kilometers per hour (249.09 miles per hour), set 11 August 1986.²
Squadron Leader John Trevor Egginton, O.B.E., A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S., Q.C.V.S.A., Chevalier du Mérite Maritime, died at his home in Yeovil, 23 November 2014. He was 81 years of age.
¹ London Gazette No. 45984 at Page 6463
² FAI Record File Number 11659
© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes