Northern Ireland news

British Army helicopter takes final journey to Crumlin Road Gaol

The Wessex helicopter is driven past Crumlin Road Courthouse 
Rebecca Black, Press Association

One of the last Wessex helicopters in Northern Ireland has made its final journey.

It is to go on permanent display at the Crumlin Road Gaol visitor attraction in Belfast.

The aircraft were once a common sight over the skies during the Troubles as the "workhorse" of the British armed forces transporting troops and VIP visitors.

The helicopter had been based at RAF Aldergrove in Co Antrim from 1969 as part of the Support Helicopter Detachment, the "Ulster Flight".

There had been 30 Wessex helicopters based in the north, which were active until 2002 when they were retired from service.

XR 529 Echo was retained as a Gate Guardian for the Station HQ at Aldergrove.

Today, it made what is expected to be its final journey to Crumlin Road Gaol museum to go on permanent display.

Crumlin Road Gaol closed as a prison in 1996.

It re-opened as a tourist attraction in 2012 and welcomed the Queen as a visitor in 2014.

Phelim Devlin, director at Crumlin Road Gaol, described the arrival of the helicopter as "an important part in the next phase of development at the jail".

"We are hoping for the tourism season starting in Easter to add a new range of tours," he said.

"It is going to focus more on some of the recent Troubles. The Wessex is going to be an important part of that, it's going to help tell of the role of the RAF and the British Army during that period."

The helicopter will be on display beside the last remaining army sangar on the site.

"We are absolutely delighted to get it, and very thankful for the RAF for giving it to us. We think it will be a brilliant addition," he added.

The helicopter will go on display at Crumlin Road Gaol from Easter following restoration work.

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