Operation Bursa was only really known by those engaged in it at the time – the secretive counter-terrorist operation raised to recapture any of the strategically important oil rigs in Bass Strait if taken by terrorists.
The Fleet Air Arm Wessex and Sea King helicopters of HC (Helicopter Composite) 723 Squadron, HU (Helicopter Utility) 816 Squadron, and HS (Helicopter Anti-Submarine) 817 Squadron, and their aircrew, maintainers and support staff were involved in providing the capability for inserting the airborne component of the Special Air Service Regiment/Clearance Diving Team Tactical Action Group from August 1980 to December 1989.
Among the maintainers was former Petty Officer Danny Joyce, who served on Operation Bursa from 1983-84. He was this month presented with an Australian Service Medal by Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling Captain Gary Lawton.
Joining the Navy from country Western Australia in 1971, Petty Officer Joyce and his team were on constant recall and deployed to RAAF Base East Sale several times for the squadron to exercise with the group.
During his time on Bursa, Petty Officer Joyce would see more than 10 Wessex deployed for two to three weeks at a time for flying operations conducted at all hours of the day and night.
“This placed an enormous load on the maintainers when operating from the remote section of the airfield or Lakes Entrance airstrip,” Commodore Brett Dowsing (retired) said.
“Unfortunately, the dangers of this operation were realised while Danny was deployed when Wessex 825 lost control and crashed into the sea during a return flight on 4 December 1983 – two personnel were killed – Leading Aircrewman Gary Macey, and a RAAF passenger, Leading Aircraftman James Campbell,” Commodore Dowsing said.
Petty Officer Joyce was also a member of the commissioning crew of the HU 816 Squadron in 1984, which continued the Operation Bursa mission with the Wessex component transferring from the HC 723 Squadron.
At the end of 1985 Petty Officer Joyce transferred to the Work Study Branch and transitioned to the reserves in November 1992. He went on to senior managerial positions in several large retail organisations in WA and now he is enjoying retirement just south of Perth.