The RAF Air Sea Rescue Service
...in the Second World War, in the Images of War titles from Pen and Sword
Title: The RAF Air Sea Rescue Service
Author: Norman Franks
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
Another addition to the Images of War series, this one covering the vital and widespread work of the RAF Air Sea Rescue service during WW2. In addition to the use of high speed launches, a number of RAF aircraft types were involved, one of which in particular came from the same stable as the beautiful streamlined shape of the Spitfire. In all fairness, that same description cannot be applied to the rather ungainly shape of the Supermarine Walrus, a biplane with the single, centrally mounted Pegasus 'pusher' engine. Mind you, I expect it was considered a beautiful sight to those airmen that it plucked from the various seas where they operated.
The book is split into 7 chapters, which are essentially in a chronological order. Starting quite naturally at 'The Beginning', this is followed by 'The Walrus', 'How it was Done', 'The Pace Quickens', 'The Mediterranean Actually demands on the service slowed ', 'Around Italy' and finally 'Towards D-Day and Beyond'. The demands on the service reduced towards the end of the war, as the allied air forces were operating from bases on the continent, and liberated land in France and Belgium meant that rather than try to make it back across the channel to the UK, damaged aircraft could aim to put down, or parachute out over land and in the safety of areas behind allied front lines.
The first chapter deals with various aircraft types, including Spitfires, Ansons and even Lysanders that were used to search for downed aircrews. While they could guide an RAF Launch to aircrew, the boat still took time to reach them, when wounded and often cold men needed help quickly, hence the use of another aircraft, the Supermarine Walrus. The way the book tackles it is to start each chapter with a few pages of text which tell a number of stories or particular rescues, and this is then followed with well captioned photos that show not only the aircraft, but also many pictures of the aircrew involved, not just the air sea rescue crews themselves, but also the men that owed their lives to their rescuers. Some amazing stories, even of the aircraft that once landed on the sea found they were unable to take off, so effectively 'taxied' back towards the UK. Some valuable reminders that they operated in the Mediterranean as well as round the shores of the UK
One of the advantages of the Walrus which is clearly illustrated is not just the ability for it to rescue bomber crews just as well as single or twin seat types. It coped well with operating from land bases, on its' undercarriage, just as well as on the water and of course was good for the pilot to fly. The pictures illustrate the aircraft well, and it is worth giving a reminder that the one on display at the RAF Museum Hendon is a worthy representative that saved many lives of valuable, highly trained airmen. Maybe not glamorous but the work of the Air Sea Rescue units during the war was invaluable so this makes for a good reminder, with a number of photos that will provide potential inspiration for modellers as well.