"Sit vis nobiscum."
Membership Level: Full
|Memories of Marine Branch|
Following on from the Stabbed at Sea thread, Iíve been searching my memory banks and the more you think about it the more comes back, we all have memories of the good times and memories of the not so good, the latter donít get forgotten but I think generally the unhappy memories get stowed in a separate locker.
The Marine Branch of the RAF carried out a support role to the RAF right up until the disbandment on the 31st March 1986, duties included, target towing for maritime aircraft, both RAF & Navy, wet winching exercises †for RAF, RN & Coastguard Helicopters. Granada Patrols off N Ireland, plus many other tasks on a world wide basis, not least the UK commitment to the Chicago Convention of 1944.
2.1 The UK organisation for civil maritime and civil aviation search and rescue
is derived from the UK Governmentís adherence to the Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention on Safety of Life at Sea
(SOLAS) (1974), the Maritime Search and Rescue Convention (1979) and
the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944) (Annex 12).
2.2 The UK responsibility for SAR measures for ships, aircraft and persons,
whether civilian or military, covers the UK SAR Region (UKSRR).
(See Annex A).
Thatís the gist of the SAR bit of it, if you want to read the whole treaty be my guest, thereís about 1000 pages of it.
Because of the commitment to that convention the rules applied to all British Overseas Territories, that is one of the reasons why the Marine Branch was world wide †those who served in the 50ís and 60ís in the RAF or Army would very likely have a Marine Craft base not too far away. The Marine Branch of the RAF was in effect the largest lifeboat service in the world. That all changed with in the 1970ís with the drawback of forces and the increasing independence of the overseas territories, who had to take on the Convention commitment to S.A.R. themselves, The demise of Marine Branch SAR Operations was also speeded up by the increasing efficiency of the helicopter.
As I stated before not all not all the memories are happy ones, my last operational trip on a RAF Launch was in summer of 1985, it was a †75ft MK111 RESCUE AND TARGET TOWING LAUNCH we were detailed for target towing duties on the Roseharty Range near Fraserburgh, the aircraft we were to work with were Buccaneers from Lossiemouth. It was a bright sunny summers day, a dead calm glass sea †no wind and a slight haze.
At the appointed time three Bucks did a low fast flypast disappeared over the horizon to do a return run and attack the target.
The first two aircraft made their run and attacked the target and we waited for the third. After 5 minutes we received a call from Lossiemouth, telling us they had lost RADAR contact with the third aircraft. Losing RADAR contact for a short while was not unusual when the planes were flying low over the sea, but this was too long.
We recovered the target and attached a sea anchor and cast it adrift, sailed to the last known aircraft position and started a square search with the two other Buccaneers looking farther afield. Within half an hour we saw some sea bird activity on the surface and went to investigate. As we neared the bird activity we noticed an oily bloom on the surface with small pieces of debris floating to the surface. One of the pieces recovered was a small piece of flying overall with a name on it. Lossiemouth confirmed the name was one of the crew.
We dropped a Dan Buoy at the scene recovered our target and sailed back to Invergordon.
The following day a Hunt Class minesweeper arrived at the scene and confirmed the crash scene. Fortunately our Dan Buoy was right over the wreckage.
Shortly after this event I was posted to Plymouth and did not sail operationally again.
I wish that †last trip could have been a happier one, but it did serve as a reminder of why we there and the procedures laid down over many years worked, and that we were still very effective at what we did, and did it well.
Last edited by Colin Davies