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The RAF Air Sea Rescue Service in the Second World War (Paperback)

WWII Aviation World War Two Aviation Photo Books RAF

By Norman Franks
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Series: Images of War Books
Pages: 135
ISBN: 9781473861305
Published: 21st November 2016



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When the Second World War began in 1939 it was thought that it would be fought along the same lines as the First World War, with the Allied air forces operating from both Britain and France. With the fall of Britain’s Northern European Allies in May 1940, all that changed. From then onwards, RAF aircraft operating over enemy and enemy-held territory necessitated flights across both the North Sea and the English Channel.
This meant that aircrew in difficulties would be forced to come down in both of these bodies of water. Therefore it was essential that some form of rescue service be made available to fish these airman from the water. But there were no aircraft in existence at that time that were designed for such a task: initially all that could be done was to use land ‘planes to help locate anyone in the water, drop a dinghy to them, and then guide a boat to their position.
Obviously a quicker and more reliable way of rescue was needed, and this came in the shape of the Supermarine Walrus, an amphibian aeroplane that could land on both sea and land. Several Flights of these aeroplanes were set up around the coast of Britain, concentrated mainly around the south and south-east of England. The Air Sea Rescue airmen did a magnificent job from 1941-45, rescuing hundreds of downed RAF and USAAF aircrew. It took a special type of airman to undertake these rescues – and another kind of courage.
As the war in North Africa developed, Walrus aircraft were needed in the Mediterranean, and later on either side of the Italian coast. Walrus squadrons operated just as successfully in this theatre as around Britain and aircrew operating over any stretch of water count always count on the ASR boys coming to their aid.
This is their story.

If you like the Supermarine Walrus and plan to build one of the upcoming Aifix 1/48 scale kits this book will be a great companion.

FineScale Modeler magazine, March 2017

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.

Read the full review here.

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

The compiler of this book is a prolific author, who has written mainly on aspects of Coastal Command during the Second World War. The title of the book is a little misleading, as the photographs contained within focus on the Walrus aircraft, and the squadrons and men who flew these ungainly amphibians, and does not cover the wider R.A.F. Air-Sea Rescue organisation during the war. Having said that, it does not invalidate the purchase of this book, as the photographs and accompanying text is very informative and interesting.

The book comprises photographs that I have not seen before in print. They convey a good coverage of the role of the Walrus, and the operations it undertook rescuing airmen from the sea throughout the six years of the war. There are seven chapters, each commence with a precis of the operations of the period being covered. The chapters cover the war chronologically, and include the Mediterranean and Italian theatres.

In conclusion, I found this book very interesting and informative. The text is written well, and includes personal aspects as well as significant operations. It has been added to my collection with pleasure, and I recommend it to anyone interested in this neglected area of Coastal Command during the Second World War.

British Military History, Rob Palmer

The Images of War series is always a visual delight, displaying some of the rarest images available, many seen for the
first time by the public. This addition to the series maintains this very high visual standard and covers a subject that has received very
little coverage in print before. Strongly Recommended.

Read the full review here.

 Norman Franks

About Norman Franks

Norman Franks is a respected historian and author. Previous titles for Pen and Sword include, In the Footsteps of the Red Baron (1990) The Fighting Cocks (2010), Fighter Pilots Over Burma (2014), Great War Fighter Aces (2014) and Dowding's Eagles (2015). He lives in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex.

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Between 1918 and 1986 the marine branch of the Royal Air Force provided rescue facilities, support and other services to this armed service. In its pre-1941 guise as the Air Sea Rescue service, the RAF had an inventory of over 200 motorboats, supported by float aircraft engaged in rescue, towing, refueling and servicing RAF aircraft. Amongst the many characters of this early period was none other than Lawrence of Arabia. The Marine Craft Section itself came into existence in February 1941 as a direct result of the compelling need to retrieve downed pilots from the sea. Initially the craft were…

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