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  22 Air Sea Rescue Unit, 22 Motor Launch Unit, 22 Marine Craft Unit

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> RAF Bases

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Alma Park
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Updated: 8 Feb 06

Formed: Aug 1939

Disbanded: 16 Dec 1945

Unit based at:

Grimsby Tidal Basin :: (present since Dec 1937) Aug 1939 - ?Oct 1940

Immingham Dock :: ?Oct 1940 - 16 Dec 1945

22 Motor Launch Unit, in its various guises, was based at Grimsby throughout World War II. 22 MCU was part of 16 Gp Coastal Command. Its nearest neighbours were at Blyth and Bridlington. This formation was occasionally referred to as 22 High Speed Launch Unit but is most accurately called 22 Air Sea Rescue Unit.

1937

On 16 Dec 1937, HSL 103 was sent from Calshot to RAF North Coates. Prior to the numbering of wartime ASRUs, launches were allotted to RAF Stations. It is certain however that HSL 103 would have been based at Grimsby.

1939

The base at Grimsby, designated No 22 ASRU, was established in August 1939, parented by RAF North Coates, when a second Mk 1 HSL 111 was allotted to the unit.

1940

In Oct 1940, the next batch of boats to arrive at 22 ASRU were the British Power Boat Company’s 63ft Mk 2 (Whaleback) HSLs 141, 142, and 144 .

In the early stages of the war, RAF rescue craft were unarmed, a situation that soon changed when the enemy saw them as easy targets. In late 1940, HSL 111 was damaged by enemy action and on 23 Jan 1941 she was written of with her hull being sold for the princely sum of £50.

1941

In November 1941, HSL 103 left Grimsby, returning to Calshot.

278 Sqn sent a detached flight to RAF North Coates in Nov 1941 to carry out air-sea rescue operations; equipped with Lysander it operated in conjunction with 22 MCU.

1942

By May 1942, HSL 141 had left the unit, being replaced by HSLs 131,139, and 188. In 8 months of the year, a snapshot of ops can be summarised as:

Aircrew found alive by HSL 144 - 10
Aircrew bodies recovered by MASB 29 - 1
Aircrew transferred by HSL 131 - 5
Number of call outs - 21
Hours at sea - 158

1943

In Mar 1943 the 63ft Whaleback HSLs 2559, 2560, along with the much larger British Power Boat Mk 3 type of 68ft HSL, 2579 arrived to replace 131, 144, and 188. These were re-inforced in Jun 1942 by the 68ft HSL 2594 and a 67ft Thornycroft HSL 2503.

By Dec 1943 they had been joined by Mk 3 HSLs 2677 and 2678. Throughout the year the unit’s boats were replaced with other newer, larger craft, better suited to the harsh North Sea weather.

1943's operational activity can be summarised as

Aircrew found alive by HSL 131 - 7
HSL 2579 - 21
HSL 2594 - 10
HSL 2560 - 5
Aircrew transferred to HSL.2579 - 1
HSL 2678 - 1
Aircrew bodies recovered by HSL.2503 - 1
Enemy aircrew saved by HSL.2594 - 2
Number of call outs - 66 (approx)
Hours at sea - 553 (approx)

1944

In 1944 the much larger 73ft Vosper HSLs 2571, 2572 and 2573 took up station at 22 ASRU. Although slower, with a top speed of 24.5 knots on main engines, they could also cruise on auxiliaries thus increasing their range. Based on a modified Fairmile hull, they were good seaboats but in common with all hard chine craft, they lay beam on to the sea when stopped. These three were again replaced later that year by 2574, 2576 and 2578, all 73ft Vospers. Two 67ft Thornycrofts also joined them, 2612 and 2664, and in October the 63ft HSL 125 was transferred from Gorleston. All this swapping around of boats meant that by 22 Oct 1944 ASRU was a six boat base as follows.

HSL 125 - Flt.Lt.Spresbridge
HSL 2574 - Flt.Lt.Johnson
HSL 2576 – F/O. Harbin
HSL 2578 – F/O. Pickard
HSL 2612 – F/O.Hobson
HSL 2664 – F/O. Kirkland

By Nov 1942 22 ASRU had 8 boats and a complement of 111 men.

63ft BPB Mk 2 Whalebacks
HSL 124 – F/O. Hewitt
HSL 125 – Fl.Lt. Hobson (promoted from F/O)
HSL 130 – P/O. Macduff
HSL 157 – Fl.Lt. Harbin (promoted from F/O)

73ft Vosper
HSL 2572 – F/O. Fielding
HSL 2574 ,
HSL 2576
HSL 2578

1944's operational summary was

Aircrew rescued by HSL 2574 - 19
Aircrew rescued by HSL 2578 - 7
Aircrew transferred from other craft HSL 2578 - 10
Aircrew transferred from other craft HSL 2571 - 1
Aircrew bodies recovered by HSL 2571 - 3
Hours at sea - 430

1945

1945 saw a marked decline in ‘crash calls’ as the Allies began to push deep into German held territory. Airspace above the North Sea was now much more secure. No new boats arrived at 22 ASRU during this 1945, and the Unit was finally disbanded at at 10.00hrs on 16 Dec 1945.

Summary for 1945.

Aircrew saved by HSL 157 - 8
Number of call outs - 16
Hours at sea - 125

In Jul 1947 1110 Marine Craft Unit took up the ASR tradition at Grimsby/Immingham.

The data are derived from unit F540, however this was only introduced in 1942. Other statistics drawn from "A Miscellany of No.22 ASRU" by the Grimsby Branch of the ASR & MCS Club.

location of RAF Walthamin relation to Lincolnshire - click here for full-size map showing all station locations

RAF Marine Branch
22 ASRU Grimsby
Grimsby Tidal Basin
1109 MCU Boston
1110 MCU Immingham

Air Sea Rescue
ASR craft photos

Air Sea Rescue museum, Flixton

RAF Air Sea Rescue history on RAF website

Key dates in ASR

AIR SEA RESCUE and  MARINE CRAFT SECTION CLUB crest
ASR/MCS Club

1109 MCU website

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
(Tourism)

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