Air Force Marine Craft Section
Royal Air Force Marine Branch
"The sea shall not have them"
> Units and Formations
Updated: 18 Jan 05
Established: RAF Marine Craft Section: Apr 1916
Renamed: RAF Marine Branch: 1948
RAF Marine Craft Section originated in the Great War in Apr 1916, 11 days after the creation of the RAF as a whole. Small craft and personnel were transfered in from the RNAS. During the 1920s the Section's flying boats were being used to establish air routes across the British Empire. It was formed into a Branch in 1948, operated the largest air-sea rescue service in the world, and survived to 1986.
Hubert Scott–Paine took his prototype 64ft launch on a non stop, return test run from Grimsby to Hythe, 373 miles at an average speed of 36.2 knots. The craft was powered by triple Napier Sea Lion petrol engines each developing 500 BHP giving her a top speed of 40 knots. This craft was the forerunner of the RAF 100 Class High Sped Launch (HSL) with the launch numbers running consecutively from 100 – 121.
The RAF Marine Branch operated the RAF Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) cover in small fast launches (HSL). During World War II RAF Marine Craft high-speed rescue launches were used extensively in the Air Sea Rescue role, saving over 13 000 aircrew and other personnel.
Once the World War II bombing offensive against Germany was underway boats were stationed beneath the bombers' flightpath, remaining there in all weathers until the respective Command was clear as to which aircraft had safely returned and which were missing.
Resuce Motor Launches of the Royal Navy's Coastal Forces branch extended the range of ASR in the spring of 1942 in both the North Sea and English Channel. RML did not match the HSL speed but had a much greater range. They were also durable in much more severe weather conditions. RML operated a version of the wooden Fairmile Marine B.
In 1945, with peace secured, the RAF ASR fleet was drastically reduced with many wartime craft being sold off. The remaining launches were stripped of their armament and re-designated. The HSL became RTTL (Rescue Target Towing Launches) and the ST (Seaplane Tenders) later becoming RSL (Range Safety Launches). The ASRUs were closed down although some were replaced by regular Marine Craft Units (eg 1110 MCU replacing 22 ASRU at Immingham) as the RAF still had a Search and Rescue remit, along with other duties such as Target Towing for aerial bombing, range clearance and safety work, moorings inspections, and weapon recovery.
In Jul 1947 the RAF Marine Branch was officially formed and all remaining ASR units were allotted the 1100 series of numbering. The surviving Lincolnshire units were 1110 MCU at Immingham Dock and 1109 MCU at Boston.
In 1948 the Marine Craft became a full branch of the RAF and was disbanded in 1986.
Lincolnshire based Marine Craft Units (MCU) of the Marine Branch were:
1109 MCU at Boston
The USAAF operated an air-sea rescue launch from Skidbrooke.
RAF Air Sea Rescue history on RAF website
Key dates in ASR
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