13th April 15:10
DH Mosquito XII MM439 (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & A/C TEST
Climb to 26,000ft to check cure of boost-surge previously reported.
PATROL & GCI PRACTICE – Trimley GCI
3 runs: 3 contacts: 3 visuals: 2 murders
One run broken off to investigate flares seen on the sea – proved to be part of an Air-Sea Rescue operation. 2 beam runs on return.
As a lifeboat man I have an interest, and some experience, in Air Sea rescue. A quick bit of research revealed an interesting Eye Witness account of Air Sea Rescue during the war, as told by Norman Eastmead who served with the RAF’s Marine (Air Sea Rescue) Section as a fitter. I have reproduced some of his words below:
“Every time a plane left the country, we had to put to sea, and if they were on a bombing raid we would go about half way out to where the minefield ran from the Straits of Dover down to Cherbourg right down the centre of the Channel. And we’d sit on the edge of that minefield, and wait for the last plane to come back. If they failed to return, or dropped short, then we had to go through the minefield to bring them back home again. At the beginning of the war there were a lot of dog fights going on over the channel, and we had to be at sea for anyone who fell out of the sky to bring them home again, so that was basically our job. Pilot rescue, and bomber crews. We never asked for a passport, it never worried us whether they were Army, Navy, Air Force, male, female, it made no difference to us, it was always some mother’s son or daughter. If it was a German we picked up, we brought him back to England, POW camp, at least he went home to Mum at the end of the war.
[…]It has been estimated that some twenty five thousand lives were saved worldwide. That’s a lot of mother’s sons. […]
There were fourteen crew in total, that was the skipper, the coxswain, the second class coxswain, deckhands, fitters, and it also included a medical orderly who was trained to a very high standard because they never knew what they were going to come up with, they had to be prepared almost up to doctor level, and they were good.. There were always injuries in a lot of the people we picked up, I mean, things like back trouble — landed the wrong way up, there were some with injuries — bad — and some — I hate to say it — but you scoop them up in a bucket., so it was the full range of it…”
The Germans also had the Seenotdienst, which was actually established before the RAF’s Air-Sea Rescue efforts. Contemporary reports, and more modern research suggests that many thousands of RAF aircrews owed their lives to the German SAR efforts. I am sure that Norman’s comments about everyone being rescued being someone’s son or daughter, irrespective of nationality would resonate strongly with German Seenotdienst veterans. The thousands of mothers or fathers who were reunited with their offspring, as well as those who followed them must be forever grateful for the efforts of these brave men and women on both sides.
You can read the full transcript of Norman’s interview here: BBC WW2 People’s War