"RAF Marine craft Homepage"

History of the Marine Craft/ASR Branch Of The BritishRoyal Air Force

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"Short History"

  • RAF Marinecraft originated in the "First World War",when the RAF was formed.Various small craft and personnel were transfered from the "Royal Naval Air Service". In the 1920's flying boat were being used to establish air routes to the far flung British Empire,the RAF played a signifiicant role in this.
  • Bases such as Calshot,Cattewater[later named Plymouth Mountbatten] and Felixstowe. Though times of change inthe 30's the RAF gradually increased its role in the design of its launches,one of the famous names involved in the design was aircraftsman Shaw[Laurence of Arabia]. "Notes Here"

  • RAF Marine Craft were used exstensively in the 2nd World War, for Airsea Rescue,see ASR/MC Units page for bases.Apart from ASR,launches were used for servicing the needs of flying boats such as the Short Sunderland and the Catalina amphibian.Flarepaths laid,aircraft refuelled,bombs loaded and beaching of aircraft were some of the many and varied tasks carried out by the Marine Craft sections.
    "Post war"
  • At the end of the war there was a re-organisation of the M/C and in 1947 it became a fully fledged branch of the RAF. As helicopter became more advanced they took over many of the A.S.R.,duties,the H.S.L were modified to enable them to tow targets and they became,Rescue Target Towing Launches[R.T.T.L's],the Seaplane Tenders,were modified to Range Safety Launches,[R.S.L's] as although there were still Sunderlands operating in the UK until 1956 and Singapore until 1959, there was many more requirements for these boats to patrol the many bombing ranges around the UK. There were still many ASR call outs for both R.T.T.L's and R.S.L's, plus working with helicopters,picking up special forces after sea drops and much more,both in the UK,Germany,Hong-Kong,all over the middle and far east.

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    "RSL towing a R.N.Z.A.F.Sunderland in the 1960's"

    H.M.A.F.V. Seal L.R.R.S.V

    "Pinnace 1392 off Tenby Lifeboat Slip"



  • In 1946 the RAF took over two Bangor class Minesweepers,HMS Bridport and Bridlington,they became H.M.A.F.V's,[Her Majesty's Airforce Vessel's].These vessels were operated,home and overseas on long range weapons and sonar bouy recovery amongst other duties.Until 1958 when both were scrapped.
  • From the end of the war to the closure of the M/C Branch in 1986,there were several new launches ,Mk 1b,Mk2and Mk3 R.T.TL's.Atlast we got the Rolls-Royce Sea Griffins,for so long we had to put up with the old Napier Sealions.The new pinnaces arrived with the reliable Rolls-Royce diesels.New 43ft R.S.L's, also with Rolls-Royce diesels.In the 60's replacements for Bridport and Bridlington,Seal,Sea Otter,Long Range Recovery and Support Vessels.
  • From the mid-fifties the Marine Craft Branch was very involved with getting RAF Gan up and operating,many odd ball vessels were used ,such as landing craft,special refuellers,tug boat and others,which just goes to prove how well trained and adaptable the RAF seamen were.Many of the RAF crew members joined the contractors when the Branch was privatised and some are still serving on their launches to this day.
    "H.M.A.F.V. Bridport"


    R.T.T.L. 2772E off Brighton Beach 1957

    "201 and 230 Sqn Crests,both Sqn's flew Sunderlands"

    "Sunderland alighting RAF Pembroke Dock"

    "Firefloat patrolling prior to Sunderlands arrival China Bay.Photo suppied by Bob Young"

    Copyright © 2000-2003
    John Joyce.

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