From 1918 to 1986 the Marine Branch of the Royal Air Force supplied waterborne support, rescue facilities and
services for the Royal Air Force throughout the world.
Inaugurated as the Marine Craft Section just eleven days after the Royal Air Force itself was founded, it
initially provided back-up for the flying boats but it also developed a rescue service which during and after
the second world war became the largest in the world. During the war years alone over 8,000 lives were
saved by the crews of the high speed rescue launches who faced enemy action and all weathers to uphold
their pledge of "The Sea Shall Not Have Them".
The launches were involved in many major actions; at Dunkirk five seaplane tenders were deployed rescuing 500
troops from the beaches; at Dieppe 14 launches were in action three of which were destroyed by enemy action and
93 launches were involved in the supporting maritime landing operations on D Day. Launches also supported
operations in the Middle East, Malta and Italy and also in the Far East, India, Burma, Malaya and Ceylon. The launches
also carried out clandestine operations in Greece, Turkey and occupied Europe. Post-war, amongst other duties,
the branch was involved in secret submarine location work, surveys and anti-terrorist patrols. By 1986 the more versatile
helicopter had taken over the rescue work and finally the branch was privatized its few remaining maritime activities being
taken over by civilian contractors.
In 1951, at a meeting of several former wartime crews, the Air Sea Rescue & Marine Craft Section Club was
formed and membership is open to all who have served in the Royal Air Force on marine craft in any of the recognized
marine branch trades. The Club is recognized by the Ministry of Defence (Air) and each year on Remembrance Sunday
wreaths are laid at sea from Newhaven and Bridlington whilst at Gorleston a service is held at the memorial in memory
of those of our comrades who gave their lives during the second world war. The Club is also represented at, the official
opening of the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, and the Cenotaph Parade, each November and at the annual
Commonwealth Air Forces Commemoration Service at Runnymede in May.
The Club has an active membership of around 400 and an Annual Reunion is held in the Spring of each year. There is also a Club magazine,
"Webfoot", which is published twice a year in the Spring and Autumn.
The club actively seeks members and in particular would be pleased to hear from those who served in the Branch in the 70s and 80s.
If you qualify for membership and would like to join please go to the Membership Page
where you can print a copy of the application form.