46 ASRU Porthcawl and 1105 MCU Porthcawl

Information kindly provided by Malcolm Gibson (Gibby):

NO 46 Air Sea Rescue Unit

In August 1941 RAF Stormy Down was told that the Marine Craft Unit at Porthcawl was to disband. The expanding Air Sea Rescue Service would establish No 46 Air Sea Rescue Unit in its place. Under the control of 19 Group of Coastal Command it would be a lodger unit at 7AGS.

In September two 41½ feet Seaplane Tenders, Numbers 436 and 437 were allotted to the new unit. The establishment WAR/CC/234 allowed for 2 Cpls and 6 airmen.

In November the new unit was visited by the Inspector General of the RAF.

That month there were complaints that boats could not get in or out of the harbour for two hours before until two hours after low water. Also, in rough weather it was impossible to anchor off Porthcawl. It was early in 1942 that HQ Coastal Command replied. The points were not considered to have a very great effect on operations. Although the mooring buoys would be moved nearer to the pier for better protection.

In February lectures on Air Sea Rescue procedures were given to pilots from 7 AGS and they were taken to sea on the launches.

In May the Resident Naval Officer, Commander Hugh T Pricked RN, ordered that the rowing skiff was only to go out past the pier head in calm seas. In future, he added, only he would issue instructions to go to sea, or in his absence, the duty coastguard. If it was necessary to give the engines test runs, this was only to be done between Nash Point and the Fairy Buoy (off Porthcawl).

By the end of September 1943 the Porthcawl unit had responded to 25 Emergency calls since its formation twelve months before.

By October Air Sea Rescue facilities in the Bristol Channel included STs 1512 and 1513 equipped with R/T at 1740 Kcs stationed at Barry, STs 436 and 437 at Porthcawl, and at Swansea, the Mumbles Lifeboat and Pinnaces 1249, 1250 and 1297. One of the pinnaces was always at sea or in bad weather sheltering at either Ilfracombe or Appledore. Tenby also had two High Speed Launches fitted with R/T tuned to 1740Kcs.

On October 2nd the duty boat put out on a crash call to search for the crew of Lancaster EE110 (619) Sqdn which ditched off Llantwit Major when returning from a bombing raid on Hagen.

Two days later ST437 responded to a call that 3 airmen were in the sea three miles SE of Scarweather lightship. There were heavy seas running and all the loose gear on board was washed overboard.

About mid November ST437 was found to have damaged planking and went to 97 MU, Ferryside for repair. In her place ST1513 was attached from 45 ASRU Barry. She was soon replaced by ST1574 which was not ideal for use at Porthcawl but as no 41 feet craft were available it had to remain.

The two boats on station were now 436 and 1574.

On 11 December Anson MG112 force landed on the sea near Scarweather sands. The crew were rescued by the Swansea dredger. ST436 set out but the heavy seas crashing over the sands damaged the wheelhouse.

In 1944, on March the 10th, the duty boat responded to a crash call when a USAAF Marauder ditched off Margam. The crew had already waded ashore when the launch arrived. Two days later there was a fruitless search off Llantwit Major after flashing lights were reported at sea. Nothing was found. Another fruitless search took place on the 27th when Martinet EM456 was lost.

There was another tragedy on 12th April. An American soldier and a girl were swept off Porthcawl breakwater by the waves. AC Westhorp saw them go and sounded the alarm. LACs George Ash and Derek Shackell put out in the dumb dinghy. Rowing close to the breakwater they recovered the body of Miss Hilda Cull. Despite their efforts they did not find the American whose body came ashore at Newton the next day.

The following September a Letter of Appreciation from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute awarded George Ash and Derek Shackel £1 each for their gallantry.

Because of the superior facilities available at Porthcawl boats from Barry were now being sent to Porthcawl for slipping, inspection and repair.

Following the collision between two Ansons on the morning of May 8th the duty boat searched between one and two miles offshore but found only a dinghy and wreckage in the water. Next day an American Army Diving Unit and a salvage party from 78 MU began a search for bodies. This lasted for nine days without success.

Most of the dead airmen were washed ashore but AC Killman was picked up at the outer moorings on the 29th and AC Shoesmith was recovered off Southerndown on July 10th.

The American Army had a diving boat moored in Porthcawl harbour.

On June the 2nd ST 1574 was out of service all day after fouling both propellers on the American’s lines.

Two days later ST1574 put out to assist Motor Vessel Tilley which was dragging anchor off Porthcawl. However she managed without RAF help.

There were heavy seas running on June 13th when an American Army diving pontoon moored at the outer moorings broke in half. The duty boat picked up the crew before the front of the pontoon sank. The stern went ashore at Trecco Bay.

In September the Mooring vessel Swift arrived to replace the outer mooring trot with two separate single moorings. These buoys weighed one ton each and were fitted with 15 fathoms of ground cable.

On September 15th the duty boat, ST 437, stood by Steam Tug 672 of the US Army which was in distress. The tug had been towing US Army MTL 660 when she ran aground on Tusker Rocks. The RAF were told no assistance was required and the duty boat returned to outer mooring with MTL 660.

Porthcawl Coastguard asked the American coxswain to come ashore and give details of the situation. As they rowed in strong west winds swept the RAF dinghy ashore at Coney Beach. They made their way back to the slipway keeping in the shelter of the Eastern promenade.

In the afternoon LACs Shackel and Rees put out in the dinghy to rejoin ST 437 which lay at the outer moorings. Within minutes the dinghy was capsized by heavy seas. ST 437 slipped her moorings but the low tide and heavy seas prevented her reaching the pair in the water.

On 19th May ST 437 recovered the body of a boy who had fallen off Ogmore Cliffs. Then on June 24th when fishing vessel SWAN SA48 got into difficulties off Ogmore, ST 437 towed her into Porthcawl harbour.

There was another call on 23rd July when ST436 turned out for Spitfire PT652 of 329 Sqdn which crashed off Margam. Two days later there was another crash call but nothing was found.

On the 27th of August the harbour practically emptied when No 419 Landing Craft Flotilla left for Appledore.

In January 1946 Porthcawl Urban District Council sent a letter of appreciation to the base for the rescue of two boys in a canoe drifting out to sea off Newton.

On 1st March the unit became No 1105 Marine Craft Unit with an establishment of 16. Seaplane Tenders 436 and 437 were allocated to that unit which finally disbanded on the 31st March 1959.

Boats serving at Porthcawl Marine Craft Section and No. 46 Air Sea Rescue Marine Craft Unit:

  • 40 feet Armoured Motor Boats

A 569 From September 1939 to April 1941

A 571 From September 1939 to April 1941

  • 37½ feet Seaplane Tenders

ST 274 From September 1939 toMay 1941?

ST 282 From September 1939 to May 1941

ST 283 From September 1939 to May 1941

ST 294 From 26′ May 1940 to August 1940

ST 295 From 26 May 1940 to August 1940

  • 41½ feet Seaplane Tenders

ST 436 From November 1941 to July 1946

ST 437 From lawmber 1941 to December 1943

ST 1513 From December 1943 to December 1943

ST 1574 From December 1943 to July 1944

ST 437 From July 1944 to July 1946

Dates allocated are as shown on AM Form 564 and may differ from actual dates of movement.