There have been a number of books written about the Air Sea Rescue and Marine Craft Section. Some have been written by men who
crewed the Launches during WWII.
Below are listed some, who may, or may not be still in print. Those not in print can sometimes be obtained from good Second User
Bookshops who use the Internet to locate copies World wide.
While the naval and military history of Gibraltar has been well presented and illustrated through the years its air history has been less well served and especially in the crucial role that its land and seaplane base played in peace and war. This study by Henry Probert, sets out to repair that omission and that is the story of this book. Recent events following the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic have high-lighted the outstanding achievements of our maritime airmen in what was then RAF Coastal Command and the Gibraltar squadrons were very much part of that fine story.
With more than twenty submarines sunk directly or jointly with surface ships and half as many again put out of action, they set a record for a single Royal Air Force base in anti-submarine warfare.But important as those successes were, that was only part of the story. Key roles in support of the invasion of North Africa and the Mediterranean campaigns were to be followed in peace by the long years of the Cold War and then the Falklands conflict, in both of which the Rock was once again an important air base. The story shows that as those pressures relaxed in peacetime so the potential for commercial aviation asserted itself to develop the Rock into the flourishing air centre that it is today. As the title suggests, among the many factors that shaped this striking story none have been more persistent than the unbroken presence of the Royal Air Force and the friendship of the people of Gibraltar.
Shot Down and In The Drink: RAF and Commonwealth Aircrews Saved from the Sea, 1939-1945 – Air Commodore G. Pitchfork
The RAF’s Airs Sea Rescue Service saved thousands of aircrews in the Second World War, often in the most challenging conditions. This wide ranging, authoritative account draws upon over 40 first-hand testimonies and official reports from the National Archives, as well as dramatic, previously unpublished photographs. It explores Air Sea Rescue action in three operational areas – North-west Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East – and features a wide variety of rescue craft: RAF or Royal Navy launches, airborne lifeboats, aircraft such as the Lysander or specialist amphibians and flying boats. In depth research into official records reveals how the service was formed and how it evolved in wartime years; it also provides many fascinating of the training and equipment on which physical survival was to depend.
Several of the compelling accounts, from new archival or interviews with surviving members of the Goldfish Club, appear for the first time in print. They vividly evoke the reality of being shot down at sea, sometimes drifting for days awaiting rescue, and the variety of forms in which this eventually came. Among these true stories, powerful tributes to resourcefulness and courage, are the unforgettable experiences of;
Lieutenant Roy Veitch, who with particularly bad luck, had to bale out over the Adriatic three times in 4 weeks; amazingly, he was also successfully rescued each time.
Flight Sergeant Mike Cooper, who came down in a minefield within range of German guns at Calais; an amphibious aircraft still managed to pull off a daring rescue, dodging both mines and enemy fighters overhead.
Sergeant B.A. Watson, who was finally picked up from the Mediterranean after surviving in his dinghy for 8 days, the sole survivor of his crew.
Meticulously researched and encompassing all theatres of conflict, this offers a unique perspective on the Air Sea Rescue Service at its most critical time.
Tells in diary form, the day to day trials and horrors that the ‘Webfoot’ clan were forced to endure from the constant bombardment and harassment by the enemy whilst at sea and back at base. It also depicts what life was like for all service and civilian personnel during that long and epic Malta siege.
Other titles by author:
- Air War Over Malta (Part 1 The Allies)
- A Brief History of Spitfire IX EN199
- Lest We Forget
- Spitfires Over Sicily & Hurricanes Over Malta
The preface of the book claims that it is the story of a gentle man. I had read the book some time before I left for Malta in order to gat a feel of the island’s recent turbulent history. That first reading left me in awe of an author who had witnessed such historic events, but somehow related them in such a calm manner.
I then had the good fortune to meet him in Malta and came to realise that the telling of the story was indeed by a gentle man who is very much a gentleman. He weaves the story of his early life with so much pathos and feeling that one soon aquires an affinity with a young Frank and can mirror some of his early feelings and adventures. Of his initial time in the RAF he paints a picture, in which many of us can share as we all had similar experiences. The chapters relating to the Siege of Malta are however a vivid account of history in the making and leave you with a better understanding of how service personnel and Malteses civilians existed during those fateful years. Then later, he tells of the tedium of life on an ASR pinnace, based in the back of beyond in Sicily. The final section tells of life after service in ASR, with the return to the civilian environment and all the problems of having given up six years of youth in the service of his country.
Frank is now ninety-two and `Frayed Lifelines’ covers the first thirty years of his life. I can’t wait for the publication of the other sixty two years which I’m sure will be just as much a riveting read.
Reviewed by John Parsons.
Air Sea Rescue During the Siege of Malta: An Eyewitness Account of Life with HSL107 1941-43 – B. Jackson
The title sounds at first like one of those tedious Air Publications, intended for the student to weigh the pros and cons of the success or failure of the operation. That is far from the case. Written by the late Bill Jackson, who was a Club member and who sadly died before his book was published, the manuscript was bequethed to his son Dr Will Jackson, also a Club member, in an effort to ensure that the book was printed. Throughout its 365 pages this book captures the spirit and camaraderie that existed amongst the selected band of RAF sailors and gives an airman’s view and descriptive voice to life aboard a 64ft High Speed Launch, whilst carrying out Air Sear Rescue duties off the coast of Malta.
One gets a true feeling of the dangers, both from nature and manmade, that faced crews each time the `Start up engines’ order was given. Also within just a few of these pages the description of the exhiliration experienced is transmitted to the reader, of three engines going flat out with the sea sometimes calm and sometimes cruel, but always with the hope that a successful pick up can be achieved at the end. No heroics, just a job well done then back to the mundane routine tasks before the next call out, with the added burdens of constant enemy air raids, the desperate shortage of food and supplies, experienced by both service personnel and the Maltese population.
This insight into the everyday life of all living on the island is a wonderfully written story, simply told but which paints a picture in the readers mind and brings to life the hardships that had to be endured and overcome. Unlike failures of the British armed services described in some books on Malta during WWII, Air Sea Rescue during the Siege of Malta could never be considered as such, it is a testament to success. During Bill’s tour in Malta 273 pickups were made by the ASR launches and their crews.
Reviewed by John Parsons.