RAF AIR-SEA RESCUE UNIT NEWHAVEN

Photos of the unit boats circa 1941

By Chris Young

The base was established in Newhaven in 1939 and this picture shows one of the early High Speed Launch (H.S.L.). The first photo shows the boat on its original jetty location. These photographs are from my late father's photo album (Tom Young). He was in the air/sea rescue when it started. He was stationed here from 1939 - 1941, he then went overseas with the ASR.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'RAF AIR-SEA RESCUE UNIT NEWHAVEN' page

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'RAF AIR-SEA RESCUE UNIT NEWHAVEN' page

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:Out at sea

Out at sea

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:Out at sea

Out at sea

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:On the moorings approx. 1941

On the moorings approx. 1941

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:Return to port, approaching the harbour entrance.

Return to port, approaching the harbour entrance.

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:Stowing gear after return to port.

Stowing gear after return to port.

From the private collection of Chris Young

Photo:All aboard for leaving harbour.

All aboard for leaving harbour.

From the private colletion of Chris Young

This page was added by Ginny Smith on 03/01/2009.
Comments about this page

For those who may not know, (Lawrence of Arabia) was closely involved with the ASR when it was first set up and was involved with the design and testing of their first launches.

By Richard Beckett
On 21/12/2008

I think you mean T.E. Lawrence who as you rightly say was Lawrence of Arabia  I think while he was serving in the RAF / ASR unit he was involved with research and development etc ( Alias , Aircraftsman Shaw )

By Chris Young
On 22/12/2008

Are there any photos of the base with the helicopters that eventually replaced these launches? I grew up in Fort Road and would watch them take off and land from the compound between Fort Road and the Riverside. One of the trees spaced along the edge of the pavement, near number 60 in Fort Road  or thereabouts, died off as a result of the constant blasting of the rotors.

By Rob Patten
On 27/12/2008

Photo #7 would appear to show the result of a successful rescue, the chap stepping off the boat appears to have a bandage around his head and is wearing flying boots and is of much interest to those around him as he steps from the outermost launch to one moored inboard.

By Rob Patten
On 04/01/2009

From what I can discover about these boats, they were 68 feet long (at least No 124 was) and built by the British Power Boat Company at Hythe. They had 2 or 3 500HP Napier Lion Petrol engines. Was no 124 stationed at Newhaven? If so, I have a picture of it at sea in The Motor Boat and Yachting Manual of 1943.

By Keith J
On 10/01/2009

The boat No 126. was not one of the original duo ( No. 100 & No. 121) although this type established the ASR MCS base at Newhaven. I am in the process of adding more photos of these with one of the editing agents of this site.  A main instigator of these high speed craft being built, for the RAF, was  Hubert Scott Paine, of British Power Boats Ltd , who was also exploring the sale of this style of high speed craft to the USA, as they had a excellent quick search and rescue ability for downed pilots, hence their introduction. This branch of the RAF service served all round the globe during the WW2 period, in all the areas of British overseas actions etc.  I will also be adding some post war pictures of later HSL class boats based at Newhaven.

By Chris Young
On 10/01/2009

Does anybody know if No 124 was stationed at Newhaven? If so, I have a picture of it at sea in The Motor Boat and Yachting Manual of 1943 which could be added to this site."

HSL No 124 (which I think may have been a Ramsgate craft) is recorded in the watch house records as having been at Newhaven on the 18 August 1942 and that it sailed next day, so looks like it may have been involved in Operation Jubilee.
I would just like to make a minor correction to various comments which have been posted here. The Newhaven unit was originally founded in 1939 as 28 ASRU (Air Sea Rescue Unit) and became 1107 MCU (Marine Craft Unit)  1948.

The Newhaven Museum has a couple of albums dedicated to the RAF at Newhaven including several photos of Whirlwind, Wessex and earlier Helicopters. Peter Mason

By Pete
On 22/01/2009

I read with interest the comments from someone who grew up in Fort Road Newhaven, but I do not recollect the site being used for Helicopters whilst I was stationed there 1959/1962. We did however work in conjunction with 22 squadron helicopters from Tangmere and Thorney Island. I was the Supplier (Stores) Corporal at 1107 MCU, and on one occasion foolishly volunteered to go out to sea on the RTTL jump overboard and wait for a chopper to pull me out of the sea. None of the Marine craft crew were interested in volunteering.

By Charles (jim) James
On 12/02/2009

It's great to see these photo's. I believe my grandfather was a crewman on boat 121. Do you have any photo's of it?

By Alasdair Maclennan
On 07/07/2009

With reference to HSL 121, I have some original photos taken in 1939/40 when this vessel was stationed at Newhaven Marine Craft Unit. These pictures were taken by my father who served on her sister craft HSL 100. These two vessels were the original HSL's which initiated the base at Newhaven .

By Chris Young
On 18/07/2009

HSL 126 was a British Power Boat Co Type 2 63ft High Speed Launch, commonly called a "Whaleback" due to the reverse sheer deck-line.They were powered by 3 Napier Sea-Lion petrol engines each of 500hp, they were capable of 35 kts but cruised at 30 kts. 126 was taken on charge in 1941, and was disposed of in 1946, probably to become a houseboat as did most of these boats.

By Christian
On 18/07/2009

With reference to Charles (Jim) James comments, you were correct, RAF Newhaven was not in itself a 'base' for helicopters it was very much a refuelling base and was used as such on many an occasion. Whilst I was stationed at 1107 MCU RAF Newhaven, (May '68 to Nov '70) as a Marine Fitter, one of my duties was 'NCO i/c Helicopter refuelling', which meant that I had to ensure that there was always unopened and sealed (to ensure no water contamination) 45 gallon barrels of fuel, if I remember rightly, 'AVPIN', (a form of paraffin) had to be ready for the pilot to examine before he would allow the fuel to be pumped into his aircraft. It was pumped by hand via a semi-rotary hand pump. It seemed to take us ages whilst the pilot/crew went to the 'little boys room'. With regards to jumping overboard and being 'rescued' most of us had done it so many times before we were always willing to let a 'volunteer' have a go!

By Peter Fox
On 26/08/2009

My grandfather was engineer aboard HSL 165, and very briefly features in the film 'For Those in Peril' parts of which used Newhaven as a location. The family used to have a catalogue of photos taken during the filming, including shots of model craft used in the film, and including photos of some technicians wading alongside. These have been lost however, as my grandmother threw them out when my grandfather died, oblivious of their value to later generations.

I have a painting of HLS 165 that my grandfather did after the war, and would be happy to let you have a digital copy for inclusion on the site.

I have the book 'Sailors in the RAF', but would welcome any pointers to other sources of information about the ASR launches and the units stationed in Newhaven.

Please send us the copy of the painting. We would then be able to add it to this page - Editors.

By Ian Halstead
On 26/08/2009

For anyone wishing to find out more about the RAF Air Sea Rescue Service. There is a very good book available which gives excellent coverage of their many theatres of operation and service, called 'The RAF Air Sea Rescue Service 1918 - 1986' by Jon Sutherland & Diane Canwell .

By Chris Young
On 14/02/2010

My dad was stationed at Ramsgate I believe they were billeted in the pub "The Royal Oak" or "York". His craft was the 127 fitted with oerlikan guns, he was the armourer Tommy Hunter (Jock). There may be some pictures of a rescue and the crew standing on board. I will try to get these to you. It is important to remember these men and what they achieved, your website is fantastic.

By Gail Hunter
On 26/02/2010

I saw service on 2753 and 2552 at Immingham Dock as radio operator, during 1955 and 1956. If anyone who visits this page remembers me during those years, it would be fun to catch up. I look forward to returning to this site and exploring further. I have a photograph of myself standing next to the 2552, would you like it for inclusion to the site?

By David 'Dixie' Dean
On 05/04/2010

Yes please David. Carol (Editor)

By Carol Walton
On 05/04/2010

Found your site when trawling for info on RAF Marine Craft. I also served with the Marine Branch at Alness and Invergordon in the period 1955-1958. At that time we were using RTTLs 2744,2679, later 2557 and finally while I was there 2757, the early version of the Mark II with Griffon engines. I actually went to Calshot by train to collect 2757 to take it on its maiden voyage to Alness in Jan 1958. She is now at Hendon on display. I was the fitter on board for the first year of its service. I am writing a book about my time withthe RAF Marine Branch, it should be out in a couple of months. I now live in Queensland Australia Regards, Brian.

PS. Were you ever at Alness or Mountbatten, Dixie Dean?

By Brian Mutton
On 15/04/2010

I was a fitter on RTTLs and pinnaces' in Newhaven about 1961-62 and remember the place well. There were few "living in" in those days and we were billeted on the site. The converted minesweepers were also known to me in Newhaven and Mountbatten. Tours overseas took me to Limasol ,Tobruk ,Gan and Aden. Portrush in Northern Ireland was my favorite posting . We sunk a Rttl there then had to tow it to Mountbatten for refit . Great days . I was demobbed in 1967 after nine years service.Jim Dunn

By Norman (Jim) Dunn
On 15/04/2010

Has anyone more photos of RAF launches of the period 1950-1960 that I could use in my book please?

By Brian Mutton
On 16/04/2010

Dear Sirs. I have read your site with interest. My late father served with ASR in the middle east during hostilities, transfering from long range desert salvage. He served as engineer on 109, 159 and 2604, and others I cannot remember the no's of. I have some photo's that I will look out.

Regards

John

By John Maughan
On 04/07/2010

I wonder if anyone has any info about Flt Sgt Frederick (Monty) Banks who served in the RAF Marine Craft Section. I have carried out some research into an incident off Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire that occurred 19th August 1952. Flt Sgt Banks was Coxn of ST 357 that day whilst serving at 1104 MCU Bridlington and he took 357 into the cove of North Landing, Flamborough to rescue a girl swimmer. Sea conditions were awful, heavy swell running straight into that little bay. 357 managed to pick the girl up but sadly she died. Flt Sgt Banks was awarded the 'Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct' for that rescue bid. I know he served at many MCUs around the country, in fact the world, just wondered if anyone out there knew him. He was stationed at Immingham for a while. Would like to hear from anyone who knew Fred Banks. Regards Paul L Arro

By Paul L Arro
On 31/07/2010

In reply to John Maughan (4/7/2010), my Grandfather was wireless operator on 159 - he turned 90 last week. What was your father's name?

By Alex V
On 02/08/2010

In reply to Gail Hunter:

My Dad was on Air Sea Rescue boat 127! He is 88 next week. I've heard him talk of the Oerlikon guns. Indeed I think he operated one! Any contact/information would be very welcome. He was also (from his memory) on 144, 145, 163 and 178. Many thanks for the lead, Gail.

By Steven Hale
On 06/08/2010

I served as a wop from 63 to 67 (Seletar & Newhaven). Be nice to catch up. Andy

By Andy Tago Reeve
On 03/09/2010

Does anybody remember my late dad Vincent Baldwin (nick name- Bronco - Vic) or his late twin brother Fredrick Baldwin (nick name - Tino) both in the air sea rescue around 1941-1946

By m baldwin
On 10/09/2010

Sir, can you help me trace an ex RAF rescue launch which was sold to and refurbished by Walker Marine of Ramsgate at the end of ww2. My uncle who is 94 and housebound, was on this vessel after she was shipped to Bahrain and named Trucial Maid. He thinks it was 75ft and had 3 Perkins 6 diesel engines. If you can find photos of this boat would be obliged. It was purchased by Holloway Brothers of London and shipped to Bahrain on the City of Leeds about 1950.

Can your Uncle remember it's number as this would help a great deal in tracing this craft. There is also a web site for ex military marine craft www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/.../marine_craft_records.cfm   where you might find the information you require. Editor

 

Sinclair Milne.

By SINCLAIR MILNE
On 05/10/2010

Visitors to this site might be interested to know about my George Turner Models 1/35th scale Whaleback ASR Launch. It's radio controlled with a water cooled electric motor, exhausts out of the stern just like a real one. I'm having a "whale of a time" building it and will post a movie on youtube when completed. Unfortunately, George has stopped making this beautiful kit, I was lucky in buying mine at Wings and Wheels North Weald this year. Also, a very interesting book regarding ASR is "Shot Down and in the Drink" by Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork obtainable from the National Archive in Kew web site www.nationalarchives.gov.uk Congratulations on a very interesting site! Regards, Dave Townsend

By Dave Townsend
On 01/11/2010

My father was Coxswain in the ASR and was stationed at Lyme Regis. I have just been there and found our old Married Quarters. As a young boy (4 in 1953) I recall sitting on boxes and was at the wheel, what a monster of a boat. Could anybody tell me the type and the number of this boat? My father died 2 years ago.

By John Shirley
On 12/11/2010

In reply to Alex V. My father's name was Hugh Raymond Maughan. Sorry for delay in replying. My uncle was also on HSL's based at Newhaven. He was Bob Young.

By r. John Maughan
On 21/11/2010

Great to see the old photos and interesting to read the various comments. Like others my late Father, Ron Stinchcombe also served on ASR launches in Ramsgate and Newlyn between 1941 and 1946. He was in the engine room on the launches and apparently known as "Ginge" or "Ginger". My Mother has still his tunic and release papers.

By Paul Stinchcombe
On 01/01/2011

My late father, Pete Lehmann was also on the ASR boats after a brief trial as flight crew which showed he had little aptitude for flying...He told me that he never picked up a live pilot, neither German nor British. I have some pictures of his craft but am unable to find them at the moment but will post details when found. Keith Cutler and Derek Summers, I believe were his crewmates.

By Melissa Roberts Nee Lehmann
On 07/01/2011

My B-17 crew was rescued by the ASR Service off Beachy Head on the late afternoon of 24 Aug. 1943. Can anybody provide me with any information or a link to the unit that participated in that rescue. Thank you, John

By John Keema
On 22/02/2011

John, the chances are it was a Newhaven ASR / MCS launch as it would definitely be the nearest to 'Beachy head', such as RNLI craft would be if were a call came for that type of SAR area today.

By Chris Young
On 06/03/2011

Does any body have information on ASR based in Chittagong during WW2. My Dad, Mr. Earnest Frederick Law - Service No 1479871 served as Leading Air Craftsman on Air Sea Rescue between 1942 and 1945, stationed in what was Chittagong in Burma . Not only were he and the crew stationed to rescue downed Airmen, but the launch was also used by Earl Mountbatten to travel on between ship & shore. Dad still has a full photo album of his days on ASR and I would like to know more about this particular ASR station

By David Law
On 02/05/2011

I trained as a Marine Mechanic at MountBatten in Sept/Nov 1957, under Ch/Tech Hamilton, Sen/Tech Hughes. What magnificent training ! It served me well in my subsequent life in engineering. Are there any other u/t's from that period out there? I ran foul of the Guardroom staff at MountBatten - a Sgt.Taylor, Cp.Bitchenor and SAC's Clive Overton and Paul (?) (a a diver) but it was a fine entry into RAF life.

By Andrew McMeekin
On 08/07/2011

I remember delivering the Evening Standard paper to the RAF base 1960/62 for a RAF guy named "Rocky", he got me in trouble more than once by giving me some tasty treats they were having for tea. If I missed the bus bringing the next edition from Brighton it would go on to Eastbourne! I collected 3 editions each night and took them to different newsagents in town which included the news seller at the bus stop near the bridge, then had to deliver to my own customers.

By Ray Sexton
On 15/07/2011

Re David Law's request about Chittagong. My father, Arthur Keats was in ASR in Chittagong. Do you know the number of your fathers boat? My father was on 2709. There are a few books about, Boat in the Blue has a list of boats and where they were at the back. There is also a web site asrmcs-club.com. I will ask my father if he knows of your father and post again if he does.

By Andy Keats
On 26/11/2011

My father Raymond Jose Garment was stationed at Portrush, etc. during the war and served in Air Sea Rescue. Any information would be appreciated.

 

By David Garmont
On 21/01/2012

I'm trying my hardest to find some info on boat 2709, as my great uncle was an engine man on it and he would like to see any info on that boat I can get him. He has all the pictures of him and his crew members, his name is LAC F. WEATHERILL, if anyone has in info please let me know, many thanks.

By Mark Hickling
On 10/02/2012

Like this forum very informative. Am in the process of aquiring "Navidia" an ex RAF 1951 build ASR. I am trying to identify her and her history regards to all

By Alan Williams
On 15/03/2012

In reply to Mark Hickling my Father was on 2709. He is now 92 and unfortunately can't recall all the names of those on his boat that was at Chittagong amongst others. I am happy for the website to give you my email and we can then try and give him some clues to jog his memory. I have some information and some details of other websites you my like to visit. Did your uncle have a nickname?

By Andy Keats
On 27/04/2012

My grandfather Ernest Shone served with RAF ASR on HSL100 based out of Newhaven. I am currently writing up his memoirs and came upon this website whilst doing some research. My grandfather is still alive and it would be great to show him some photos of the HSL100 and crew from the 1940 onward period. Please advise if anyone can share. Thanks, Naomi

By Naomi
On 31/10/2013

Hello all, This is rather a long shot.....my family and I lived aboard an HSL Whaleback 63ft (No182 - I think) for 2+ years in 1951-52 in and near Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs. I know nothing about where she was stationed wartime and wondered if anybody can give me a lead? I heard somewhere when I was very young that it may have been Ramsgate. I believe our boat called "Fiona" was sailed across to Ireland after my parents sold her. She had a houseboat superstructure but retained the wheelhouse area. Powered by two Chrysler engines. We kids spent many happy hours aboard Fiona - I bunked down in the captains birth aged 8 years! Please contact me if you know anything about this boat. Many thanks Nick Hanbury

By Nick Hanbury
On 08/11/2013

I notice from here that a lot of ex-RAF Marine Craft personnel, and families, are asking for details and whereabouts of ex-colleagues and launches. In this era of Facebook there is a very active Facebook page entitled, 'RAF Mountbatten and Marine Craft' which has some very up to date information and where questions can be asked re all things RAF Marine Craft. Being ex-RAF Marine Craft myself (Mar/Fitt) I hope this helps! https://www.facebook.com/groups/254266065612/

By Peter Fox
On 12/12/2013

Just discovered the site and brought back many memories. I was based at Newhaven for all of 1956, working as the clerk in the office. The CO was Flt Lt Ron Butler, one of the best officers I served, who taught me so much about admin as well as letting me spend some times at sea with 2747 & 2729. His final reference was priceless, 'This airman [I was a SAC at the time] can be depended to do whatever he thinks is best, regardless of orders'. Amongst other very special people were Flight Sgt Armstrong. who was commissioned at the base, a very well deserved and popular appointment. Oh, so many happy memories?

By Tony Brown
On 01/01/2014

I have a friend who was a Corporal in Air Sea Rescue stationed at Chittagong and Calcutta. From memory he served on HSL 176, 2533(I have a photo of this one on VE Day at Calcutta), 2534 and 2714. He was a fitter. His name is Eric Moss and I believe trained at Gorleston. Does anyone remember him? 

By Brenda Mason
On 18/01/2014

From the January to July in 1971, I lived on a houseboat in Newhaven. We were told it had been converted from an air/sea rescue boat. The size and shape was very similar to the one shown in these photos. The wheelhouse remained, as did the wheel, but new rooms had been added behind. It was moored near Denton Island at the Old River Boatyard, alongside a larger converted boat. It was called the Sylphide. Does anyone else remember it, or know if it was converted from one of these boats?

By Phil smith
On 20/02/2014

My dad was in the war time RAF air sea rescue in the middle east with 208mcu in Alexander and Port Said from about 1941-1945 his name was Douglas Plater. I have some very good pictures of him and his crew.  There is some very good pictures in the book the air sea rescue service 1918-1986 is there any one on this site that may have been in the middle east. My name is Ian Plater his son, l now live in New Zealand but I do remember my dad taking me to see the launches at Newhaven in the fiftys, regards Ian Plater

By Ian Plater
On 28/02/2014

Does anyone have a email for Chris Young.

Yes Ian, but we will ask Chris for his approval first.

Editor.

By Ian Plater
On 28/02/2014

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.