Search and Rescue!

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    What difference would a working system of Search and Rescue have made during Battle of Britain in 1940 instead for introducing it in 1941?
    Who would it have been under RAF or Coastal Command?
    I can imagine that there were plenty of different aircraft suitable for the job, like the Supermarket Walrus and maybe their Sea Otter etc., etc.
    So, why did it take until '41 to get the Search and Rescue?
     
  2. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The Luftwaffe took the matter very seriously but the RAF almost totally ignored it. Why, I doubt we will ever know, but I am confident the person who should have made the decision didn't didn't pay the price. The poor buggers left in the sea paid the price.

    The RAF/RN had the aircraft, there was a lack of fast rescue craft but an effort could have been made.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    IIRC RAF counted on busy sea trafic and RNLI stations. RAF itself also had some fast launches, T. E. Shaw (Arabian Lawrence) participating the design of at lest some of them. But contrary to LW RAF had not developed good survival kit for its pilots, like distress flares, colour powder and even bright yellow flight helmet cover. After all it is very difficult to se man's head poping on the sea.
     
  4. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I don't think the Luftwaffe was over efficient at air sea rescue, I know they had buoys floating in the channel that downed aircrew could shelter inside of, on occasion the RAF visited them before the Luftwaffe and took the airmen prisoner. I have heard tales of both RAF and Luftwaffe sharing these buoys together while wondering whose side would pick them up.
     
  5. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Alot of downed pilots were saved by the Luftwaffe's air/sea rescue aircraft "Seenotdienst". The main aircraft used during the BoB was the He59, painted white so not to be recognized as a combat aircraft, they actively rescued anyone in the water and many times saved Allied seamen as well as Allied aviators.
     
  6. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Rescue buoys were also deployed by the German forces, stretching across the Channel. These were equipped with rations, blankets, First Aid kit, radios etc.
    When I have more time, I'll try to post some stuff on RAF ASR.
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #7 stona, Sep 17, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
    Yep, the early RAF life jacket was green, hardly highly visible in the channel. Some pilots painted them yellow, a nice detail for the modellers. The yellow Luftwaffe life vests (the 10-30 B 2 series, not the awful kapok effort) were much in demand from captured German airmen with RAF pilots. There are many photos of RAF pilots wearing them.

    From memory those floating buoys, Rettungsbojen , sometimes called "Udet Buoys" were not in place for the BoB but were placed in 1941. The scene where the British and German airmen share one was from a movie but I can't remember which one. I'm pretty sure John Mills was in it but that doesn't narrow it down much! It may have happened in real life, but I have never seen any evidence for it.

    I wouldn't say that the RAF relied on German air sea rescue either. I know of a handful of British pilots rescued by the Germans. The rest were either picked up by the haphazard system we had, often relying on merchant or fishing vessels, or they perished.

    From Der Adler, November 1941

    [​IMG]

    The buoys are referred to as new at this time.

    [​IMG]

    Cheers

    Steve

    Edit. The film was "We Dive at Dawn"
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Weren't those rescue bouys sometimes called "lobster pots"?
     
  9. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Good stuff Steve. I have some info in one of my BoB books, when I find it, stating that the Rettungsbojen were in use during the BoB, but, thinking about it, I have to wonder if they could have been located and moored in the Channel in time for the Battle.
    The movie you're thinking of might have been 'The Sea Shall Not Have Them' ?
     
  10. pattle

    pattle Member

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    #10 pattle, Sep 17, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
    Thinking back it was at the end of One of Our Aircraft is Missing with Bernard Miles (also in "In Which We Serve" with Sir John Mills), I think at the end of the film the RAF boys were given a boat by the Dutch Resistance to escape in, for some reason I can't remember they finished up on a German rescue buoy and were picked up by the Royal Navy.
    Also thinking back, there came a point during the Battle of Britain where the RAF realised that downed pilots were either drowning or dyeing of exposure at sea and moves were made to keep them from flying over water, I can't recall what exactly these moves were but I am confident that they were ordered by Park. Also the German rescue seaplanes were ordered to be shot down after they were discovered to be used for spotting. As a side note I recall hearing that being immersed in sea water was found to have greatly helped those poor pilots suffering from burns.
     
  11. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I think that it was not until 1945 that the USAAF had Catalina flying boats to rescue downed airmen in the North Sea, I believe before that the USAAF had combat weary B17's and P47's to search for downed airmen and drop survival equipment but relied upon the RAF to actually carry out the rescue itself. There was recently a very interesting article in Flypast recounting this units history.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    They were ordered to be shot down, which can hardly have improved the chances of them risking themselves to rescue their enemy. They were suspected of spotting/reconnaissance by the British but the Luftwaffe at the time denied this and what records there are support that.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  13. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I don't suppose they would have known who they were picking up until they had actually landed, I would have thought it would have been very difficult to recognise the nationality of downed aircrew until very close. In addition to this I would expect that the Luftwaffe would have considered the capture of RAF prisoners to be very useful for intelligence purposes.
     
  14. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Although I tend to agree, with it being virtually impossible to distinguish one soggy human lump from another, German rescue crews did have the advantage of being able to identify such things as sea marker dye, yellow life jackets and skull caps (when the latter was present) and so on, items which, during the BoB, RAF aircrew did not have.
     
  15. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Info about the British attitude to the Seenotdienst aircraft during the Battle of Britain:

    "In July 1940, a white-painted He 59 operating near Deal, Kent was shot down and the crew taken captive because it was sharing the air with 12 Bf 109 fighters and because the British were wary of Luftwaffe aircraft dropping spies and saboteurs.[2] The German pilot's log showed that he had noted the position and direction of British convoys—British officials determined that this constituted military reconnaissance, not rescue work. The Air Ministry issued Bulletin 1254 indicating that all enemy air-sea rescue aircraft were to be destroyed if encountered. Winston Churchill later wrote "We did not recognise this means of rescuing enemy pilots who had been shot down in action, in order that they might come and bomb our civil population again."[10] Germany protested this order on the grounds that rescue aircraft were part of the Geneva Convention agreement stipulating that belligerents must respect each other's "mobile sanitary formations" such as field ambulances and hospital ships.[2] Churchill argued that rescue aircraft were not anticipated by the treaty, and were not covered.[2] British attacks on He 59s increased. The Seenotdienst ordered the rescue aircraft armed[5] as well as painted in the camouflage scheme of their area of operation. The use of civil registration and red cross markings was abandoned. A Seenotdienst gunner shot down an attacking No. 43 Squadron RAF Hurricane fighter on July 20.[11] Rescue flights were to be protected by fighter aircraft when possible."

    Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seenotdienst
     
  16. pattle

    pattle Member

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    Yes but just to confuse matters RAF pilots used to wear captured Luftwaffe life jackets, and possibly even may have borrowed other emergency equipment as well?
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Luftwaffe used a similar system to that later adopted by the allies. The position of the downed crew was given either by them or their colleagues and where possible his position would be orbited to ensure that the rescue service could find them/him. This was the best chance of being found. It didn't work every time. Helmut Wick was seen to parachute into the see but still disappeared without trace and he was by no means the only one.
    The chances of a random pilot being found by the Luftwaffe rescue service in the English Channel were very remote, which is why it rarely happened. Both sides would have picked up any survivor that they found. Finding them is the problem.
    My father flew SAR helicopters from Malta after he converted from fixed wing in the early '50s. he told me that even when they had a good idea of the position in which an aircraft had gone down it was not at all unusual to find absolutely nothing . No wreckage, no slick, and no survivors.
    I distinctly remember a TV show about the "Bermuda Triangle" whose main premise was that something weird was going on because stuff disappeared without trace. My dad said this was entirely usual in the ocean and that the programme was a "load of ********"
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  18. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    He was correct.
    From the 1929 Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field:

    Art. 18 Aircraft used as means of medical transport shall enjoy the protection of the Convention during the period in which they are reserved exclusively for the evacuation of wounded and sick and the transport of medical personnel and material.
    They shall be painted white and shall bear, clearly marked, the distinctive emblem prescribed in Article 19, side by side with their national colours, on their lower and upper surfaces.
    In the absence of special and express permission, flying over the firing line, and over the zone situated in front of clearing or dressing stations, and generally over all enemy territory or territory occupied by the enemy, is prohibited.

    As the highlighted sections make clear the Luftwaffe's Seenotdienst aircraft were not protected by the Geneva Convention.
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    He was correct. The aircraft were initially painted white and carried all relevant markings but were flying in an area which excluded them from the protection.

    I wonder how Fighter Command's pilots felt about shooting them down. They might not all have been too keen or even done it. A little research project for someone :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  20. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    It's not just the area they were flying in, it was the role they were engaged in as well.
    There was nothing in the Geneva Convention which covered the rescue of unwounded aircrew/sailors from danger.
     
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