“the sea shall not have them”
The raf air sea rescue service saved Thousands of lives during wwii using high-speed launches
The Marine Branch of the Royal Air Force was formed only 11 days after the service itself was founded in 1918, to provide waterborne support and services for the RAF across the world. Initially known as the ‘Marine Craft Section’, what became known the Air Sea Rescue Service (ASRS) was developed in the 1930s with the design of fast rescue launches.
One of the most influential boats was the ST-200 Mk. 1, which was 11.4 metres (37.5 feet) long and had a top speed of 29 knots. In a curious twist of military history, the vessel’s creation was lobbied for and tested by T.E. Lawrence (also known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’) while serving as an aircraftman in the RAF.
The success of the ST-200 led to the development of faster rescue boats during the 1930s, and when war broke out they became indispensable lifesavers. The ASRS supported operations globally, but their main deployment was in the English Channel. Among many other missions, five launches rescued 500 soldiers from Dunkirk and 93 were deployed supporting maritime operations on D-day. It is estimated that at least 8,000 lives were saved by the crews of the rescue boats, who operated in all weathers and often in the face of enemy action. Such was their determination to preserve life that the ASRS’S motto became “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”.