The first air sea rescue service
In the mid-1920s, the number of aeroplanes crossing the English Channel increased considerably: scheduled airline services between the UK and Europe were evolving, as well as private, commercial and pleasure flights. Alive to the evident problems of aircraft ditching in the English Channel, and the need to reach the casualty much faster than traditional lifeboats of the day, the RNLI evaluated the possibility of stationing a special, high-speed lifeboat at Dover. The Sir William
Hillary, commissioned in 1929, was remarkably advanced for its time, including long-distance wireless communication not available on other lifeboats. She could throw jets of fire-extinguishing fluid, had oil sprayers for spreading oil to calm rough water, and ropes to haul casualties on board when it was not possible to use more conventional means. She remained on station until the outbreak of war and made several services to ditched aircraft during that time, arguably providing the first official ASR service in the UK, and ten years before the military had to take rapid action to create a dedicated force at the outbreak of WWII.