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.

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