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More about the RMLs

Written by: Don Mackintosh

I was pleased to see, in the June Magazine, another representative of the 60th RML Flotilla contributing further memories of our operations in those days when we were based at Great Yarmouth. Ahoy there, Edwin Gladwish. However, the boat involved in the rescue of a Liberator aircrew that I referred to in “Things that might have been done better” was RML 512 of which I was the skipper at the time. It is not surprising, though, that 517 should have been involved in a similar incident. From 1943 onwards, the whole Flotilla was at full stretch as the Eighth USAAF, in growing strength, continued by day the work of the RAF by night.

In fact, the need for constant 24-hour ASR cover meant that, whereas in 1942–43 boats operated in pairs and combined nightly Z patrols with their daytime rescue watch, from 1944 onwards they worked singly. This not only doubled the number of ASR patrols that could be provided but enabled boats to continue searching during the night if need be.

Thus the experiences one crew were likely to have been shared by another. But there were always differences in the circumstances and the handling of a ‘pick-up’ that made each a ‘one-off’ for those taking part.

For instance, 512’s Liberator rescue differed from 517’s in that we were already at sea, thirty miles east of Lowestoft, and were within sight of the actual ditching so that we were on the scene within minutes. Only one man was killed and he was the Bombardier, who had refused to leave his position in the nose of the plane and was probably killed on impact with the water. His body was recovered. And so on.

The work could be tedious, often frustrating and sometimes depressing, when a search proved abortive or resulted only in finding people beyond help.

But a successful search more than redressed the balance and provided crews with the incentive to accept the downside of the job with a good heart.

I cannot remember exactly how man aircrew the boats of the 60th saved but the total was well over three hundred. In my own experience, they included Poles, British, Canadians and Americans and I am sure that this international list could be extended in the reminiscences of former Flotilla members.

CFVA News: Edition: September 1998 Volume: 95 Page: 36