Between 1918 and 1986 the marine branch of the Royal Air Force provided rescue facilities, support and other services to this armed service. In its pre-1941 guise as the Air Sea Rescue service, the RAF had an inventory of over 200 motorboats, supported by float aircraft engaged in rescue, towing, refuelling and servicing RAF aircraft. Amongst the many characters of this early period was none other than Lawrence of Arabia.
The Marine Craft Section itself came into existence in February 1941 as a direct result of the compelling need to retrieve downed pilots from the sea. Initially, the craft was lightly armed, but as the chivalry between the British and the German rescue services deteriorated, the launches became a heavily armed craft, not only capable of defence but also attack. They were supported by a wide variety of aircraft, including Lysanders and Walruses. The ASR was involved in Dieppe and D-Day and operated in the Mediterranean and the Far East. During the war years alone over 13,000 aircraft crew were saved by the ASR service, in addition to the many hundreds of other servicemen whose vessels had been hit by mines or had fallen prey to submarines
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