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Thread: "A search was made ... but nothing was seen of any survivors"

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    Default "A search was made ... but nothing was seen of any survivors"

    35 Squadron ORB's have this information recorded against Halifax W7760, which was lost on 26th / 27th July 1942in the North Sea:

    "An SOS was received and the last fix obtained showed him some 300 miles out at sea. Search was made and continued on the following day for this and other aircraft known to be down in the sea but nothing was seen of any survivors".

    This made me wonder what the search and rescue procedure was at the time and who was involved?

    Could anyone enlighten me please

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Default ASR Searches

    Hi Pete

    I'm sure I once saw somewhere (that's helpful, isn't it!) a diagram of an 'expanding square' pattern to be used for ASR searches, starting from a point but with each leg after each 90 degree turn being a bit longer than the previous one, thus gradually enlarging the search area. Would've needed accurate flying and timing.

    Can't say though if that was a standard type or whether there were other patterns as well. Nor how this would be co-ordinated with any rescue launches etc.

    Anyway, one idea. Hope it might help a bit.

    Regards

    ian

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    Default

    Ian/Pete,
    Same "Square Search" technique used by Shacks in Med in mid 50's (was Galley Slave on a few!!). Seemed like SOP?
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Thanks for the feedback

    Having done a bit more thinking (which is always dangerous) I am assuming that the squadron would report its losses to Group who would then report to Bomber Command.

    Bomber Command would end up with a list of, say, half a dozen aircraft lost over the North Sea that night, some with last known positions, some without.

    Who would then receive this information to organise the searches and what resources would they have available to them?

    (I am guessing that Fighter Command and Coastal Command may also have lost aircraft during the same period which would need to be incorporated into the searches).

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Hi Pete,

    RAF Air Sea Rescue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Search_and_Rescue_Force#History

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/28/a5717928.shtml

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Dave

    Thanks for the response; I had seen those articles and a few other bits and pieces but they didn't really help me understand the procedures adopted by Bomber Command, nor the location of the "co-coordinators" / the available resources.

    The more I think about the subject the more questions surface, (eg were the air sea rescue planes protected by fighter escort / how far could the launches go out / how long would they search for etc etc etc).

    Could anyone point me to a book or resource which would help with this subject.

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Default Area Combined H.Q.

    Hi Pete - the co-ordination was provided by Area Combined H.Q.s - which I think mapped on to the fighter Group boundaries. Resources included A.S.R. (a big organisation in itself, with high speed launches and air-droppable lifeboats), R.N., and R.A.F. including O.T.U.s. 5 Group News for Jan 44 has a Nav Quiz with the following question - 6. What is the recommended method of search to be used when engaged on dinghy search? [Answer - The creeping line ahead method of search is best under all conditions (see Appendix A to A.S.I. Ops 1/18).

    Some more excerpts from 5 Group News may breathe life into the subject:

    Aug 43 - AIR SEA RESCUE
    Lancaster DV243 of 207 Squadron was on the 22/23 October operation to KASSEL. On the homeward journey the aircraft ended up over Southern Denmark for some, as yet, unexplained reason. The captain, P/O Kelly, decided whilst yet east of BREMEN to institute distress procedure as the aircraft would have insufficient fuel to reach England. The W/Op switched the I.F.F. to ‘distress’ and attempted to contact the appropriate M/F D/F Section. Despite being at 20,000’ contact could not be made for some time. Persistence paid off and the W/Op (Sgt Lambert) over a two hour period worked continually at his set on various M/F sections, as and when they were available, to gain an amazing succession of 11 3-bearing fixes as well as passing to the M/F D/F sections 3 Gee fixes obtained by the navigator. The pilot pressed on as close to England as he dared stretch things, reaching a position 25 miles from the English coast, having remained in the air for 8 hours 15 minutes on only 1,480 gallons of fuel.
    This was the crew’s first operational flight together (although some members had done one or two trips before). The captain wisely interrogated his crew during the descent on their knowledge of ditching stations, putting them right where necessary.
    The pilot was able to assess that there was a heavy sea running under a high wind, but he wasn’t able to judge the drift until below 500’. At this height he turned into wind and ditched the aircraft. In fact, the wave heights were from 12-15’ and the wind-speed 25-30 m.p.h. The second impact of the aircraft on the water was described by the pilot as ‘horrible’. The tail broke away aft of the M/U turret, all four engines fell off and the front turret was washed away. The crew were out of the aircraft and on the mainplane within 45 seconds, taking with them all their distress equipment and rations. Unfortunately, the dinghy was not attached to the aircraft and floated away. The captain jumped in and tried to recover it, but couldn’t do so and the whole crew had to jump for it. The F/E and M/U gunner were late in jumping, finally deciding to do so only when the starboard undercarriage wheel appeared floating on the surface. They tried to swim for it, but were unable to reach it. The F/E then being back-washed back onto the mainplane where he stayed. The M/U was was washed out towards the wing tip and away from the aircraft; he was last seen flashing his torch.
    Within 1½ hours of ditching two destroyers reached the area, one picking up the crew from the dinghy and the second recovering the F/E from the aircraft. This aircraft, in spite of all the damage sustained, floated for 14½ hours and finally sank during salvage operations.
    Area Combined H.Q., with nearly two hours in which to sort out M/F fixes, Gee fixes and the broad beam I.F.F. plot, were able to pass the ditching position 52.40N 02.09E to the Navy. The crew were actually picked up from 52.39N 02.08E.
    Conclusions – If you institute distress procedures early, you increase your chance of rescue tremendously.
    Regular dinghy drills and lectures on distress procedure enable this crew to carry out a very successful ditching almost routinely.
    There is no need to regard this ditching as lucky. You can do the same, one and all, provided you practise regularly to master the drills and gain an absolute knowledge of your procedures.
    GO TO IT!

    Dec 43
    A summary of A.S.R. incidents for the six months ending 31st December 1943 show that of a total of 3,271 aircrew involved, 1,078 were rescued and brought back to England; most of the remainder fared as follows:
    1. 256 aircrew were lost even though other members of the crew were saved, an indication of incorrect dinghy drill.
    2. 23 were lost after being sighted in their dinghies – weather and lack of knowledge of search procedures are the main cause of these losses.
    3. 663 are known to have come down in the sea, but no S.O.S. signals were transmitted, making a successful search almost impossible.
    4. 280 disappeared over the sea without word or trace.
    These figures highlight a sad lack of knowledge among aircrew of W/T and dinghy drills and procedures to deal with an emergency over the sea. The A.S.R. service has been built up at considerable cost and a good deal of emergency equipment provided for aircrews, all of which can work satisfactorily if those crews learn how to use them and co-operate fully with those who can teach them.
    When you bale out over enemy territory, your future welfare depends largely on your own initiative after you’ve come to earth. The reverse is true for ditching or baling out over the sea. If you haven’t prepared fully for such emergencies, the event itself will come too late for you to learn and there’s no future in simply ‘muddling through’.
    One hour per week spent in studying search procedure, dinghy drills and emergency and S.O.S. W/T procedure is sufficient to ensure you won’t be caught unprepared when a crisis overtakes you.
    HELP A.S.R. TO HELP YOU!

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    Richard

    Thanks for spending the time and effort in responding; it makes interesting reading.

    There are still quite a few bits of the jigsaw that I will need to get hold of before I can make any real sense of this subject, but I will keep rooting around and hopefully build up a complete picture of the process from start to finish.

    Thanks again; much appreciated

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Dear Pete
    This is a question that I too am keen to find the answer.

    As an example on 3/8/41 83 Squadron Hampden AE191 was detailed on a search for “AE154 83 Squadron (OL-H) 2nd/3rd August 1941 which ran out of fuel and ditched 40 miles east of Flamborough Head. Squadron Leader F Newall, Pilot Officer Monkhouse, Pilot Officer Bishop, Sergeant Dickerson. All picked up after 11 hours in dinghy. Bombing Kiel.” (Hampden File p 134). I do not know which aircraft or launch spotted the dinghy, but this shows that in this case aircraft from their own squadron took part in a search. I do not know the format of the search either.

    On 8/12/41 AE191 ditched, and letters from the time state that "all the resources of the Air Sea Rescue Services have been put into action". Having said that I can find no reference on their own squadron ORB. As yet I have not been able to find any reference to either aircraft or launches. It is debatable as to whether the RN or RAF were responsible for the various launches and where those records may be kept. This crew was not found by the search, and two survivors were rescued by the German Navy on 12/12/41.

    A search was carried out on 8/12/41 (Thanks to Finn Buch on this Forum for finding this). This search was for Spitfire V BL323 PK-W of 315 Squadron which was lost on a Ramrod. Several squadrons were detailed to take part in the search. He was seen in his dinghy, but he died from exposure and is buried in France. Sadly during this search another Spitfire, AB966 was shot down by a Fw190 and the pilot killed.

    I know this does not answer your question, but clearly searches by other aircraft were used.
    Best wishes
    James

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    Pete T,
    A book on the subject of ASR to give some idea of the organization;
    "Shot Down and in The Drink" by Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork.
    Published by The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey. TW9 4DU.
    Bill.

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