Royal Navy launches “60 years of SAR” at London Boat Show

Royal Navy launches “60 years of SAR” at London Boat Show 14 Jan, 13, Source: Royal Navy

There is also the opportunity to get up close and personal with an Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC), as used by the Royal Marines.

Measuring in at nine metres long and able to travel in excess of 35 knots, these craft were part of the Royal Navy’s commitment to keeping the public safe during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

A seriously nippy piece of kit, the ORCs can also be equipped with general purpose machine guns if required, making them a highly-flexible and potent deterrent.

This is a particularly special year for Royal Navy helicopter search and rescue, which celebrates 60 years of saving lives at sea and on land in 2013.

To help celebrate the launch of the Boat Show and the service’s own special anniversary, a Royal Navy search and rescue Sea King will take to the skies beside ExCeL at 2pm on Saturday January 12 to give visitors a flavour of what being rescued is like.

A four-man crew from 771 Naval Air Squadron in Cornwall will manoeuvre the 9.5 tonne helicopter with precision to make a simulated rescue from the dock.

It is an astonishing spectacle, which will give young and older a tiny taste of the expertise and skills employed by these men and women in whatever conditions are thrown at them.

The helicopter will also return on Sunday (January 13) for a further demonstration at 11.30am, before returning to its Cornish base.

In 1953, the introduction of the Westland Dragonfly helicopter to search and rescue opened a new chapter in civilian and military aid to those in peril.

Just shortly after coming into service, 12 Dragonfly helicopters from 705 Naval Air Squadron based at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Gosport responded to urgent requests for help following extensive flooding in East Anglia and The Netherlands.

In the course of seven hours’ flying, more than 840 people were rescued – one single pilot accounted for 111 of those rescues, while another carried out 102.

Thus was born Royal Navy helicopter search and rescue which, in 2013, celebrates its 60th anniversary of saving lives.

A diamond landmark for the men and women who have saved tens of thousands of lives in the intervening six decades.

The two current Royal Navy helicopter search and rescue units are based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and at HMS Gannet in Ayrshire, Scotland. Together their coverage is 206,000 square miles – an area larger than Spain.

Between them they continue the tireless, often dangerous, but always urgent work begun by those little Dragonflies all those years ago.

Familiar to all, the Mark 5 Sea King is now the Senior Service’s workhorse of choice, operating in extreme conditions above land and sea to react with a moment’s notice to anyone in distress.

For the duration of the show, search and rescue crew members from both HMS Gannet and 771 Naval Air Squadron will be available at the stand to chat to the public about the service, the Fleet Air Arm and the wider Royal Navy.

In addition, there will also be the opportunity to join the audience at a daily presentation at Knowledge Box, right beside the Royal Navy stand, to take part in an interactive talk exploring further the role of search and rescue, including being able to get their hands on some of the key equipment used during rescues.

In May this year, three commemorative events will take place for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic to mark the key nature of this ocean struggle.

The main event will be held in Liverpool from May 24-28, which will bring 25 warships from the UK and other nations together on the Mersey and will reunite some 5000 veterans. There will also be events in both London and Londonderry earlier in May.

These commemorative gatherings will bring together members of both the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy as well as representatives from other nations.

Together they will mark the turning point in May 1943 when repeated attacks on enemy U-Boats and ships had forced the Germans into a temporary withdrawal from the North Atlantic.

This defeat assured the Allies of the vital supply lines across the North Atlantic, which accelerated the build-up of the Allied air forces, the transport of troops and equipment for the invasion of the Continent.

This led to the invasion of June 1944 and the subsequent defeat of Germany by May 1945, allowing the Allies to then turn their full attention to the defeat of Japan, achieved just three months later.

The BOA demonstrated the enduring importance of control of the sea to provide a highway for the transport of raw materials, munitions and men, to maintain the nation’s security and to project power across the globe.

The Royal Navy is there to use might when other routes have been exhausted, making it a force for promoting and, ultimately, guarding the UK’s interests, both at home and further afield.

It could be patrolling pirate-infested waters along with our allies in the international community to ensure free passage of commercial shipping, which brings vital food and goods to our shores.

Or it may involve counter-narcotics operations to keep our streets free of drugs and our people safe.

It could be providing immediate humanitarian assistance in areas of the world badly affected by natural disaster.

It may simply be peace-keeping efforts or it could be stepping forward to exert pressure once all other avenues have been explored without positive resolution.

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