View Full Version : RAF Bridlington in the 50s/60s?

10th Feb 2008, 19:22

I am looking for any information on what RAF Bridlington was used for. My Father (who died just before Christmas) served there, and I am interested to find out a bit about what he did during his 27 year career.....


10th Feb 2008, 19:39
AFAIK, it was an RAF "Motorboat" base. I remember having a "Trip 'round the Harbour" in 1962, whilst in the ATC. Iwas also "Detatched" there in 1968 as part of the radar trials at RAF Staxton Wold[sp?]. I was also co-erced into being a linesman there...although I knew nowt about "football", still don't, 'cos I'm a Man City fan.....:D
Hope this helps

10th Feb 2008, 19:41
I think you will find that an Air Sea Rescue Launch was based at Bridlington.
Their shore based HQ would probably have been called RAF Bridlington.
I remember seeing the launch as a small boy around 1957.It stood out as the most glamorous boat in the harbour. I thought what a terrific job it would be to sail as part of the crew.By the time I actually joined the RAF there were no vacancies in the marine branch.

10th Feb 2008, 19:47

Lawrance of Arabia served there as per link above.

Note there was also an airfield at Carnaby (now an industrial estate), which is very near Bridlington. This was host to several Thor nuclear missiles for a few years in the 50s.

10th Feb 2008, 20:07
Hi Fugazi, there has been some interest in Bridlington and surrounding area, including as it does Flamborough Head and the FIDO equipped Emergency Landing Field at RAF Carnaby, on another thread re a Bomber Command Memorial site.
A particular tale of heroism concerning 1104 Marine Craft Unit, RAF Bridlington is at:
while info re FIDO and RAF Carnaby is at:
Both units had one aim, saving the lives of aircrew in crippled aircraft that either ditched or force landed.

Green Flash
10th Feb 2008, 20:19
Grindale Field, a civvie parachute club, is just inland from Brid. AFAIK Ginger Lacey was the drop plane pilot for a while.

10th Feb 2008, 20:25
Excellent - keep them coming Guys... :ok:

I knew he was on a boat of some sort, but for some reason had thought it to do with 'ground' (sea) support for aircraft using bombing ranges. I didn't realise that the RAF operated a RNLI type service.

He was there in at least 61 and 62 so may have been with you on the harbour trip Chiglet! :p

Apparently some of the training involved a helicopter dropping people into the water and everybody would have to swim back to shore as a 'sink or swim' endurance test. I'm not sure how true that is..... I know he never chose to swim recreationally in later life!

Green Flash
10th Feb 2008, 20:29
It sort of still happens today. The contract is let to Smit Marine. The Smit Don and the Smit Dee are cutters that operate on the East and West coasts in conjucntion with various agencys (SAR helos etc)

10th Feb 2008, 20:33
A very touching story Chugalug.

10th Feb 2008, 20:36
My now deceased Father in Law served on 1104 MCU in the early 1930s and met and married my wife's mother while based there. He was there during the time of A/C Shaw and the family still has a photo of Shaw with his motorcycle in their back yard.

The primarly reason the MCU was based at Brid initially, was not ASR, but they were equipped with armoured launches which were bombed by a/c operating from Catfoss.

During WW2, ASR duties were added. Post WW2, in addition to its continued commitment to ASR duties, it was responsible for patrolling off shore at Skipsea to keep fishing boats clear of the firing range on the cliff top. At that time, my Dad worked at the range and, during school holidays, I would accompany him to watch the gunnery and rocket firing from aircraft usually coming from Leconfield. Later, in the 1950s, as a member of the ROC at Brid, I was often invited by the lads at the MCU to go on patrol with them. The unit also worked closely with the local RNLI in rescuing civilians.

The unit had a quite large hangar with a big boat ramp. The hangar was subsequently converted to a small hotel. During WW2, the HQ was located in what is now the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club's facilities overlooking the harbour and most airmen were billeted in a boarding house next door on Windsor Crescent.

Beatriz Fontana
10th Feb 2008, 20:52
I spent some of my early years in the town so the stories of RAF Bridlington were told to me back then.

A couple of pictures for you. These are not my pics so it's probably best that you visit the site rather than me reproduce them here!

This shows the yacht club building:

And this one shows, towards the right, a red brick building which stands where the old RAF shed used to. The shed went in the 1980s I think:

10th Feb 2008, 22:29
I was at Leconfield with the helicopter resque squadron (228) in 1960 and we used to use the Bridlington launch for wet winching.

We lost a Whirlwind (S-55) which had an engine failure while hovering over the boat. The helicopter went in alongside the boat and the crew were immediatly picked up. At least one of them never got wet.

The Marine Craft unit guys lived in a house on the sea front and we used to stay there at weekends whilst sampling the local fare!!

So I would say that your dad had something to do with boats while he was in the RAF.

Happy days.

Speedbird 48.

10th Feb 2008, 23:34
Another connection between the RAF and Brid was that during WW2, the town was home to an Initial Training Wing where aircrew cadets learned to march and did lots of PT on the sea front and went to classes in the Spa Royal Hall. They were accomodated in requisitioned boarding houses and hotels. Permanent staff were billeted in boarding houses; my grandmother had several clerical staff WAAFs plus some NCO instructors in her establishment. The HQ was located in the Brentwood Hotel.

Another town connection is with RAF Lissett, which was adjacent to Carnaby. Lissett was home to 158 Squadron and the 158 Sqdn Association still holds its annual reunion at Bridlington, including a parade to the Cenotaph.

Ginger Lacey's last posting was as C.O. of Bempton radar station; he lived in Flamborough and when he retired, he continued to stay there.

RubiC Cube
11th Feb 2008, 09:20
Pity I didn't read this before I sat next to an 85 year old ex-wireless op on a recent long haul flight. Having served 39 years, he retired to Bridlington where he had served at RAF Bridlington during and after the war on the launches. There must have been flying from there because he mentioned Humberside airport had been a relief landing ground.

11th Feb 2008, 10:45
My dad served with 158 Sqn and when he had finished operational flying in Lisset he was made OC of the Air Sea Rescue in Brid for a few weeks. I think the best he managed was a quick trip around the bay!!

11th Feb 2008, 18:18
1961-63 My father was OC RAF Carnaby which boasted 3 Thor rockets (part of our Nuclear defence) and a bunch of Bloodhounds to defend the base. RAF Driffield down the road had something like 22 [Thors]. Went to primary school in Bridlington (Hilderthorpe). Not a lot of help for someone looking for info on RAF Bridlington, but too close to home not to chip in!

12th Feb 2008, 01:28
There was never an airfield at Bridlington, though the post-war small grass flying field at Speeton was sometimes referred to as such. Humberside Airport was a former Lancaster base (550 Sqdn), North Killingholme in WW2.

Prior to the Thors being base at Carnaby, it was sometimes used as a relief landing ground by Meteors of 203 AFS based at Driffield. Not widely known is that Blackburn Aircraft used it as a base for early development flying of the GAL 60 protoype Beverley. It arrived there on June 20, 1950 from Brough at the end of its maiden flight. The Blackburn-built HP88, an Attacker fuselage with scaled down Victor wings, made its first flight at Carnaby on June 21, 1951 and several subsequent flights before going to either Boscombe or Farnbro'; I can't remember which. I had the pleasure of witnessing both events as a keen spotter at the time.

Three Meteors crashed at Carnaby or close by. Later, (I have a photo somewhere) a Sabre of 92 Sqdn. force landed there after running out of fuel. At the time, the airfield was unmanned. Today, the site is an industrial area with nothing to see of its history.

The earliest connection with aviation at Bridlington was the arrival of a Blackburn Monoplane which landed on the beach below the Spa Royal Hall just prior to WW1. Photos do exist of this event.

5th Mar 2008, 11:56
I did my MN training in Bridlington in 1964.
There where 2 launches there then.
A few years ago the HQ building at the top of the harbour was a chandlers.
I will be going to Bridlington on 13th March to the British Legion with the Hull MN
Association. I can photo the HQ building, the harbour and the sea front in that area.
I can ask the Legion and the local press if they have any information/photos.
If any of this would be any use to you, or anything else, please post a reply
before 12th March.

5th Mar 2008, 12:34
Fugazi1000, you need to find a copy of the film The Sea Shall No Have Them which was a story of the RAF Air-Sea Rescue. It has been on the TV fairly recently and is quite a good film. 1955.

Even with SAR helicopters, the launches were still a vital part of SAR in the 60s as the Whirlwind was, I was told, unable to rescue a V-bomber crew if it was more than 10 miles off-shore. In those days we all had SARAH and were briefed to work out when the SAR might reach us and then switch on the SARAH to conserve its battery. If there were 2 or more of us then only one SARAH would be switched on, may be 2 if there were 5 of us. Passengers were not issued with SARAH life-jackets.

If we had gone down in the North Sea we might wait a couple of hours of more before we thought a Shackleton could reach the area and also switch off at night unless we could hear a search aircraft. With an 8 hour battery life we would depend on the ASR Launches more than the Whirlwind.

5th Mar 2008, 19:57
Nothing to do with Bridlington, but this is an extract from my Fathers' reminisences about being a Spitfire pilot on 72 Sqn, Biggin Hill, 1942. It gives a flavour of the job the Marine Units did and is similar to the story in "The Sea Shall Not Have Them".

On 6th June we were sent down to Manston for an Air Sea rescue job. Apparently a bomber had been shot down just off the Dutch coast or the Belgian coast, somewhere, they weren’t sure and we were supposed to be looking for some chaps in a dinghy. Well we took off and scoured the North Sea as far as we could, couldn’t find anything, and then we came back, landed, ‘B’ Flight took off and searched again and they were just about to return when P/O Kitchen spotted five bomber chaps in a dinghy just off Ostende. So he reported that and we immediately took off to give them cover and at the same time an Air Sea rescue launch shot out from Dover or somewhere to pick up these bomber boys. So we covered the launch until it picked up these bomber boys and it really was exciting to watch them. I don’t know how fast the launch was going but it left a wash about half a mile long, it really was moving. Anyway, it got out to the dinghy, swung round, hooked up the dinghy, grabbed the chaps aboard, all without stopping and then belted for home. Now by this time we thought as we were obviously visible from Ostende we’d be surrounded by 190s and we’d probably have a decent little fight. In actual fact nothing came over to have a bang at us, so we escorted the launch back, landed at Manston, refuelled and went back to Biggin.

Some time later we received a letter from the bomber boys, enclosing 1, and saying please have a drink on us, they were more than pleased at being picked up.

In those days 1 bought an awful lot of beer!!


9th Mar 2008, 11:24

If you happen to come across anyone with photographs of one of the piston Whirlwinds from Leconfield working with the Bridlington launch from the early '60's I may just be the guy on the wire underneath the machine, and would appreciate a copy. Or, any pictures of the piston Whirlwinds that we had on 228 squadron from those times. I was there when the squadron changed numbers and also changed from the Sycamore to the Whirlwind.

Thanks for the offer. Please use a PM if you find any and I can give address and get the payment to you.


Could be the last?
9th Mar 2008, 22:16

Not being picky chap, 'Humberside AP' was Kirmington.

Killingholme was a RNAS Base prior to WWII with various sea planes. During WWII, North Killingholme AF was operational for only 16 months and had only one sqn, 550 Sqn. On a historical note, 550 Sqn (LL811 J-Jig) Known as Bad Penny II dropped the first bombs to open the assault on Normandy. See Patrick Otter's book on Lincs AF of WWII

Back to the the thread:

My Grandfather was a marine eng at RAF Bridlington circa late 50s. If anyone served with Cpl Bob Humphrey, I would be grateful to hear from them; unfortunately, he passed away in 95. PM me with any dits.


25th Mar 2008, 23:13
ref RAF Bridlington

The main site for Air Sea Rescue Marine Crafts Sections

Other sites that may be of use
Bridlingtonfreepress picture galleries
Hull daily mail
Yorkshire Post
RAF Bridlington on Google seems to be bringing up more info
than it did a few weeks ago
There is an asrmcs club in Bridlington but it does not have
a web site
hope this is a help to you all

30th Mar 2008, 16:02
Interested to hear that your father was OC RAF Carnaby during the Thor and Bloodhound era. Have just published a book on Thor and the RAF but I am continuing my researches. I have not visited Carnaby - hope to do so soon - though I know that very little if anything remains. Any memories about the Thors would be of interest to me. I presume that your father lived in the puropose built house: does it still exist?

30th Mar 2008, 16:34

Lived near there as a boy - my parents had a friend who was an ex-USAF Colonel who was the head rep. in the area from the makers of the "missulls" who I think lived at Kilham and was know locally as "The Sheriff of Kilham" - possibly his name was Gears - ring any bells ?

Union Jack
30th Mar 2008, 19:35

"The primarly reason the MCU was based at Brid initially, was not ASR, but they were equipped with armoured launches which were bombed by a/c operating from Catfoss"

Sounds pretty scary put like that, but presumably these launches were the forerunners of the target towing craft of later years.


30th Mar 2008, 21:30
In the late 90's, the building in the harbour at the top of the launch ramp was a resteraunt (Blue Lobster). In the foyer of the resteraurant was a display cabinet containing a toolbox and uniform items marked as belonging to LAC Shaw. May still be there.

31st Oct 2011, 17:22
SAC Eric Jackson was stationed there in 1964 and I'd like to locate him or otherwise find out what happened to him..can anyone help please ?

1st Nov 2011, 14:29
In the English Heritage book on Cold Ward artifacts is a drawing of RAF Carnaby. It was apparently down as a dispersal base for v Bombers, as well as being a Thor site.

Clockwork Mouse
1st Nov 2011, 18:23
I did my first sea dunking from RAF Bridlington in 1969 while I was stationed at RAF Topcliffe. We dry winch trained at Leconfield (I think) and were then bussed off to Bridders. Out in the very smart ASR launch and thrown into the oggin about a mile out. Each time we managed to scramble into our dinghies they came past at speed and capsized us. After about an hour and sick as parrots we were winched up by a Whirlwind flown by an AAC Capt on secondment, lucky blighter. Can't remember anything about the shore base I'm afraid.

8th Nov 2011, 19:52
Seeing this thread has forced me to dig out this photo and scan it in. Taken in about 1969 it show an 1104 MCU Pinnace? almost certainly taken from a 202 Sqn Whirlwind. I always liked the photo which was on the wall in the photographic section at RAF Leconfield and managed to get myself a copy to remind me of the wet and dry winches I carried out with the Bridlington based boats.

27th Nov 2011, 16:47
I was in the V force in the late 60s and we all toddled off to Bridlington to be dumped in the sea and collected by a chopper everycouple of years

If you went when the sea was cold you got a leaky goon suit if not you went in your oldest flying suit

The training was excellent with dragging in the harness and practice at getting out of the crutch loop

I think someone died of aheart attack having jumped in the sea to quickly from the nice warm hold but it was along time ago so it could just be a story

29th Nov 2011, 02:27
If this thread were in A H & N it might get more replies.
Carnaby of course was one of the three airfields re-constructed specifically as 'emergency' runways, the other two being Woodbridge and Manston.
I think the spec was 9000ft x 450ft giving 3 parallel strips of 150ft (ie the 'normal' width of a runway) x 3000yds, so that if a strip was blocked by a crashed aircraft, the adjacent one could be used. The loop taxiways adjacent to the runway and still visible at Woodbridge were constructed for the wreckage to be deposited there by means of bulldozers.

5th Aug 2014, 12:14
I was a Radio Operator on P1387 in 1964 which was based at Bridlington.
I have some photographs taken at the time by me of the wet Winching of Aircrew. I think they were taken off Bridlington. One shows the Helicopter and winchman on the wire. Eric Jackson is also seen in the photo.
It was my job to relay the Boats skippers instructions to the pilot.
We also operated off Great Yarmouth on Aircrew Survival for the Norfolk and Suffolk bases.
I can email photos if anyone interested.

Alan Hooper
23rd Feb 2015, 14:56
Hi Seasidelad364,
I am very interested in the pictures you mention. I also served on the 'Boats' with the RAF, both in the UK (Falmouth & Mountbatten) and overseas (Gibraltar & Aden). I did several dinghy drill runs at MtBatten, but never got the chance to get any pictures. I have only just found this forum, which is the reason I haven't attempted to contact you before.

23rd Feb 2015, 15:35
Hello Seaside Lad. My father, Colin Chandler was OC Brid at about that time, any photos would be much appreciated.

23rd Feb 2015, 15:50
The sea shall not have them is available on you tube.


23rd Feb 2015, 15:52
Thank you Fugazi for starting this thread. My family have many happy memories of Brid. As I said on a previous post, our father, Colin Chandler was the CO there for a time and we lived out at Carnaby. Two memories stick in my mind, one was that , when the tide was out Brid harbour was dry and nothing could move including the RAF launch. (was it a Pinnace or a TTL?). Secondly, a civilian light aircraft made a forced landing at Carnaby once and when my father and I got there we discovered the pilot was Hughie Green. Anyone remember him? The oil-pressure on one of his engines was a bit low so we drove him to the local garage to buy a couple of cans of oil and let him stand on the roof of our car to top up the tank. By way of thanks he took us for a flight and since I had just gained my PPL (I was only 17!) he allowed me to land it back at Carnaby. That flight is still in my logbook!

Al R
23rd Feb 2015, 16:29
I was in Swansea last week, and saw a former RAF vessel parked up in the marina; service serial number was 1655. When the trade disbanded (85/86?) a few remustered to be gunners, one came to my section.

Did the various units come under a unified command structure and was there someone who acted as OiC boats?

23rd Feb 2015, 21:17
I can remember the Marine Branch boat at Brid as a nipper. I don't know if my memory is playing tricks but I'm sure I remember people firing machine guns into the water off the jetty under supervision of the military. This would have been late '50's. Can any of you older Brid hands confirm or deny that as it's a story I've told many times over the years and want to know if it was a flight of fancy!

Good to see the Yorkshire Belle is still plying it's trade. I have photos of me from the 50's aboard her.

17th May 2015, 14:37
Hi to TripleC, Seasidelad364 and Alan Hooper, re RAF Bridlington I was there June 63 to Nov 64. Change of CO From Turner to Chandler. Also have some photos (somewhere in the house) of exercise in Brid Bay with Leconfield Yellow Bird. You may contact me email: cm40c2@<hidden>.

17th May 2015, 18:15
In October or November 1963 the BFTS course I was on at Syerston went to RAF Bridlington to do real dinghy training. We first went to RAF Leconfield where after a ground brief we were picked up by a Whirlwind on the airfield. We then were bussed to Bridlington where the sea was crashing over the harbour wall. There is no chance they'll takes us out in that we said. Wrong! Out we went and very uncomfortable it was in the Air Sea Rescue launch (or whatever it was called).

They threw us off with a single seat dinghy each in a long line. After about half an hour a Whirlwind appeared and started picking us up. Before it got to me and some others it disappeared. It had a gearbox problem we were told later and it landed on the beach. It then started to snow and I began to think this wasn't a lot of fun.

Another Whirlwind appeared after what seemed like hours and picked us up. As each entered the aircraft cabin the crew man gave us a drink of Navy rum out of a medicine bottle. That certainly warmed us up.

My overriding memory of the whole affair was that sitting in a one man dinghy in waves causes your kidneys to ache due to continually bangig into the tubes behind. It was warm though.


Pontius Navigator
17th May 2015, 19:15
ACW, the launch crews were all heart.

One luckless trainee had a dinghy malfunction. After an age they threw him another.

On ours bonny Prince Charlie was doing his pilot training and we were stuck under Purple airspace f o r 2 hours.

Or off Butterworth the MAC would not inflate, they left us in L S J with the sea snakes.

17th May 2015, 21:43

That happened to our lot as well. One guy, an ex Cpl Tech and the oldest guy on the course, had a dinghy malfunction. We all protested but they ignored us. After an age when the bloke could not grip anymore they pulled him out, clipped a new dinghy to him and threw him straight back in. We all thought it was pretty heartless.


19th May 2015, 10:32
Hi Speedbird48 and Daveboats, I was at Brid between June 63 and Nov 64 as Unit Clerk. I do have some photos of exercise in Brid Bay with 202 helo.
You and others are quite welcome to receive copies by email (cm40c2@<hidden>) (no charge).

4th Jun 2015, 13:24
Hi I to was there in 64, would like to see photo/s may be different to
the ones I took of winching exercise in the Bridlington Bay.
I was the Unit Clerk at the time. Contact email address: cm40c2@<hidden>