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Sea Survival Training Still Taught to RAF Aircrew?

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Sea Survival Training Still Taught to RAF Aircrew?

Old 20th Mar 2016, 23:57
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Sea Survival Training Still Taught to RAF Aircrew?

Sea Survival Training — Still Taught to RAF Aircrew?
Back in 1962 as a member of 99 Sqn (R.A.F. Lyneham — Britannias) I and the rest of my crew together with a crew from 511 Sqn, also Britannias, were sent on a sea survival training course at RAF Mountbatten.
A two-day course - day-one theory and techniques, day-two was practical. On day-two we donned service overalls and a Mae-west and boarded an ASR Launch at the breakwater to be taken out to Plymouth Sound. Once there we were tossed into the flippin-cold oggin, climbed one-by-one into an already inflated 12-man dinghy, zipped-up the dinghy entrance flap and were left for what seemed hours to get warm, but was probably not more than 45-minutes, but enough time to feel thoroughly queasy as the dinghy was tossed around by the waves.
One of the crew was manning the dinghy’s entrance flap and eventually the ASR helicopter (a Whirlwind?) appeared. We were then winched up into the helicopter one by one. With all aboard we were then winched one-by-one down onto the ASR launch nearby and once safely down on deck were then offered a noggin of Rum and eventually taken back to Mountbatten. The whole exercise was then repeated for the crew from 511.
Quite instructive and useful if we were ever forced to ditch so this event is something that sticks in one’s memory — even after 54-years!
This exercise probably took place around the 11th July 1962 because it coincided with the first live television transmission from the US via the Telstar satellite in orbit over the Atlantic and we, and most of the UK TV audience were engrossed enough to stay up late to watch this momentous event live. ISTR the first transmission early in the morning was a disappointment, but later, or the next day perhaps, more acceptable TV was transmitted. Mountbatten’s Mess must have made a fortune that night because we were drinking into the early hours to watch this event.
The ‘Lyneham Globe’ published an article about this training in the 17th August 1962 edition as can be seen from the photo in the cutting attached. I don’t appear in the photo, but believe the person shown climbing into the dinghy was an US Major on exchange posting to 511 Sqn.

On the way down to Plymouth from Lyneham we [the 99 Sqn crew] travelled in two cars and the car I was in was driven by our Flight Engineer. He for some reason knew the West Country and its pubs fairly well and we agreed to RV with the other car and stop for lunch in Ilchester at the ‘Ilchester Arms’. I still have fond memories of this lunch as being one of the best pub lunches I’ve ever had.

So enough of my memories, does the R.A.F. still do such courses for aircrew?
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 00:09
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Yup RAF St Mawgan - Defence SERE Training

Sea drills and Pool drills...
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 06:50
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Yes, it's still carried out today not only at St.Mawgan but around the bazaars. It was good fun at unit level, although the old fun meter reading could vary with the sea state and temperature..
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 09:44
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When we did it at Mountbatten we all clambered into a six man liferaft of the type carried in the Victor and closed it up. By the time the Whirlwind arrived all five of us had been sick - one of only two occasions in my life when I have had motion sickness (the other was in an armoured personnel carrier).

By the next time I did sea drills it had been sensibly decided that no-one was ever going to ditch a Victor, so the multi seat liferaft had been removed. After being chucked off the back of the launch we all got into our individual liferafts, and within a short time one of our number started to drift away downwind. When the Whirlwind arrived, he was the first to be picked up, and he told us afterwards that by hauling in the sea anchor on his dinghy he would drift downwind and thus spend less time bobbing around in the oggin.

At Kai Tak there was always a movement towards towards the open air pool when the Cathay Pacific hostesses (as they were then called) came to do their drills. I went once, but disappointingly the girls all wore jeans and jumpers for the exercise
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 10:11
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For one dinghy drill in the mid-50s we were given a pack which, instead of the normal single-seater, had an inflatable Michelin-man suit. You had to get it on, do up the press-studs (pre-velcro), and AFIR blow the thing up by mouth. You floated like a yellow banana and it was fine if you stayed on your back, but if you rolled over it was b****y difficult to get face-up again. I never saw one again and it's all a long time ago hence the question: did these things ever get put into real dinghy packs?
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 11:07
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I recall MadsLad telling the tales from his dinghy recue when training, about 2000. It was still, then at least, a mandatory 'tick box' and caused some problems.

What happened was while he was at Valley they were all taken out from Holyhead and thrown off the back of a Navy launch to be recued by the Valley SAR helicopter. Which, instead of pulling them out of the sea, went off into the distance to answer a real rescue shout, leaving them to be picked up by the launch. Sometime later, while on a later course at Lossie, they has another go. This time they had to drive down to St. Mawgan to be thrown into the sea at Newquay. And guess what happened to the helicopter again - yes, off it went into the distance. He finally got the tick by being pulled from the sea off Yarmouth, third time lucky.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 11:57
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On our F-4 drill at Mountbatten in 1973, we were all thrown in off a launch in two lines of six. Knowing it would be a while till were were picked up, and as it was December, I'd packed a waterproof bag with some cigarettes and matches, and secured them in the P-tube and then re-zipped it water-tight.

Got into the dinghy, inflated the floor, inflated the top-cover and threw out the sea-anchor. Nice and snug, I was last in line, facing, and drifting towards France. Right, time for a smoke!

After about two minutes the next thing I knew was that I was hurtling skywards, upside down and falling out of my dinghy. SSSSSSSSSSSSPlash as I hit the sea and the sight of the SAR launch disappearing at a rate of knots, having come past me at 40+!! It seemed that the Master Aircrew skipper had spotted my smoke and proceeded at full chat to capsize me with the bow wave!! Of course as he was upwind I hadn't heard him.

Naturally I was the last to be picked up, to be met by a very grumpy M Pilot who told me to get below and have some rum. He was not impressed by the wet-behind-everything Pilot Officer asking for some coke to go with the rum.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 12:33
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Done sea drills at Mountbatten, Malta, Cyprus and Malaysia. Guess which one was the best.

Actually Malaysia was not dinghy drill as the dinghy was u/s but they still chucked us in the Strait and left us for about 30-40 minutes in life jackets. There was a buoy and using the current I tried to reach it. I did and was swept rapidly on my way.

The worst had to be when Prince Charles was doing his helicopter training. There was purple airspace over Mountbatten so we were at sea for well over 2 hours. The helo driver was very young and had rosy cheeks. Prettiest sight I can recall.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 14:01
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Mountbatten, Malta, and Kinloss in that order.
Mountbatten was tres professional, Malta was a Fred Carnos Circus,
and Kinloss was so cold I cannot remember very much except the Helo was from Lossie and no sooner than we were thrown overboard, the warmth of the exhaust from the Sea King happened in about less than 5 minutes.
Malta was in the early seventies when the Nimrod had just arrived and the
helo was a Royal Navy wessex from HMS (the Rusty) Bulwark and it was the first time he had done any winching (and it showed). One of our crew fell out of the strop at about 20 ft and the helo set off trying to collect him though he was being blown along like a ballon ahead of the helo wake. We were so busy laughing nobody thought to throw the quoit. He ran out of fuel after two lifts so he went back to Msida Creek to land on and top up again. Why he didn't lob into Luqa was a mystery to me. We spent about 3 to 4 hours in a MS9 and finally were collected by the launch and our skipper, Keefy Merret ,decided on a couple of crates of Cisk /Hop leak in the transit mess as some sort of recompense.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 15:14
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I managed to do several, and preferred the SS dinghy. If using the multi-seater I always volunteered to be the lookout. Nice fresh air in the face rather than the smell as one after the other sitting inside proceeded to show what he had eaten for lunch. On one exercise we were doing the "parachute-dragging" bit, where the hapless victim was towed behind the launch. I made the excuse that, since I was a helicopter pilot, I wouldn't have to cope with the parachute. "Too right" said the instructor, and proceeded to push me off the back of the launch - lifejacket not inflated, and wearing a waistcoat type dinghy pack. After a few seconds (which seemed like minutes) descending to the bottom of Plymouth harbour, I got the jacket inflated and bobbed to the surface again.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 15:41
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Further to #5, be thankful that the Navy decided to dispense with the lethal Shrimp Net thing, which they were supposed to drag under the water until you were over it, then hoist. It was supposed to make it easier for injured aircrew and must have seemed a good idea at the time, but if a sea was running and it was cutting through the crests instead of being in deep, the spreader bar was lethal.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 17:03
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I did the Mountbatten Course at least twice and was privileged to experience both the "dragging along by my parachute" and the "assisted jump" into the greatly aerated rooster tail of the motor launch. I agree with the previous poster who stated the worryingly long time to resurface. We were taken out a few hours after the passing of a force 6 gale and the sea state very rough just outside Plymouth Sound. The Whirlwind helicopter duly arrived to winch us but was called away on a shout. By the time it returned, some of us were close to getting shipwrecked on the rocks and too close for the launch to get to us. I was last to be picked up because I deflated the dinghy canopy and began paddling away from the rocks as hard as I could. All good fun to look back on, but quite a worry at the time.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 17:28
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binbrook, I think the shrimp-net thing was used because the earlier helicopters such as the Dragonfly were unable to carry a pilot, winch operator, winchman and survivor. With the advent of the Mighty Whirlwind () this procedure was dropped.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 17:41
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I endured the joys of wet rubber on at least a dozen occasions over the years. Best was at Mountbatten, because they were very professional in all respects. Worst as either at Tenby, when the launch suffered an engine failure and we had to be recovered by RIB (helicopter not available....) or at somewhere whilst at Wattisham - we had to change in and out of the provided immersion suits below in some windowless paint store whilst the launch pitched and rolled in a significant sea state....

Always did it in immersion suits though!

The 'haul in the sea anchor to be picked up first' ploy was well-known - although if too many people did it, the result was somewhat self-defeating!

Always a good way of getting to know your future course mates - although pre-VC10, one of them was the infamous 'Phnom Penh Len'. The ex-Herc rearcrew knew him from old and had a word with their SCSR chums, who made sure that PPL had the best possible exposure to sea survival...
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 18:02
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As a Whirlwind Winchman at Chiv in the 70's Mountbatten Wets were a regular occurence and the source of some splendid sponges until the squippers started cutting them in half!
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 18:52
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Didn't we get a little certificate to put in our log books to prove we'd done it.....I remember part of the prose was 'with fortitude' had completed ...whatever.
Also - what was the 'ad hoc heave ho' helicopter lift method the fish heads used on one of their sea survival course I was (unwillingly) sent on ?I can't remember !
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 19:12
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I remember being told "If you think you will be sick - take a tablet. If you think you might be sick - take a tablet and if you think you won't be sick - still take a tablet".

Having spent a short period in a life raft, an extended period would not be on my to do list!

I wonder if the civvies now do the recovery?
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 19:20
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Didn't we get a little certificate to put in our log books to prove we'd done it.....I remember part of the prose was 'with fortitude' had completed ...whatever.
Also - what was the 'ad hoc heave ho' helicopter lift method the fish heads used on one of their sea survival course I was (unwillingly) sent on ?I can't remember !
Was that not the Dunker, NRU?

Saitsman: the old saying was, "First, it's so bad you think you're going to die- then it dawns that you're not going to die!"

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Old 21st Mar 2016, 20:21
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Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience

Sea survival bit begins from 9:44 minutes in.

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Old 21st Mar 2016, 20:32
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"First, it's so bad you think you're going to die- then it dawns that you're not going to die!"
Was it Spike Milligan who said "The best cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree"?
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