The selfless actions of Naval aviators are at the heart of two-year exhibition championing the work of the men and women who save lives around the nation’s coast.
Search and Rescue at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth honours the deeds of the Fleet Air Arm, RAF, Coastguard and RNLI – and has the full backing of 771 Naval Air Squadron, based at nearby RNAS Culdrose.
The public can gain an insight into the world of Search and Rescue from next month – a proverbial stone’s throw from RNAS Culdrose, home to one of the country’s busiest lifesaving teams.
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall on Falmouth’s waterfront is staging a two-year exhibition celebrating the deeds of all those dedicated to risking their lives so others might live in waters around the UK.
The exhibition – simply titled Search and Rescue and opening on March 16 – has the backing of 771 Naval Air Squadron, Culdrose-based squadron dedicated to helping stricken mariners off the Cornish coast, as well as holidaymakers who get into difficulties and road accident victims in south-west Cornwall who need urgent transfer to hospital.
Accounts from some of 771’s famous – and also lesser-known – rescues feature in the exhibition, as do various pieces of lifesaving equipment… and a 70ft Sea King, the aircraft which is the mainstay of Fleet Air Arm and RAF Search and Rescue units.
The helicopter is the largest item on display at the exhibition and has been painted in the Navy’s trademark red and grey on one side, and the RAF distinctively-bright yellow on the other.
As well as championing the work of aviators, the exhibition showcases the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (there’s a small Atlantic 75 inflatable as used by inshore crews on display), Coastguards (courtesy of mock-up interactive operations centre) and lifeguards (with the opportunity for younger visitors to have a go at keeping virtual swimmers safe).
However the highlight for many visitors is likely to be the live-action demonstrations to be held sporadically throughout the two-year exhibition.
These will include air-sea rescue practises in Falmouth Harbour – which is used regularly for training by 771 crews, based just ten miles away – ‘meet the crew’ days, and visits by RNLI all-weather lifeboats with the chance for the public to clamber aboard.
Royal Navy fliers and ground crew sustain two of the 12 helicopter Search and Rescue units peppered around the UK, alongside the RAF and Coastguard. In addition to 771 Culdrose, HMS Gannet at Prestwick, near Ayr, provides round-the-clock assistance in the northern Irish Sea, Clyde estuary and the Western Highlands; it is Britain’s busiest Search and Rescue unit – although the bulk of its missions are flown over land, assisting walkers and climbers in difficulty.
771, whose men and women have flown more than 500 rescue missions in the past two years, has provided accounts of rescues past and present, which form a central spine of the helicopter side of the exhibition.
Lt Cdr Chris ‘Damage’ Canning, 771’s Commanding Officer, said:
“At its heart is our helicopter, which has its own long and distinguished career, and the vast range of information, pieces of equipment, items from numerous rescues conducted off the Cornish coast and personal recollections from crews which will be an inspiration, both for the young – and the young at heart.”
Naval Today Staff , January 06, 2012; Image: royalnavy