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Air-Sea Rescue Units

From 1944 to 1947, the RAAF operated five Air-Sea Rescue Flights in Northern Australia, New Guinea and Borneo. Equipped with Catalina and Martin Mariner flying boats, these Units carried out search and rescue operations, often involving the recovery of aircrew stranded in enemy territory.

These hazardous missions frequently subjected the aircraft and its crew to enemy fire, as demonstrated in a typical rescue in March 1945. An Air-Sea Rescue Catalina was ordered to pick up two survivors from a Beaufighter shot down over the Haroeke Strait. As the Catalina approached to land it was subjected to heavy enemy machine gun fire from both sides of the strait. Despite this constant barrage which seriously wounded one crew member and badly damaged the aircraft, the Catalina rescued the downed airmen and limped back to base.

Aside from its air-sea rescue role, the Catalinas flew medical supplies to remote Army units as well as providing regular courier runs throughout the region.

The five Air-Sea Rescue Flights were located as follows:

•  No 111 Air-Sea Rescue Flight - Madang and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea;
•  No 112 Air-Sea Rescue Flight - Darwin, Northern Territory;
•  No 113 Air-Sea Rescue Flight - Cairns, Queensland, Morotai and Labuan;
•  No 114 Air-Sea Rescue Flight - Cairns and Townsville, Queensland;
•  No 115 Air-Sea Rescue Flight - Morotai and Biak.

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