Britain no longer has rescue cover from the Royal Air Force.
More than 74 years of history has come to an end with the closure of the last RAF Search and Rescue (SAR) base in the UK.
RMB Chivenor in Devon was the last of six RAF Search and Rescue Stations to close.
The Chivenor duty search and rescue crew was formally relieved from its standby commitment by the United Kingdom Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre last week.
The telephone call authorising the RAF to finally stand-down from SAR operations came moments after both of Chivenor’s Sea King helicopters touched down, having been received by Wing Commander ‘Sparky’ Dunlop, Officer Commanding 22 Squadron.
Immediately after receiving the call, Wing Commander Dunlop walked a few paces from his office to pass on the news to his staff, taking the opportunity to thank them for their immense contribution and life-saving achievements.
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Official RAF SAR statistic record-keeping only began in 1983, but since then, these six RAF units have completed 34,025 callouts and rescued 26,853 persons in distress.
These figures do not include rescue sorties and persons assisted by some of the other RAF SAR helicopter bases which have closed or been relocated over this period.
Similarly, they do not reflect the numbers assisted between the early 1950s when helicopters came into use as a rescue platform by the RAF and 1982, but a significant, further number of people were rescued and sorties flown over this period.
Speaking after Chivenor’s SAR crews had been stood-down, Group Captain Steve Bentley, RAF Search and Rescue Force Commander for the UK said:
“It is with enormous pride that we can reflect on the RAF’s life-saving achievements since rescue operations began in 1941.
"Thousands of lives have been saved and individuals reunited with their loved ones through rescue missions often flown in the most difficult and extreme conditions."
"This continuous operational standby commitment has been delivered day-on-day across eight decades through the dedication, selfless commitment and the determined pursuit of the highest professional standards of our aircrew, engineers and support staff.
"Today’s crews reflect the ethos of the service first established by their fore-bearers in the RAF Directorate of Air/Sea Rescue. They can take great pride in the contribution they have made in the service of the nation.”