Fascinating finds off Selsey

editorial image

A DIVE off Selsey unearthed a second world war rescue craft, which was built to aid stricken pilots.

Members of the Aldershot Dolphins Underwater Club located the wreck of the barge-like structure, nicknamed a ‘Cuckoo’.

Darren Anderson, chairman of Aldershot Dolphins, said the British air sea rescue crafts were something of a white elephant – only managing to save one life, that of a German aviator.

There were 14 of them on the coast, created as a safe-haven for British pilots.

“Their role was to provide emergency shelter for the crews of downed allied aircraft,” said Mr Anderson.

“Each craft had vital equipment and supplies stored on board, including preserved meats, vegetables, biscuits, tea, cocoa, rum, drinking water, sleeping bunks, towels, washing gear, books and even packs of playing cards.

“The idea was stranded airmen would be able to radio for help from the Air Sea Rescue Service.

“The problem was, in that day and age, bringing a stricken aircraft down close enough to one 
of these vessels was exceptionally difficult. Quite frankly, they were almost impossible to spot.

“Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they were spectacularly unsuccessful when it came to saving 
allied aircrew.

“And, rather than save lives, there is evidence German U-boat crews would surface and raid the Cuckoos, stealing the on-board supplies!”

For more on the discovery, see next week’s Observer (October 24).