Outfit First -Aid For An Airborne Lifeboat
On offer is a scarce wooden case complete with most of its original wartime contents which formed an important part of the standard contents of the RAF’s airborne lifeboat system. These were designed by Ufa Fox in 1943 to be dropped from the carrying aircraft (Lockheed Hudson and later Vickers Warwick) to aid the rescue of allied aircrews downed at sea. The lifeboat was 32’ in length (10M) and was a wooden canoe shaped craft which came complete with sails and a 4 horsepower engine. When released from the mother aircraft at 700’ (210 M) its decent was slowed by six parachutes. On hitting the water these were jettisoned and coamings were inflated to make the boat self-righting. The lifeboats carried a wide range of rescue/emergency equipment including a Gibson Girl transmitter, waterproof suits with insulated linings, rations, signalling devices and of course the first aid kit. Our set is in its original grey painted wooden case which measures 12” x 12” x 4.5” (30 cm x 30 cm x 12 cm) with stencilling to lid ‘First Aid Outfit’ Stores Reference 9A-02420, a red cross and below ‘Airborne Lifeboat’. Whilst the set contains what looks to be the original wartime issue contents we understand this would have been sealed in an inner galvanised lining to protect the medical supplies from the elements. This is now missing but does not detract from a display point of view. Many of the items are wartime dated and carry stamps such as ‘H.M.Government March/June 1939’ or ‘Air Ministry Medical Department January 1944’. The comprehensive contents also include malaria tablets, sun screen and lip salves, essential sea sickness tablets clearly marked ‘for Military use only’ and much else besides. The inside lid of the case is stamped AM with a Kings Crown and when opened the smell reminds me of my late Grandmothers medicine cabinet! In a lifetime collecting I have never seen another and this is very much a museum grade artefact which most specialist museums would love to own. We can only imagine today the feelings of a downed Bomber Command crew on seeing an airborne lifeboat floating down and it must have felt as close as they could get to the biblical ‘Manna from Heaven'. Grab it whilst you can as it certainly won’t be with us long!