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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsEMMETT SULLIVAN: Now considering further the RAF's role across the globe, humanitarian relief has become quite an important part of what the RAF has become known for beyond its Cold War role, specifically. So Ross, in terms of seeing RAF Hercules is turning up in areas where disaster has struck, is this an understated aspect of the history of the RAF and the Cold War period?

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 secondsROSS MAHONEY: It certainly is an aspect to the RAF's history that's not as well known. It's an important aspect. The RAF play roles in many humanitarian relief operations. But for the UK and further afield, it perhaps doesn't receive the attention that it deserves. Why that is, well, one could postulate a couple of ideas. But it's not as romantic as a-- romantic is probably the wrong word, to be fair-- but it doesn't have the same sort of impact as operations in the Empire-- or former Empire-- might be, flying on the central front, flying a Vulcan. So yeah, it's understated.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsBut it's a crucially important aspect of the services role throughout the Cold War period and, of course, as we go into today.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 secondsEMMETT SULLIVAN: OK. Could give you us an idea of the major theatres where the RAF has made a substantial impact when it comes to humanitarian relief?

Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsROSS MAHONEY: It's global-- from Honduras in 1961, Pakistan in 1970, various humanitarian relief efforts, Mali in 1973. So it's going on around the world. But as I said, at home, so we can separate the humanitarian operation sort of into operations in Britain-- air-sea rescue, for example, maritime control, when fishermen or people on their boats get lost, even the mountain rescue service because the RAF maintains a link to the search and rescue helicopters within the context of the UK. So humanitarian operation, it's an aid to civil power. And then of course, more broadly, I've mentioned Pakistan, Honduras, and so forth. So there are two sides to this. The UK one is predominantly based on the search and rescue helicopters.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsThe more global operations use the transport fleets from what was Transport Command then it becomes Air Support Command. And you have aircraft such as the Hercules take part heavily in those operations.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 secondsEMMETT SULLIVAN: In terms of projecting a positive role for the RAF, have the involvement in humanitarian aid and relief, both domestically and internationally, been an important contributor for the RAF?

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 secondsROSS MAHONEY: Yeah, arguably it has. And one only has to look at the debate over, let's say, essentially, the privatisation of search and rescue force of both the RAF and the Royal Navy in the UK. Why is this role being taken away from the military who've done it so well for so long? So it does. It has presented a lot of good press. One of the reasons is arguably is because it's a non-kinetic operation. It doesn't involve weapons. And it shows that air power is much more than just fighting, that actually the mobility and range afforded by aircraft means you can get to places quickly and fast and help people.

Skip to 3 minutes and 30 secondsAnd you see this globally in the humanitarian operations, the ability to get relief out there and start helping people who are in need is a major advantage of air power. And one of the RAF's key important roles in this period. So yeah, it does and did the RAF lots of good.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 secondsEMMETT SULLIVAN: OK. Thank you, Ross. We're standing in front of a Twin Pioneer at RAF Cosford. We'll perhaps talk a little bit more about this aircraft in the next step and the written part that comes with this. But the 'Tablet Twins' will now sign off. And we'll move on to the next section of the course.

Humanitarian relief

Support in time of crisis.

In this video we consider the following questions:

  1. We see RAF Hercules transports providing support around the world where disaster strikes. Has this function of the RAF been understated in the history of the Cold War?

  2. Where have been the major theatres where the RAF have made a humanitarian impact?

  3. When we discuss the winning of ‘hearts and minds’, how important has this aspect of Transport Command’s actions been overseas?

If you have time, please comment on these and other points below.

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This video is from the free online course:

From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War

Royal Holloway, University of London