Skip main navigation

Humanitarian relief

The actions of the RAF overseas in relief of crises was one of their less-heralded roles during the Cold War. We consider this here.

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.

The Twin Pioneer

In the video step we refer to the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer CCII, where it features as a backdrop to the video. Here is some background information on it, provided by the RAF Museum:

Known as the ‘Twin Pin’, the Twin Pioneer was a follow-up to the same company’s single-engined short take-off and landing (STOL) transport, the Pioneer, and like the latter required an area only 30m (99ft) by 275m (902ft) in which to operate. … Following the success of the Pioneer, the RAF ordered 39 of the new type, the first examples entering service in October 1958 with No.78 Squadron in Aden, air-lifting troops and supplies in the Protectorate. STOL characteristics and suitability for operations in tropical conditions were also demonstrated by aircraft based in Singapore (during the Borneo Campaign in the 1960s), in Bahrain (during the 1961 Kuwaiti crisis) and in Kenya (on internal security duties in the mid-1960s). A fifth unit to use the Twin Pioneer was No.230 Squadron at RAF Odiham which provided transport support for Army units. In 1965 an additional aircraft was acquired for use by the Empire Test Pilots School, though the last aircraft on frontline duties was retired in 1968.

Humanitarian Operations & Emergencies

In addition to the vital role played by the RAF in many limited brush fire actions around the world, it has been a traditional part of air operations since 1945 that the RAF has brought aid to the civilian population whenever it has been needed. The most obvious example has been the part played by the RAF Search and Rescue organization originally set up for the recovery of aircrew – which, mainly by helicopter but with the assistance of Mountain Rescue Teams and Marine Craft Units, saved thousands of people from rocks, cliffs, dinghies and ships around British coasts and brought injured climbers to safety from mountainous areas, particularly Snowdonia and the Highlands of Scotland. In a typical year, from the 9 stations where they maintained a readiness of 15 minutes by day and 1 hour by night, RAF helicopters responded to 924 incidents. For incidents beyond helicopter range, Search and Rescue was carried out by fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft such as the Shackleton. Further afield, the RAF was called upon to fly food, clothing and medical supplies into areas struck by natural disasters: hurricanes in British Honduras (1961): cyclones in East Pakistan (1970) which took 20,000 lives, earthquakes at Agadir in Morocco (1960) and Nicaragua (1972), and famine in Kenya and Somalia (1961-62), Nepal (1973) and Mali in West Africa (1973)….
The operational RAF of the post-1945 world had been in constant action at some time or other around the world but as in the inter-war years, peace was only relative. … [W]herever British forces were involved, the RAF was able to demonstrate the flexibility and mobility of air power as a vital part of success in limited war operations. In particular, the parts played by the helicopter and other air transport forces were often the most important contribution of the RAF. While this kind of flying did not have the same instant success or failure of more offensive air operations and was certainly seen to be less spectacular, it did place high demands on the endurance and skill of those engaged in it. Without that kind of skill, the ground forces would have found their task so much more difficult and costly. World-wide basing may have greatly diminished since the late 1960s, but the RAF can be justifiably proud of its peacetime achievements over this period.
This article is from the free online

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

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now