Tag Archives: Canadian Ross MKIII rifle

Old Man of the Watch

80 years ago today.

The official caption of this photo essay via the Imperial War Museum (Catalog # IWM A 17028-32), taken by Photographer Pelman, L (Lt),: “Veteran guardians of the Channel Coast. 21 May 1943, Selsey, Sussex.”

The Auxiliary Patrol of HM Coastguard is one of the oldest bodies of men in the armed forces of the crown. Over 400 of them have been enrolled to assist the ‘regulars’ in the constant watch which has been kept along the southeast coast of England. Their average age is well over 50, the oldest is 76, and they are mostly retired business, professional, and servicemen who have made their homes by the seaside.

“Five veterans learning the tricky art of bends and hitches from the Station Officer, himself an old Petty Officer.” Note they all seem to be wearing Army uniforms with Coastguard caps and HM Coastguard cap badges

“The dawn patrol sets out along a lonely mile of beach.” Note the STEN MKIII gun at the ready

“Daylight flag signaling to a ship at sea.” Note the “Coastguard” flash

“The Station Officer at his post, surrounded by his instruments for communication, alarm, and taking bearings.” Note the “Coastguard” flash and STEN gun at the ready

“The Watch turns over”. The relief faces a long vigil. The relieved set off home for a well-deserved breakfast and sleep.” Note what appears to be a Canadian Ross MKIII rifle.

“Station officer William Atkinson, who is in charge of a strip of coastline, examines a distant vessel through his telescope.”

With a mandate that stretches back to 1822, while His Majesty’s Coastguard came under Admiralty orders in both the Great War and WWII, today it is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and coordinates all maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations in the UK.

King Charles III is the Honorary Commodore of HMCG and the backbone of the force is some 3,500 volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers (CROs) located in 300 coastguard rescue teams around the country.

They respond to some 30,000 calls per year in recent years, few of them involving the Germans.