The Germans have developed deluxe buoys for flyers of the Luftwaffe brought down while
operating over the English Channel. The Rettungsboje was constructed under the
direction of the German Ministry of Air Navigation in 1941 at the suggestion of
Generaloberst Ernest Udet. These buoys, called Generalluftzeugmeister after
their sponsor, are anchored far offshore. They have saved many German airmen that
ships or coastal planes might have been too late to rescue.
The buoys are of square or hexagonal construction and have a floor space of about
43 square feet with an 8-foot cabin rising above the float. On the upper
deck of this cabin, there is an oval turret 6 feet high with a signal mast carrying
a wireless antenna. Tube railings to which the distressed flyers may cling run along
the outer circumference below and above the water line. A ladder leads up to the
turret, in which there is a door opening into the cabin below.
A 320-foot red and yellow striped rope anchors the buoy at a fixed location, but allows
a limited drift, thereby indicating the direction of the current to aircraft in
distress. The buoy is painted light yellow above the water line, and red crosses
against white oval backgrounds are painted on each side of the turret.
The cabin accommodates four persons comfortably for several days, and in an emergency, the
crews of several aircraft can be taken care of. It is electrically lighted by storage
batteries, but in case of a breakdown kerosene lamps or other lighting devices are
provided. There are two double-deck beds and adequate cupboard space for first-aid
equipment, dry clothing and shoes, emergency rations, and a water supply. Hot food may
be prepared on an alcohol stove. Cognac to relieve chill and cigarettes to quiet the
nerves are also provided. Games, stationery, playing cards, etc. afford diversion
until rescue is effected. Depleted supplies are always immediately replaced upon the
arrival of the rescue ship.
A tubular lifeboat is available for transferring the downed aviators from the
buoy to the ship.
Signalling is accomplished by hoisting a black anchor ball and a yellow and red
striped flag on the mast during the day. At night, red and white lights in the turret
indicate that rescued men are on board. A white anchor light on the mast is visible
for 3,000 feet or more. SOS signals giving the location of the buoy are
automatically sent out by an emergency wireless transmitter. Signal pistols with
red and white lights, white-light parachute flares, or a smoke, distress-signalling
apparatus complete the signalling equipment. Other equipment includes plugs to stop
up bullet holes in the walls of the cabin and a pump for the expulsion of seepage. The
accompanying sketches illustrate these buoys.