Royal Air Force Marine Branch are remembered at Portrush ceremony on Sunday

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A brief but important period in the history of Portrush and its harbour will be remembered this weekend when a plaque commemorating the members of Royal Air Force Marine Branch who served at Portrush is unveiled.

RAF Marine Craft Unit No 1105 was based at Portrush from 1964 to 1971, and the harbour was also used by RAF vessels for much of the Second World War.

The substantial plaque is to be positioned on the outside wall of the harbour master’s office for all to see and will be unveiled at 1pm on Sunday.

Many former members of the MCU will be present along with other distinguished guests.

Steve Crossley, who has been the impetus behind the plaque project, said: “Most have not been back in Portrush since 1971, and one is coming all the way from the Netherlands, which shows the esteem in which Portrush is held by the lads.”

Steve, a serving member of 1105 MCU at Portrush up until the unit closure in 1971, was responsible for the design and manufacture of the magnificent plaque.

It has been entirely funded by generous donations from ex-MCU members and others, including a fantastic effort by Campbell College Sea Cadets from North Down and East Belfast, who raised over £300 despite having no connection with the MCU or Portrush.

They will also be there to help out at Portrush on Sunday.

1105 MCU was established at Portrush at the start of 1964 with a complement of around 50 men and four launches – two 68-foot Vosper rescue and target-towing launches and two 63-foot pinnaces.

Later, the much bigger HMAFV Seal joined the Portrush fleet.

Two single-storey buildings were erected in the old coal yards behind the harbour office and were used as offices and workshops.

Living accommodation for about two dozen personnel was provided in the former Leander House Hotel at Bath Road.

During its stay in Portrush, the Unit was engaged in weapon recovery, target towing and other duties in conjunction with Shackleton aircraft from its parent station at Ballykelly.

The RAF vessels also assisted the local Lifeboat Service on a number of occasions.

On one occasion the combined power of two of the RAF craft was used to help refloat a 900-ton German coaster which had gone aground near the harbour entrance.

In 1970 1105 MCU was awarded the Marine Craft Efficiency Trophy as the top unit in No 18 Group, RAF.

At that time there were eight MCUs stationed around the coast of the United Kingdom and in Gibraltar.

The blue-uniformed members of the Unit became familiar and welcome figures in the Portrush community over the seven years that the Unit served there and the servicemen and their families were involved in many aspects of the life of the town.

Indeed, a number of the men married local girls and settled in the area.

With the closure of the Ballykelly air station in 1971, the need for marine craft to be based at Portrush ended and in March of that year the unit was closed and the RAF launches transferred to other units.

The official paying off ceremony took place on Thursday 4 March when the Air Commander of the Northern Maritime Region, Air Vice-Marshal R.G. Wakeford, at a ceremony in the town hall, presented a commemoration crest to the town.

The two remaining RAF vessels slipped their moorings at Portrush Harbour for the last time at 2pm and sailed around the headland in review order of line astern as a Shackleton aircraft flew overhead.

The last vessel to leave the harbour was Vosper launch number RTTL 2757 which has subsequently been preserved as an exhibit at the Royal Air Force Museum in London.

On 1 April 1971 RAF Portrush officially ceased to exist. The workshops and offices at the harbour subsequently became the first permanent headquarters of the Portrush Yacht Club.