The crews of German air-sea rescue aircraft (Seenotflugstaffeln) operating over the English Channel in 1940 soon learned that the rescuer could often become a victim himself! After the occupation of France, Luftflotte 3 quickly established three Seenotzentralen (air-sea rescue centers) in Boulogne, Cherbourg and Brest. This was the Luftwaffe's reaction to the increasing number of clashes between German and British aircraft over the Channel. In the summer of 1940 the air-sea rescue units flew unarmed Heinkel He 59 floatplanes painted white overall with red crosses on the fuselage and wings. Convinced that the German air-sea rescue aircraft were taking advantage of their protected status to conduct reconnaissance over the Channel, the RAF (Royal Air Force) declared them legitimate targets and a number of He 59s were shot down. Reacting quickly, the Luftwaffe camouflaged the He 59s and fitted them with defensive armament. As well, the air-sea rescue aircraft were provided fighter cover whenever possible. The photographs show a Heinkel He 59 B air-sea rescue aircraft (Werknummer 1824, code ??+?G) of Seenotstaffel 3 (formerly Seenotflugstaffel 3, renamed in December 1940). Visible on the camouflaged aircraft are its two defensive positions and the Staffel emblem, an albatross with a life ring on a blue shield. Also note the large DF loop, which could be raised. On 14 October 1941 the aircraft's camouflage and defensive armament failed to save it. While on a rescue mission, the Heinkel was intercepted by eight British fighters just one kilometer off the Belgian coast near Raverside, west of Ostende, and was shot down in flames into the sea. Two members of the crew, Beobachter (observer) Oberfeldwebel Siegfried Wessel and Flugzeugführer (pilot) Unteroffizier Josef Raab, were wounded.
Magazine "Luftwaffe im Focus Spezial" No.1 2003