Life on a Sunderland Flying Boat

Responding to an Air Ministry request for a general reconnaissance flying boat, Short mostly copied the design of their famous “Empire”  flying boat. This aircraft, which first flew in 1937, was the flagship of Imperial Airways. By making changes to the original design, the Short Brothers Sunderland flying boat was quickly approved and went operational in 1938. (Hence, ‘short’ is not a description of the plane just the name of the company which built them).

 

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Short Sunderland in World War Two

Royal Air Force- 1939-1945- Coastal Command
No 210 Squadron Sunderland L 5798/DA-A, taxying on the water at Oban, August 1940.
Date between 1939 and 1945.

(Brits write “taxying” while Americans write “taxiing”)

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

 

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Looking for U-Boats in World War Two

The pilot of a Short Sunderland of No. 201 Squadron RAF, scans the sea through binoculars while on patrol over the Atlantic from its base at Castle Archdale, County Fermanagh.  (Photo by Flight Officer H Hensser, Royal Air Force official photographer and courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.)

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Sunderland On Take-Off Run

This is A Mark IIIa with Mk III engines and bomb windows, but Mk V radar blisters and nose guns. Photo and caption from Canadian Forces. Now in the public domain.

 

The major difficulty encountered by Short Sunderland pilots on take-off was getting the aircraft to break free from the surface tension or suction of the water. By using a special hull design, Short Brothers maximized the ability of the Sunderland to become airborne. Even with that, it could be difficult in perfectly calm weather to get the plane into the air.

Pilots would often rock their planes back and forth to break the surface tension. Taking off was never easy and sometimes the plane had to go quite a distance before it broke free from the hold of the water and became airborne. Once in the air, depending on weather and speed, the Sunderland could stay aloft for as long as fourteen hours. It carried a crew of 11. A set of bunks, kerosene stove and flush toilet were provided for the crew.

 

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Sunderland L2163/DA-G, one of a pair from No 210 Squadron, patrolling over convoy TC6 carrying Canadian troops to Britain, 31 July 1940. The convoy had left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 23 July and was due to arrive at Greenock on 1 August. (Photo by Mr. S A Devon, RAF Official Photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 Convoys carrying troops received the highest level of protection which could be mustered. This included air cover although aircraft could not stay over the convoy the entire time because the distance was too great until the arrival of Very Long Range Liberators in late 1943. Every troop convoy had both significant numbers of Royal Navy escorts and a Royal Navy battleship with its escorting destroyers.

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Royal Air Force Coastal Command
A peaceful scene at Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland on 20 May 1943, as a seaplane tender passes a Sunderland of No 201 Squadron. The censor has removed all trace of the aircraft’s fuselage-mounted ASV aerials.
photo by RAF official photographer Mr. H. Hensser
photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

Posted by Charles McCain on http://charlesmccain.com/blog/

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Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945. Sergeant Patrick McCombie, a flight engineer of the Royal Australian Air Force, in his bunk on board a Short Sunderland of No. 10 Squadron RAAF at Mount Batten, Plymouth, Devon. Date between 1939 and 1945.

Note the cigarette in the photo above. It not only took bravery to simply be a member of the aircrew of one of these Sunderland Flying Boats since they were relatively slow and easy to shoot down. But it took as much bravery to smoke a cigarette in an airplane filled with high octane aviation fuel which was not stored nearly as safely as aviation fuel is in modern aircraft.

Because a Sunderland Flying Patrol Bomber could stay in the air for as long as 14 hours, bunks, a small kitchen, and a flush toilet were supplied for the aircrew which usually totaled 11 men. Two men were always on board when the float plane was anchored and if there was any hint of bad weather then a pilot had to stay aboard as well to taxi the plane and turn it into the wind.

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

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Royal Air Force Coastal Command Sunderland

August 1940The Frazer-Nash FN13 rear turret of a Sunderland of No 210 Squadron at Oban, August 1940. The Sunderland was the first RAF flying boat to be fitted with power-operated gun turrets.
This is photograph CH 854 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums now in the public domain.

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Royal Air Force Coastal Command Sunderland

Close-up of the nose of a Sunderland of No 210 Squadron at Oban, August 1940. A mooring compartment was situated in the nose of the Sunderland, containing anchor, winch, boat-hook and ladder. The front turret was designed to slide back, enabling the crew to secure the aircraft to a buoy, as demonstrated here. The circle painted on the fuselage just below the cockpit is a gas-detection patch.
Date between 1939 and 1945

(photo by Devon S A (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer, courtesy Imperial War Museum.)

 

you can read more details about the Sunderland in this:

excellent article on Short Sunderland from Uboat Net

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/