Sunderland Flying Boat Protects Convoys From U-Boat Attack

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Sunderland Flying Boat Protects Convoys From U-Boat Attack

 Sunderland Flying Boat Protecting Convoys From U-Boat Attack

 

Wartime Sunderland Flying Boat copy of “Empire Flying Boat” built by Short Brothers

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 the RAF quickly approved it and the aircraft went operational in 1938. (Hence, ‘short’ is not a description of the plane; it is the name of the company which built them).

 

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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.

 

Hard to Break Surface Tension to Become Airborne

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 Rock Planes to Break Surface Tension

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.

 

A_Short_Sunderland_Mk_I_flying_boat_of_No._210_Squadron_RAF_based_at_Oban_in_Scotland,_patrols_over_a_Canadian_troop_convoy_on_its_way_to_Greenock,_31_July_1940._CH832

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)

 

Troop convoys always received the highest level of protection

Troop convoys always received the highest level of protection of any other type of convoy. 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 own screen of 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.

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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. [You can see he is wearing his pyjmas which seems a bit too relaxed for a wartime patrol]

 

Took true bravery to smoke a cigarette in an airplane filled with high octane aviation fuel 

Note the cigarette in the photo above. Men had to be brave to serve as a crewman on a Sunderland Flying Boat since these aircraft only had a maximum speed of 210 mph (336 km/h) at 6,500 ft (2,000 m) and could easily be shot down by German Condors.  But it took as much bravery to smoke a cigarette in an airplane filled with high octane aviation fuel which was not carried with the safety precautions of modern aircraft.

 

Equipped With Bunks and Small Kitchen

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. When anchored, two crewmen always had to be aboard the flying boat. Should there be 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 1940. The 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. Photo copyright (c) by the Imperial War Museum.

 

mooring sunderland

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

By | 2019-02-13T21:56:08-05:00 February 20th, 2019|Charles McCain, convoy, Convoys, naval history, Nazi Germany, North Atlantic, RAF, Royal Navy, World War Two, ww2, wwii|Comments Off on Sunderland Flying Boat Protects Convoys From U-Boat Attack

About the Author:

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/