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).

 

Royal_Air_Force-_1939-1945-_Coastal_Command_CH840

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.

 

705px-Royal_Air_Force_Coastal_Command,_1939-1945._CH11080

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.)

sunderldontakeoff

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.

 

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)

 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.

Royal_Air_Force_1939-1945-_Coastal_Command_CH11075

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/

Royal_Air_Force_Coastal_Command,_1939-1945._CH8570

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

Royal_Air_Force-_1939-1945-_Coastal_Command_CH854

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.

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

Royal Navy Sank the Bismarck This Day in 1941

 

 

King_George_V_class_battleship_9

HMS King George V, flagship of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Tovey as he maneuvered the units of the Royal Navy to sink the Bismarck

http://charlesmccain.com/2010/05/the-imperturbable-english/

 

A RAF Coastal Command Catalina (AH545 WQ-Z of 209 Squadron) located the German battleship Bismarck on 26 May 1941 which led to the sinking of the Bismarck. The sighting was made by the co-pilot, American US Navy Ensign Leonard “Tuck” Smith, but was credited to the pilot, British Flying Officer Dennis Briggs of the RAF, because the United States was supposed to be neutral.

 

http://charlesmccain.com/2013/07/being-fired-on-by-the-bismarck-was-disconcerting-said-vian-part-1/

http://charlesmccain.com/2013/07/being-fired-on-by-the-bismarck-was-disconcerting-said-vian-part-2/

http://charlesmccain.com/2010/04/what-was-the-deal-with-the-bismarck-and-the-hood/

 

 

Admiral Dudley Pound Wouldn’t Take His Own Advice

 

 

iwn pound and SC

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS Queen Mary. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

Early in his tenure as First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound wrote to a close friend in the navy and said, “why have Commanders-in-Chiefs and do their work for them? If they are not capable of doing it they must make way for someone who can.” 1

Unique amongst the respective British service commands, the Admiralty had command, organizational and administrative responsibilities of a standard service ministry but also had operational control over the fleets.

Unfortunately, Dudley Pound didn’t take his own advice during the war since he often went over the heads of his C-in-Cs and gave orders to formations under their command.

During the disastrous campaign in Norway beginning in early April 1940, Pound went over the head of both the senior Royal Navy officer on the scene (Admiral Jock Whitworth) as well over the head Whitworth’s C.O., the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Pound even sent orders to individual ships. This caused immense confusion as you might imagine.

While many of the orders sent to RN ships fighting in the Norwegian campaign by Dudley Pound were thought to have originated with then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, many other times during the war Pound needed no prodding from Churchill to interfere in fleet dispositions during action with the enemy.

This could cause serious problems and occasionally disaster such as the infamous scattering order issue to convoy PQ17.

As an aside, the Chief of Naval Operations in the US, has no operational authority over US naval ships. He, or she, is responsible for everything concerning the navy but he doesn’t exercise command over fleets or ships. This has always been the case in the modern history of the US Navy.

In World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt picked Admiral Ernest King out of  a dead-end post which Admirals took a few years before retirement and made him Chief of Naval Operations. However, this gave King little power over the dispositions of the actual naval ships themselves since those were in fleets or other units under the authority of Commander in Chief US Fleet. This title had the unfortunate acronym of CINCUS.

After a spell, this did not suit Roosevelt who wanted one person in charge so he elevated King to the position of Commander in Chief US Fleet while allowing him to also keep the office of Chief of Naval Operations. This gave King immense authority over the entire US Navy. (And he sometimes went over the heads of his commanders such as Nimitz, not to change any of their fleet dispositions but to fire some of their subordinates).

Upon assuming the position of Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Admiral King immediately changed the acronym to COMINCH. King is the only man ever to have held the position of Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief US Fleet simultaneously.

1 Roskill, Stephen “The War at Sea”

 

 

 

Highest Casualty Rate in British Empire

INF3-127_War_Effort_Under_the_Red_Duster_they_sustain_our_Island_Fortress

The “Red Ensign” was the flag flown by the British Merchant Navy. The Royal Navy flew the “White Ensign”

(photo courtesy of  the National Archives of the United Kingdom)

 19% of officers and ratings of the British Merchant Navy died in World War Two as the result of hostile action–a far higher percentage than any branches of the British and Commonwealth Forces.

The actual number who died is 25,864 men. Not of these men weren’t actually British sailors. Many were from neutral countries such as Sweden, who volunteered to sail on Swedish ships chartered to the British Ministry of War Transport. Others were Portuguese, also neutral.

840 ships from foreign nations who were belligerents against Germany including Norway, the Netherlands and Greece placed themselves under charter to the British although the Germans offered them large sums to come back to their own countries. The men refused.

 

v0_master

British sailor covered in oil from a tanker torpedoed in 1943

(photo courtesy of IWM)

Ships not specifically built or purchased by the British Ministry of War Transport were insured by the Ministry since obviously no maritime insurance company could take the risk of insuring merchant ships in a war.

 

Three_Lascars_on_the_Viceroy_of_India

 Three Lascars of the P&O liner Viceroy of India, standing behind the wheel of one of the ship’s tenders. National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom.

 

A large number of men who crewed British merchant ships were Lascars, men native to the Indian subcontinent. They were paid far less than white British sailors and signed a more restrictive set of articles as they were known before signing on.

A number of British owned ships were crewed entirely by Lascars except for the officers or mates who were white or “European” as they were known. On these ships officers were required the predominant language of the crew such as Hindi and speak it fluently since all orders were given in the language of the crew.

Despite the carnage, well known to the merchant officers and sailors, not one Allied merchant ship ever failed to find a crew and put to sea. Yes, there were delays as some men balked and said “hell no.” Nonetheless, officers and crewmen were always found who manned the ships.

They were brave men.

 

MerchantLead

Survivors of two merchant ships crowd the decks of a rescue trawler at St. John’s, Newfoundland, April 1943.
(photo courtesy of National Library of Canada)

 

 

source: Churchill’s Navy

author’s research