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).



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.



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.)


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.



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 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


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 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

Prinz Eugen & Atomic Tests in Bimini


Photo taken between 26 May 1945 and 29 May 1945 in the North Sea.   Acting as “air sentries”, aircraft of RAF Coastal Command in which many RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) men are still serving kept a watchful eye on the two German cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nurnberg whilst they were on their way from Copenhagen to Wilhelmshaven under the terms of surrender.

(photo and caption from the Australian War Memorial)

German Navy heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was still afloat after the initial tests but sprang a leak and rolled over.

Known as the “Lucky Ship” of the Kriegsmarine the ship survived World War Two in spite of dozens of hair-raising battles including the English Channel Dash (Operation Cerberus), being torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident, and constant air attack by huge numbers Soviet aircraft in the eastern Baltic where the the ship was providing fire support to retreating German troops in the winter of 1945.

Unable to re-ammunition and under regular air attack, Prinz Eugen sailed to German occupied Copenhagen, arriving on 20 April 1945. German Navy High Command ordered her to remain there and the ship surrendered to the British on 7 May 1945 as they moved into Denmark. Germany officially surrendered on 8 May 1945 and the ship was handed over to the Royal Navy and subsequently to the US Navy.

Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, the third member of the class of five vessels. This class was comprised of  Admiral Hipper, Blücher, Prinz Eugen. While five ships were to built, only the first three were constructed. All the ships were built with untested experimental engines which often would stop functioning at full capacity or just stop.

To the ever lasting confusion of historians, Lützow, a fourth ship of the class, was laid down and almost completed when it was sold to the Soviet Union 1940. Meanwhile, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee had been sunk during the Battle of the Rio Plata in December of 1939.

The first pocket battleship had been commissioned as Deutschland. Hitler did not like the idea of a ship named Deutschland being sunk so he had that ship renamed to Lützow.



Prinz Eugen as seen from the dive boat

(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )



wreck of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of

(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )



Another view of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of:





The Prinz Eugen anchored in the Baltic in the spring of 1941.

photo courtesy of 

Bikini Atoll Explosion

Prinz Eugen at Bimini During Atomic Bomb Tests. The ship is located on the far right in this photograph. (Photo courtesy of the National Geographic)

Following from World of Warships Forum:

“Selected as a target vessel for Operation Crossroads, Prinz Eugen was readied at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in February-March 1946. This work involved removing two 8-inch gun barrels from turret “A” for additional evaluation. A fire control tower was also taken from the ship at this time.”

Prinz Eugen then proceeded to Bikini, arriving on June 11, 1946. There it was moored between two U.S. destroyers off the port quarter of USS Arkansas, 1,200 yards from the zeropoint. The vessel was not appreciably damaged in the Able test of July 1, 1946, nor in the Baker test three weeks later, when it was moored one mile off the detonation point, but was contaminated with radioactive fallout.”


View from the forecastle of the former German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, officially USS Prinz Eugen (IX-300). Circa March 1946

(official US Navy photograph)

Prinz Eugen, named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736) is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy in the modern era.

The text below is from April 1946 edition of US Navy “All Hands Magazine.”

Note that the 20.3 cm guns of turret “A” (also “Graz”) have been removed for testing.

“Prinz Eugen originally had a crew of 8 officers and 85 enlisted men of the U.S. Navy supervising 27 officers and 547 enlisted men of the former German Kriegsmarine for tests. The cruiser was sailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), to San Diego, California (USA) via the Panama Canal to take part in Operation Crossroads. The German crew was gradually reduced to zero with the effect that the cruiser reached Pearl Harbor under tow on 10 May 1946, as the U.S. crew could not operate the ultra-high pressure boilers.”



Prinz Eugen inverted

(photo courtesy of



This bronze screw was salvaged from the wreck of the Prinz Eugen by the post war German Navy and is on display at the German naval memorial outside near Kiel. (Photograph by Darkone, 1. Mai 2004)




USS Prinz Eugen (IX 300) at sea during Operation “Crossroads”
Date 14 June 1946

US Navy Archives



USS Prinz Eugen passing through the Panama Canal in 1946.

A Classic Plane Used in Air Sea Rescue



PBY Catalina landing at NAS Jacksonville during WWII.

(official US Navy photo)

PB stands for “Patrol Bomber” and Y is the designation assigned to the manufacturer: Consolidated Aircraft. The PBY Catalina was the most widely used amphibious aircraft in World War Two. Manufactured in the US, many planes went via Lend-Lease to our allies.

While the US Navy called it the PBY, the British called it the Catalina and the Canadians called it the Canso. You often see this in aircraft names in World War Two. Our Allies would call planes received from Lend-Lease a different name than Americans used.