Three war crimes, two Sunderlands and one Ashley Wilkes (2)

Last time, I was showing you round what is probably the same aircraft in two different locations, that is, the Short Sunderland flying boat at Hendon and then at Duxford.  Just to remind ourselves, the Sunderland was a mighty war machine:

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The Sunderland had a panoply of weapons. Something for every occasion:

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There was also an astrodome for taking bearings from the stars, and ASV radar, visible above the cockpit area:

I saw just part of my first ever Sunderland on ‎February 14‎th 2008, ‏‎ at 11:24:44. And, as you might expect for that date, it was love at first sight. The aircraft was behind a Handley Page Hastings and below a Hawker Harrier, and it was terribly squashed in:

I had to wait until 2010 when I went to Hendon to see a Sunderland displayed a little more favourably, and in a much bigger and more open area:

This particular Sunderland you could go inside. Just look at the room. You could fly a model plane around inside it:

The walls have lots of useful instructions:

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Overall, the Germans were very wary, if not simply afraid, of the Sunderland flying boat. It was an extremely heavily armed aircraft and a formidable opponent. No wonder they called it the “Flying Porcupine”. Porcupines look old, they look rather fat and are rightly known as being grumpy, solitary and always just wanting to be left alone. OMG. How many of those boxes can I tick? And don’t say “All of them”. Here’s a real porcupine at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. They eventually sold him to Bristol Zoo for “excessive grumpiness”  :

And here’s a wild one in the Golan Heights of Israel. A really rare sight:

Final thought. What is the German for “Flying Porcupine” ?

Why it’s “Das Fliegende Schtachelschwein”, a phrase which has proved particularly useful in my trips to the Fatherland, especially to Berlin Zoo which is conveniently close to the airport.




Filed under Aviation, Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Personal

16 responses to “Three war crimes, two Sunderlands and one Ashley Wilkes (2)

  1. It is a fabulous looking plane and stunningly well preserved. What was it made from, metal or wood?

    • As far as I’m aware it was completely made of metal. Its late 1920s predecessor, the Supermarine Southampton had a hull made of wood in the Mark I, and the Mark II had a metal hull. In later years, all of the Mark Is were converted into Mark IIs, so the RAF obviously knew which was better. At take-off and landing time, a wooden hull could easily turn a metal hulled drama into a catastrophe.

  2. Chris Waller

    A couple of questions occur to me. I presume the fuselage was aluminium, so how was it protected against the corrosive effects of sea-water? Also, I have seen photographs of the Sunderland on land, apparently on wheels but there seems to be no provision for an undercarriage. So, in order to get the aircraft on dry land did it have to be floated on to some kind of trolley?

    • A Sunderland was a full “flying boat” rather than an amphibian like the PBY-Catalina which had its own wheels, as did the Walrus. This meant that the Sunderland, with no wheels, was brought to a special ramp in shallow water where a very large wheeled trolley could be put underneath it. It could then be slowly winched up the ramp to an area where it could be hosed down with fresh water. I presume they had a timetable whereby every aeroplane was washed every week or ten days or whatever,

  3. Three words in German? I was expecting one longer one 🙂

    • In actual fact, there are those, apparently, who argue that the German phrase, and indeed, the whole story, was invented by British Intelligence to be put into our newspapers as a piece of good news, at a time when Britain was struggling for any good news whatsoever.
      I am a firm believer in the old saying “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” so I’m sticking with the famous (three) words!

  4. An amazing aircraft, John.

    • It certainly was, and I think it owes a great many of its positive features, especially its interior space and bunks, and cooking area, to its ancestry in the 1930s, the era of Boeing Clippers, BOAC flying boats landing on African lakes in front of astonished African tribes, and advertisements in the Times for Britain-India in a week”. I dare say that other aircraft were better flying boats, such as the Catalina, and more efficient submarine killers, such as the B-24, but no member of the RAF ever lusted for a posting to serve in either of those two aircraft as they lusted to be aircrew in a Sunderland and to taste bacon, eggs and sausage two thousand miles out over the Atlantic!

  5. It’s a beautiful aircraft and Shorts big success! With such luxuries as beds it must have been like a flying hotel compared to some aircraft of the time.

  6. Absolutely! It’s so large inside that the museum can let the public loose their with no fears that they will cause any damage to the aircraft, or more to the point perhaps, to themselves. I bought “Fabulous Flying Boats” by Leslie Dawson very cheaply from Naval & Military a while back, and that’s a good guide to the world’s flying boats, and the people who sipped their gin and tonics inside them.

  7. John, you might be interested to know that one Sunderland in England was used for a while by Ansett Airlines to travel from Sydney to Lord Howe Island. Ansett was merged with QANTAS. Two Sunderlands were converted to Sandringhams – you can probably explain that better than I can – and then converted back to their wartime setup.

  8. Pierre Lagacé

    Missed that one John!

  9. Pingback: Intermission – Three war crimes, two Sunderlands and one Ashley Wilkes (2) — John Knifton | My Forgotten Hobby II

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