The Supermarine Walrus (2)

Last time, we were looking at the Supermarine Walrus amphibian which was used by the RAF in the second half of the Second World War:The Germans entered the war completely prepared for air-sea-rescue, of course. They had a dedicated arm of the Luftwaffe called the Seenotdienst and they made extensive use of the Dornier Do24, one of the comparatively few three engined aircraft used in the conflict:

The Dornier Do 24 was initially built for the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine, to be used primarily in the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia. The Do24 was very much admired by the Seenotdienst so, in the words of Adolf Hitler, “I invaded the country and I stole all six of them.”

The Germans also made extensive use of the Heinkel He59 which was unarmed and painted white with big red cross:

These floatplanes would cheerfully rescue both Luftwaffe and RAF aircrew. Nevertheless, there was a suspicion that the Germans might have been using their aircraft for proscribed reconnaissance activities and the RAF was told to shoot them all down in Bulletin 1254, which indicated that “all enemy air-sea rescue aircraft were to be destroyed wherever they were encountered”. In retrospect, perhaps a little disappointing as a decision.

The older He 59 was much more comparable with the Walrus, perhaps, than the Do24. This Heinkel biplane was much slower than the monoplane Dornier (and was therefore much easier to shoot down as part of Bulletin 1254). Both aircraft made extensive use of the invention of Ernst Udet, the yellow-painted “Rettungsbojen” or rescue buoys:

These buoy-type floats were highly visible and they held emergency equipment such as food, water, blankets, dry clothing enough for four men, and an assortment of board games including, of course, “Risk”, for the Germans. Here’s a cut-away of the buoy:

And here is a rare picture of Admiral Donitz about to begin his famous speech announcing that all the lighthouses of the world were now part of the Greater German Reich:

Shot-down airmen from both sides were strongly attracted to these buoys and many a desperate game of Schcrabble or Buckaroo was played to decide who had first dibs with the rescue buoys’ bratwurst or their assortment of smoked cheeses. British airmen and seamen called the Rettungsbojen “Lobster Pots” for their shape:

The rescue buoys also attracted the close attentions of many sailors in both German and British rescue boats. They would come to inspect the buoys from time to time and “friendly” downed airmen were rescued, but enemy aircrew automatically became prisoners of war.



Filed under Aviation, History, Humour

14 responses to “The Supermarine Walrus (2)

  1. I had not heard of Admiral Donitz’s speech 🙂

  2. GP

    I’ve never heard of these buoys. You are always increasing my education, John, Thanks!

  3. Another good history lesson. I too had never heard of these.

    • I have the vaguest idea that among all those b/w war films of the 1950s, there is one about the crews of two different aircraft, RAF and German, finding themselves on one of the lobster pots and eventually coming to an agreement about how to live together until the rescue boat arrives.
      I had no idea, though, that there was a plastic construction kit to assemble..

      PS A quick search has revealed that “lobster pots” appear in “We dive at dawn” and “One of our aircraft is missing”. I’m not sure, though, that those films are necessarily the one I’m thinking of.

  4. Very interesting. I also am not to pleased to hear the ‘shoot ’em all down’.

  5. I’ve come across these buoys in some old films, but don’t know how many actually existed (I’m sure there is a record somewhere). But I can imagine if you were able to get to one, then they would have been a godsend. No doubt an onboard quadraphonic stereo system would have allowed endless hours of listening to pre-recorded Donitz speeches to reduce boredom!

    • Wikipedia says that there were 50 rescue buoys anchored in the English Channel during 1940 and in 1941, the English set out their own sixteen, anchored underneath the main bomber routes coming back from Germany.
      I don’t know if the German buoys had a stereo system, but the thought of a few hours of any of the Nazi leaders’ speeches is enough to make you doubly seasick.

  6. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on RAF 293 Squadron and commented:

    Part two of John’s post on the Walrus.

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