Tag Archives: India

the Supermarine Southampton at Hendon

You don’t always expect to see a flying boat in a museum in London, but the RAF Museum at Hendon has, among many other seaplanes, a Supermarine Southampton, a type which, between the two wars, was an extremely successful aircraft in Royal Air Force service:

The Southampton was designed by the famous R J Mitchell and it immediately brought Mitchell’s name to the fore as an aircraft designer. At the same time, it also gave Supermarine an enormous amount of publicity, affording a much greater chance that their later designs might be approved:

The first 18 examples of the Mark I were made completely of wood. They were delivered in August 1925. The RAF, however, was now beginning to express a growing preference for metal aircraft and when the Mark IIs were delivered, they were made entirely of metal. They were much preferred to the older wooden Southamptons which, from 1929 onwards, were all gradually converted to have metal hulls:


The aircraft was amazingly durable and reliable and each one had an average service life of around eleven years. One source of their fame was a series of long distance formation flights to many different parts of the world. In 1927-1928, the “Far East Flight” travelled from Felixstowe to the Mediterranean and then on to India and Singapore, a total of some 27,000 miles:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The museum aircraft is a Mark I, N9899, from the very first ever batch of Mark Is which were numbered N9896-N9901. It was used by No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight at Calshot in Hampshire. Here’s a general view. Not many aircraft have a ladder. At least, not on the outside.:

On September 7th 1925 the crew had an engine failure just off Wicklow Head in Ireland and had to be towed more than one hundred miles over the sea to Belfast Lough by HMS Calliope. On November 23rd 1928 N9899 was one of three Southamptons moored near Portland when it broke loose from its moorings in a gale and crashed violently into a breakwater. Only its engines were salvageable. In 1929 it was purchased privately so that its fuselage could be used as a houseboat, one of five flying boats to suffer such a fate at this time. N9899 then seems to have been towed to Felixstowe where it remained until the RAF bought it back and began a restoration scheme in the late 1960s.

What struck me about the aircraft was its vast collection of amazing old fashioned rivets and apparently heavy ironwork. Here is a closer view of the hull, revealing just how many rivets are holding the aircraft together. I haven’t bothered to count, but I bet there must be the best part of a couple of thousand. It’s a good job Mitchell’s most famous design, the Spitfire, was not too much like a Southampton!:

Notice the beautiful flowing lines of that tight, superbly graceful, bottom, or perhaps “hull” would be a better word. The museum still has that purple light to stop excessive fading of fragile old colours. I would think that aviation experts will see in the Southampton much of the design that Mitchell took forward to the Walrus.

This photograph shows a view from the rear, with the squadron letters of QN. I have the distinct feeling that every one of those silver metal panels might have a few rivets. The section around the gun turret, above the roundel, certainly does:

Here’s my final view, with the wheels used to bring the aircraft into the museum still in situ. They are not part of the aircraft because the Southampton was a flying boat, rather than an amphibian like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, which had its own undercarriage:

Notice behind the Southampton a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal Australian Air Force. Can you spot the kangaroo? Here’s a better view:

The Japanese used the Southampton as well as the RAF. Here’s a photograph of a modern day Polish construction kit:

I think that “IJNAF” stands for “Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force” (or something very like it.)

 

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, Personal, Science

“Dab” Furley Part Three

When he left the High School, Percival Henry Biddulph Furley went immediately to sit the Army Entrance Examination. He scored a record 10,000 points, over seven hundred more than the candidate in second place.

Dab was immediately sent out to India. During his short time there, he was described as…

“…specially marked as a man to keep on as a future adjutant…the officers and men loved him.”

And that was it for Second Lieutenant Percival Henry Biddulph Furley.  His game was up. He was mere hours from buying his farm.

The Grim Reaper put his newspaper down, switched off the radio, got to his feet and reached for his trusty scythe:

Irish_Guards_cap_badgexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Dab Furley was only nineteen years old, but, instead of letting him get used gently to military life in India by posting him to some nice peaceful place, the authorities immediately sent him to the North West Frontier. Most probably, Dab went straight to the recently constructed Miranshah Fort, which the British had built in 1905 to control North Waziristan. There could have been no place more dangerous in the whole of the British Empire:

fortxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Here, operations were continually being carried out against the Wazirs and the Mahsuds along what would nowadays be the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a condensed version of the official record of events:

“Reports had been very persistent at Miranshah of an impending advance by Afghan troops, but these were discounted by a reliable report that these forces were short of transport and supplies, and were adopting a defensive role.
Their leader continued to incite the Wazirs to attack and by May 31st large numbers of tribesmen had assembled. The General Officer Commanding the 67th (Bannu) Brigade decided to disperse these hostile tribesmen. They would also destroy certain villages whose inhabitants were known to have committed offences, and to have participated in attacks on the posts:

5thRoyalGurkhaRiflesNorth-WestFrontier1923

The following day the North Waziristan Militia moved out with 250 men and fought a very successful action. The enemy was put to flight with a loss of about 90 and the towers from where he had been sniping the Miranshah Fort were destroyed. Our casualties were Second Lieutenant PHB Furley, of the 1st/41st Dogras, and two Indian soldiers killed, and five Indian ranks wounded.”

Dab Furley was killed on June 1st 1919. He was just nineteen years old. His family church back in Nottingham expressed their sympathy in the All Saints Church News of August 1919:

“The sympathy of the Church goes out to the bereaved. Percival Henry Biddulph Furley, 72 Cromwell Street, 2nd Lieut. 41st Dogras Indian Army; killed in action at Miranshah, W India, June 1st 1919; age 19; Communicant; educated Nottingham High School, Captain of School and Cricket XI; first in all England Examination for Indian Army. Letters from his CO and Company Commander speak very warmly of his character and soldierly gallantry.”

allsaints-outsidexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Grim Reaper opened his back door, put his trusty scythe back in the kitchen cupboard alongside the vacuum cleaner, got a beer out of the fridge and went off to watch the football.

By 1919, various wars in this benighted land had already dragged on for the best part of a hundred years. They continued on and off during the 1920s. In the 1930s, the struggle was eagerly taken up by Mirza Ali, the Faqir of Ipi, who intensified violence in the region. Here he is. He reminds me very strongly of somebody, although I can’t quite put my finger on it:

Mirza-Ali-Khan-Faqir-of-Ipi

The interminable cycle of wrongdoing and violence still continues to this very day. In the early 1950s, the Pakistan Air Force carried out operations from Miranshah Airfield and Miranshah Fort against a serious revolt led by another rebellious Faqir.

After 9/11, the “War on Terror” saw almost countless strikes by pilotless drones of the US Central Intelligence Agency, in an attempt to kill militants and terrorists hiding in Miranshah or the surrounding area:

Predator_and_Hellfire

Dab’s death is commemorated on the Delhi Memorial in India, on Face 3.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dab’s remains were actually buried in 1919 in the garden of the local political agent at Miranshah. At the time of writing, though, this grave was unfortunately not one of the many, many thousands to which the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is able to extend its protection, and Dab’s last resting place is nowadays presumably neglected or even lost for ever. It would be a very brave person indeed who tried to place a wreath on it at the present time. Here is Miranshah after a drone strike:

drone strike
Talking of the Great War, the school magazine “Highvite” had previously spoken of the keenly felt losses of such talented young men as Harold Ballamy, Charles Boyd, Walter Howard, James Turpin and John Wootton, but this last death of Dab Furley seems to have hit the High School very, very hard. It came after some 300 previous deaths in the Great War but worse than that, at a time when the country was preparing to celebrate peace at last.

another BIGGER close up
Dab was described as the…

“finest type of English boy…keen, intelligent and thoughtful ; all manly sports… gifted …hard-working, loyal and unselfish…straight and true… unfeignedly modest… of a stainless purity.”

How foolish our nation had been, to throw away the lives of so many hundreds of thousands of its most talented young men in these blood soaked and pointless conflicts.

13 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School