Supermarine Seagull V/Walrus 1 (L2301) [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]
Designed by R. J. Mitchell the Supermarine Walrus began life as the Supermarine Seagull, a three seat amphibian designed originally as a fleet spotter. It was ordered by the Air Ministry for the Fleet Air Arm as the metal-hulled Walrus I (some were fitted with ASV radar) but it was also used by the RAF in the air-sea rescue role. The type became one of the unsung workhorses WW2 and was affectionately known as the "Shagbat" or sometimes the “Steam-pigeon"; the latter name coming from the steam produced by water striking the hot Pegasus engine. By the beginning of WW2 there were 162 Walruses serving with the Royal Navy and Commonwealth forces.
Supermarine Seagull V/Walrus 1 (L2301/2) [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]
The prototype Seagull V was fitted with a Bristol Pegasus radial engine housed in a nacelle slung from the centre section of the upper wing [photograph - above] and powered a four-blade propeller in a pusher configuration. The RAAF placed an order for twenty four Seagull Vs in August 1934, some of which were still in service as late as 1943. In May 1935 the Air Ministry placed an order for twelve Seagull Vs and the first production Walrus, serial number K5772, flew for the first time on the 18th March 1936 with the New Zealand division of the Royal Navy on HMS Achilles (later a victor of the Battle of the River Plate). In July 1936 the Air Ministry replaced an additional order for 168 aircraft, however, Supermarine lacked the capacity to build these aircraft alongside the 310 Spitfires ordered in the previous June and so production was sub-contracted to Saunders Roe.
The wings were of the same size as on the Seagull II, but with the number of struts reduced from twelve to eight, and the engine carried on the inner four struts. The open cockpit of the Seagull II was replaced with a enclosed cockpit. The lower wings were set in the shoulder position with a stabilising float mounted under each one, with its horizontal tail-surfaces being positioned high on the tail-fin. The wings could be folded on ship, giving a stowage width of 17 ft 11 in (5.5 m). The control column was not a permanent fixture [photograph - right] but could be unplugged from either of two sockets at floor level and when control was passed from the pilot to co-pilot or vice-versa the control column would simply be unplugged and handed over. Armament usually consisted of two Vickers K machine guns, one in each of the "open" positions in the nose and rear fuselage; with the capability of carrying 760 lb (345 kg) of bombs or depth charges mounted beneath the lower wings. The Walrus was stressed for catapult launching (amazingly for such an ungainly-looking aircraft the Walrus could perform aerobatics manoeuvres e.g. it could be looped) and the type saw service in almost every theatre of war on capital ships and cruisers. It was the first amphibious aircraft in the world to be launched by catapult with a full military load.
During WW2 the Walrus saw service in British home waters, the Mediterranean and the Far East. The aircraft from HMS Renown and HMS Manchester were used during the battle of Cape Spartivento of 27th November 1940 and that of HMS Gloucester during the battle of Cape Matapan on 29th March 1941, but a combination of the presence of carrier borne aircraft and the development of radar spotting meant that the Walrus wasn’t needed in the spotting role. In fact the Walrus very rarely carried out the role it had been originally designed for. During the campaigns in Norway and East Africa it was used as a combat aircraft, even performing some ground attack and bombing sorties. It was also used on anti-submarine patrols and for convoy protection both on Atlantic and Russian convoys. The type is credited with sinking or damaging at least five enemy submarines during the war. They were also used as reconnaissance aircraft during the invasion of Madagascar in the spring 1942 and during Operation Torch. The Irish Air Corps used the Walrus as a maritime patrol aircraft during the Irish Emergency of WW2.
Walrus L2301 was built by Supermarine at Woolston in 1939 for the Fleet Air Arm. However, before delivery to the Fleet Air Arm L2301, along with L2302 and L2303, were delivered on the 24th February 1939 to the Irish Army Air Corps as maritime patrol aircraft. Unfortunately the hull of L2301 was seriously damaged due to a forced landing in heavy seas, as a result of engine failure, when the three were being delivered. L2301 remained in the Irish Army Air Corps hangars at Baldonnel because spares from Supermarine were unobtainable due to wartime demands. Following a bad landing by L2302 at Baldonnel during the summer of 1940 the hull of L2302 and the wings of L2301 were joined together make a composite aircraft. Confusingly, the composite Walrus was given the original code number of L2301 i.e. N18 by the Irish Army Air Corps. During 1943 four Irish nationals stole L2301/2 and attempted to fly to Cherbourg to join the Luftwaffe but were intercepted by RAF Spitfires and escorted into St Eval. L2301/2 and its crew returned under guard to Ireland. On the 22nd August 1945 L2301/2 was sold to Aer Lingus but does not appear to have been used by them and was put up for sale in November 1946. L2301/2 was bought the next month by Wing Commander R.G. Kellet of 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron RAuxAF as a squadron hack (£150 paid) and was used as such until 1949. Discovered in 1963 on a dump in Oxfordshire and bought for £5 by the Historic Aircraft Preservation Society L2301/2 was handed over to the museum in January 1964. With only the hull of 2301/2 surviving, restoration was started in 1964 by the Fleet Air Arm apprentices based at HMS Condor RNAS Arbroath in East Angus, Scotland. The aircraft, now referred to as the “Arbroath Walrus,” entered the museum on the 6th December 1966.
By the end of 1943 the ship-born Walrus had been phased out and in the last years of the war the RAF became the main operator of the type in the air-sea rescue role. 276 Squadron was the first to get the type, using it alongside longer range land planes. The downed airmen would be spotted by fast fighter aircraft; supplies dropped from Avro Ansons and the pickup being made by the Walrus. At least 1,000 British and Allied airmen were rescued by the Walrus with most coming from RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF 8th Air Force.
Supermarine Seagull V/Walrus 1 (A2-4) [@ RAF Hendon]
A total of 746 Walrus were built in three major variants: the metal-hulled Seagull V and Walrus I (555 were produced, 285 by Supermarine and 270 by Saunders-Roe) and the wooden-hulled Walrus II (a total of 191 were produced by Saunders-Roe). The wooden-hulled Walrus II was heavier than the Walrus I, but was easier to repair and didn’t use any of the limited supplies of light alloys. Most of the Walrus IIs were used by training units, where their lower performance didn’t matter but the ease with which they could be repaired did. Walrus P5706 was delivered on lend-lease loan in 1942 to Russia. It went out as deck cargo on SS Ocean Freedom in an Arctic Convoy to the Archangel area, where it was used by the Russians for operational purposes. In September 1945 Walrus W3016 was sent to the Egyptian Navy as N3016. The very last Royal Navy Walrus, P5656, was finally scrapped in 1956 having flown for the first time in 1939.
Supermarine Seagull V/Walrus 1 (A2-4) [@ RAF Hendon]
A2-4 was built by Supermarine at Woolston for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). First flown from Southampton Water on the 3rd December 1935 and subsequently dismantled, crated and transported to Australia. Brought on RAAF charge on the 21st February 1936 at 1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton, Victoria, A2-4 was initially allocated to 101 (Fleet Co-Operation) Flight, Point Cook, for training duties. On the 20th April 1936 A2-4 was transferred to 5 (Fleet Co-Operation) Squadron at Richmond before being embarked on the cruiser HMAS Australia on the 8th February 1937 for exercises with Royal Australian Navy surface ships in the Jervis Bay area. A2-4 made its first catapult launch from HMAS Australia on the 9th February 1937. During the remainder of 1937 A2-4 performed a variety of duties including surveying the Northern Australian coastline, fisheries survey work and embarking on the modified Leander Class cruiser HMAS Sydney for a tour of the West Australia waters. A2-4 spent most of 1938 undergoing repairs following an accident on the evening of 22nd March when a camera port collapsed allowing water to enter the fuselage with the result that A2-4 was submerged and inverted in Jervis Bay, NSW, for some 18 hours before recovery. Placed in to storage A2-4 was allocated to 9 (Fleet Co-operation Squadron), Richmond, NSW, on the 8th August 1939. Transferred to 10 (Fleet Co-Operation) Squadron, Rathmines, on Lake Macquarie near Newcastle, NSW on the 12th September 1939, A2-4 was then transferred from 10 Squadron to Station Flight at 1 FTS, Point Cook, Victoria since 10 Squadron were posted to the UK to be trained on the Short Sunderland. On the 11th July 1940 A2-4 embarked on the light cruiser HMAS Perth and twice suffered extensive gunfire damage which need shore repair by Quantas at Rose Bay. After the second repair A2-4 returned to 9 Squadron and was modified in Nov 1940 for target towing duties. On the 1st February 1943 the drogue winch was removed and A2-4 continued with 9 Squadron, who were now based at Bowen, Queensland, in anti-submarine and co-operation duties with the US Army. Following an overall by Quantas in early 1944 A2-4 remained with 9 Squadron at Rathmines for communications duties although the Squadron were not flying the type anymore. On the 22nd March 1946 all RAAF Walrus/Seagull aircraft were declared surplus to requirements and stored but A2-4 continued to be flown. Finally on the 3rd October 1946 and after 1660 flying hours A2-4 was sold onto the private market. On the 27th January 1970 A2-4 suffered a major accident which finally ended the flying career. Following detailed negotiations the remains of A2-4 were finally acquired by the RAF museum and shipped back to the UK by the RAF in two loads using the Short Belfast aircraft of 53 Squadron in early 1973 for immediate restoration. Following three years of restoration A2-4 was finally placed on display in Australian camouflage and markings.
Supermarine Seagull V/Walrus 1 (HD874) [@ Royal Australian Air Force Museum]
HD874 was built by Supermarine and then shipped to Australia to be received by Qantas at Rose Bay, NSW, on the 14th September 1943 for reassembly. On the 13th December 1943 HD874 was assigned to 2 F.B.R.D. (Flying Boat Repair Depot) before entering service with 9 Squadron on the 17th December 1943. As Australia's only fleet co-operation squadron 9 Squadron operated amphibious aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy's heavy and light cruisers. The type was used to provide their parent ships with reconnaissance, anti-submarine protection, artillery spotting and general support. 9 Squadron was disbanded at RAAF Base Rathmines on 31st December 1944. Damaged during a landing accident off Cairns during June 1944 HD874 was sent to Qantas for repairs on the 18th July 1944. After repair HD874 was assigned to 2 F.B.R.D. on the 7th August 1944 before transfer to 8 Communications Unit on the 26th August 1944 for use as a target tug after conversion. On the 22nd April 1945 HD874 was transferred to 1 F.B.R.D. at Lake Boga in Victoria for overhaul and storage. During 1947 HD874 was transferred to the Maintenance Squadron at Rathmines for servicing before being issued to the RAAF's Antarctic Flight in the October and transported by HMAS Labuan to Heard Island for the National Antarctica Research Expedition. HD874 made only one flight in the Antarctic before being damaged beyond repair during a storm on the 21st December 1947and abandoned on Heard Island. Recovered by the RAAF during March 1980 the hull of HD874 was transported to RAAF Museum at Point Cook for restoration and display. The photographs of HD874 are by the kind permission of Alf Batchelder of the RAAF museum.