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WW2 and BOAC


WW2 service

[046959] 'Bristol' in camouflage

magnify Flying boat wearing camouflage
The outbreak of war in 1939 spelt the end of commercial flying in Europe for some years. The RAF (Royal Air Force) initially had to rely on what transport aircraft they could requisition. For this purpose several types of aircraft were obtained from Imperial Airways amongst them were: the Short 'C' Class and new model 'G' Class flying boats and the Mercury  sea plane. The Empire flying boats were ideally suited to their assigned role. They were fitted with gun turrets and used for long-range reconnaissance duties and ocean patrols. Sadly few of these aircraft survived to return to commercial operation after the war. 

One member of the Empire  aircraft family was designed specifically for military service. The Short S 25 or 'Sunderland' type was produced during the war when flying boat development was at its peak. Large flying boats were being used by all sides in combat and the 'Sunderland' can be said to be the most famous flying boat. Unlike its commercial sisters the aircraft couldn't be called luxurious but it carried seven crew members in relative comfort, with bunks and a galley kitchen with a stove. The Mark I Sunderland  and the later models made an invaluable contribution to the British antisubmarine effort. As well as providing ocean patrols it could rescue survivors of torpedoed ships and as its fire power increased it became a hard to kill machine that could destroy U-boats using depth charges and radar. 

For Supermarine the war years were a busy time. They were directed by the Government to concentrate on production of Spitfires. Both Saunders Roe and J. Samuel White factories produced aircraft or their components as part of the war effort. Saunders Roe took over production of the Supermarine Walrus  design. After the heavy bombing of Supermarine's factory at Woolston, production dispersed to satellite factories that had been requisitioned for the duration of the war. The RAF base at Calshot didn't suffer any direct hits in the heavy bombing raids the Germans made.  The base was a centre for craft built by the British Power Boat Company and it carried out maintenance for Coastal Command Squadrons. It played a vital role during the rescue operation at Dunkirk and for D Day it provided rescue cover. 

At Imperial Airways a number of changes occured during the war years that signalled the beginning of the end for flying boats in Southampton.  



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