Sunderland Over Far-Eastern Seas, An RAF Flying Boat Navigator’s Story

B1603

The author provides a personal insight into what is now a lost world. He describes operations and the Sunderland aircraft, together with the way of life. There are black and white images through the text and two colour plate sections.

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NAME: Sunderland Over Far-Eastern Seas, An RAF Flying Boat Navigator’s Story
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
FILE: R1603
Date: 260510
AUTHOR: Group Captain Derek K. Empson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: Hard back
PAGES: 272
PRICE: GB £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: RAF, post-WWII, 1950s, Far East,Seas of East Asia, flyingboats, Short Sunderland, end of Empire, Korean War, Malaya, Malayan Emergency, counter insurgency
ISBN: 978-1-84884-163-5
IMAGE: B1603
LINKS: http://tinyurl.com/
DESCRIPTION: Some readers will be surprised to find that flying boats were still in military use in the early 1950s. In fact, the flying boat and the amphibian have continued to be used around the world in small numbers. Before 1939 the flying boat was the most popular form of long range aircraft for the simple reason that it was much easier to establish flying boat stations at sea ports, on rivers and on lakes, than it was to build landing fields that would be used relatively infrequently. There was also a belief that a long range aircraft, at a time when aircraft were not reliable, might need to put down in an emergency and that required a flying boat hull if the route was over water. As aircraft such as the DC2 and DC3 became available, they provided reliable service and were more efficient than a flying boat. Flying became an increasingly popular form of travel and landing grounds were established around the world. During the 1939-1945 World War, land planes became larger and more capable. The Lancaster bomber proved that it could carry a ten ton bomb load for long distances and was eventually employed as a maritime patrol aircraft. At the end of WWII, large numbers of bombers and transport aircraft became available and were converted to long range transport aircraft, while the development of aircraft carriers meant that Britain and the US were able to take aircraft to sea and use carrier planes from small carriers in hunter killer groups to hunt submarines, rather than relying on long range maritime patrol aircraft. All of these factors, and the development of jet aircraft, reduced the attractions of flying boats. However, Britain, the US and Russia still had flying boats built during WWII and continued to spend some resources on further development. For Britain the flying boat soldiered on in the form of the Short Sunderland that had been developed as a military aircraft from the Short Empire flying boats built as passenger aircraft. The Supermarine Walrus amphibian also continued in use with the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm after 1945, mainly in the SAR role, and the FAA began replacing the Walrus during the Korean War with helicopters. The Sunderland continued to prove attractive East of India, where they could operate over the Seas of East Asia and the Pacific, areas with smaller numbers of landing fields ashore and with large over-water distances to travel. Flying boat stations were often primitive and maintenance was carried out afloat, the flying boats being supported by small fleets of motor boats, rather than being brought ashore to discharge and take on cargoes and passengers, or to be repaired and serviced. Only the larger stations were able to fit beaching trolleys to bring the Sunderlands ashore for maintenance. For those RAF Squadrons that continued to operate Sunderlands, life was little different than that before 1939. The author has written an engaging account of his service as a navigator on Sunderland flying boats operated in the Far East during the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency. This is the story of a young man living aboard a flying boat and flying from Ceylon to Malaya, Singapore, Bornio, Hong Kong, the Phillippines and Okinawa, visiting military bases and primitive backwaters of Empire, much as his predecessors would have done before 1939. The author provides a personal insight into what is now a lost world. He describes operations and the Sunderland aircraft, together with the way of life. There are black and white images through the text and two colour plate sections. One section with colour charts and maps, the second providing rare colour images of the Sunderland and its internal arrangement with equipment carried. This is a book which will appeal to the aviation enthusiast and those who follow military history, but it will also appeal to a wider readership in providing a view of society at the time through a young man’s eyes. The publisher has once again managed to capture a slice of experience before it is lost. It is always very valuable for aviators to write down their personal accounts because official records fail to capture a flavour of what it was realy like to operate aircraft that survive only in very small numbers of a few museums. Accounts of the operations in the Far East during the early 1950s are particularly valuable because it is section of history that has been sadly neglected.

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