MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #26 Supermarine Walrus by Jane Morton
The Walrus doesn’t look like air is its natural element. It’s an amphibian, but even the wheels look like an afterthought. No, it’s all about water; its star sign is Aquarius.
Is that surprising? It has a bilge pump, it carries an anchor. From its looks, you’d say Reginald Mitchell spent his holidays on the Norfolk Broads and was inspired to graft bi-plane wings and a pusher engine onto a cabin cruiser. It was intended for catapult launch from battleships, so he built it like one. You can loop a Walrus, but first check there’s no seawater in the bilges.
The small bomb load proved enough to sink a U-boat. But just as the Walrus was not quite an airplane, it was not quite a warrior. When the better, faster and meaner came along, it was given over to air-sea rescue. It found its true calling in saving, not killing.
For the half-drowned, who know hypothermia isn’t far off, a Shagbat was a blanket, a thermos of hot tea laced with rum, it was life. And when the weight of ten Americans from a ditched B-17 couldn’t be lifted, the pilot just pointed the bow towards England, and taxied home.
Jane Morton is a coder involved in an East-Anglian start-up technology company, and a sometime snowboard instructor. She likes flying boats and airships, especially British ones
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The wheels do look like an afterthought but in reality Mitchell was persuaded to make them close flush in the wings a novelty at the time at least partly for aero dynamic reasons apparently.
Absolutely wonderful aircraft. My favourite too. What else can land on a carrier, land on the water, taxi to the shore, up an embankment, park in a hangar, use conventional runways, be catapaulted off a battleship or cruiser at 6Gs and loop? Not to mention the lives it saved! There’s still a place for a modern version chasing waves in Indonesian, Micronesian and Polynesian archipelagos and atolls – imagine the freedom! The Walrus was developed into the Sea Otter. Also amazing were the massive Sunderlands which were still doing the Sydney-Lord Howe route as late as 1974 for Ansett.
Delighted to see your interest in these amazing planes. My father served on the HMS Belfast (A Canadian ‘helping out’ 😉 ) as the Belfast had these until removed during her rebuild. I’m sure you are aware of there many uses but here was one that was eventually ‘banned’ by the admiralty in a warning to the Walrus pilots… My father escorted the arctic convoys and when near norway German attack aircraft arrived. Among these were German fighter aircraft. The Walrus planes were often up looking out for subs. The Walrus was VERY vulnerable to air attack but the enterprising pilots developed a strategy that worked nearly 100% of the time… Attract the fighter’s attention, remain just below 1500 feet and when you see the fighter turn towards you dive hard as steeply as possible under full power. At the last moment pull up hard to bring the aircraft nearly to a stall about 60 to 100 feet off the ocean. This abrupt change always caught the fighter pilot off guard and he always misjudged his altitude while in pursuit. The fighter just simply plowed into the ocean. The practice was banned when Walrus pilots wanted ‘kill’ credits for these fighters. Thought you’d find this an interesting tidbit of Walrus history. Cheers, Martin