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WW2 - Sunderlands - My father

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WW2 - Sunderlands - My father

Old 11th Nov 2019, 22:49
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WW2 - Sunderlands - My father

This remembrance season I find myself thinking - and wondering - about my late father and his time with the RAF.

He was a farmer's only son and thus not called up.

He volunteered to join towards the end of the war - of course no one knew it was coming to an end - partly because he didn't want to inherit the farm and joining was a means of escape. And of course there was a desire to "do his bit".

He was allocated to Coastal Command and trained to be a flight engineer on Sunderlands. (I recently came across some of his lecture notes which are fascinating).

He flew for many boring hours patrolling the empty grey sea, but was not involved in any action as such. Again, at the time he wasn't to know that was how it would be. He did recognize how lucky he had been.

I was born shortly after VE day.

But the war didn't end at VE day. His squadron was chosen to go to the Far East - I don't know exactly where - and was sent somewhere in Scotland to be trained. The technique that was being developed was to use a Sunderland to entice an enemy fighter onto its tail, dive steeply towards the sea to pull out at the last minute. The fighter, being much less manoeuvrable than the Sunderland, would plunge into the water. At least that was the theory!

My father came home for embarkation leave, and before long had to catch the train back to Scotland, fully expecting never to see his family again. I shudder to imagine what that parting was like.

But no sooner had he settled in his seat and the train started to move than someone ran alongside and jumped onboard panting and spluttering that the Japanese had surrendered. Dad fully believed that the atom bomb saved his life.

I am curious to know whether the gambit of leading a fighter down into the sea or the ground with a more manoeuvrable aircraft has any credibility. Does this story ring a bell with anyone? Was this ever tried? I rather suspect that whoever dreamed it up did not have to try it himself!

It is possible that it was a leg pull but I doubt it; I heard the story many times and although Dad was a great leg puller his jokes were short, sharp and original; the war was by no means a laughing matter.

Last edited by Davidsa; 11th Nov 2019 at 22:51. Reason: paragraph return omitted
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 01:46
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I am curious to know whether the gambit of leading a fighter down into the sea or the ground with a more manoeuvrable aircraft has any credibility. Does this story ring a bell with anyone? Was this ever tried? I rather suspect that whoever dreamed it up did not have to try it himself!
Sunderlands used to hug the sea because it offered them protection, they were bristling with armament and were nicknamed the flying porcupines by the Germans, their one vulnerability was the lower hull.. So yes I could believe it.

The Sunderland was hit many times and some crew members were wounded but they managed to shoot down two, damage another and return home safely. Normal tactic for a Sunderland pilot when attacked by enemy fighters was to descend to water-level to protect the vulnerable hull from being riddled with holes and fight it out.

Your father sounds like he was a fine man.

Short Sunderland- The flying porcupine | Let Let Let - Warplanes
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 09:18
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My local museum may be interested in copies of the lecture notes. https://www.sunderlandtrust.com/collections/
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 09:35
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Davidsa, Any idea which squadron he served with?
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 11:29
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Squadron

Squadron number was two hundred and something - 200, 201, 210 ... or etc.
He was certainly at Pembroke Dock for some of the time.
And in Scotland on the Moray Firth I think.
Sorry I can't be more specific.
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 13:06
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Originally Posted by Davidsa View Post
Squadron number was two hundred and something - 200, 201, 210 ... or etc.
He was certainly at Pembroke Dock for some of the time.
And in Scotland on the Moray Firth I think.
Sorry I can't be more specific.
Probably 204 Squadron
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Old 12th Nov 2019, 13:15
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Originally Posted by David Layne View Post
Probably 204 Squadron
I'd have said more likely to be 201 or 228
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 11:31
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I think 204 was in Dakar for the final part of the War
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 16:50
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Sadly no data, logbooks or anything (apart from photos and medals) but my late FiL was a Nav on 201 at Pembroke. ‘His’ Sunderland is NS-Z at Hendon, and he was invited to the unveiling. Eventually ordered back to his civil occupation (he was originally exempted) as a Civil Engineer to help rebuild UK. F/O Jack Gillett, anyone?
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 17:44
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One of the Navs on our Canberra outfit had been 2nd Nav on Sunderlands in the Far East. As 2nd Nav, he was the galley slave, expected to cook for the crew during sorties. Because of the heat, he cooked in shorts and vest; until the day they passed through a very active frontal system and the aircraft was turned almost inverted. Two fried eggs from the skillet landed on his chest, leaving him with a couple of noticeable scars.......
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 19:53
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My late FiL was apparently a renowned cook on Sunderlands, Not heroic, but a nice memoire!
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 21:46
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They probably ate better than they would have on some airlines today. I wonder if any recipe books were provided, or there were any cookery lectures?
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Old 14th Nov 2019, 23:43
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One of the first Amendment Lists I carried out as a Flt Cdt was to QRs, removing all references to Hard Lying Allowances for Flying Boat Crews. In certain sea and wind conditions they were required to start up, cast off, and taxy into wind (usually all night) until conditions improved to enable re-mooring. I remember thinking at the time that it marked the end of an era...
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 12:43
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Sounds horrific! Could have been for 8, 10, 12 hours, and then maybe fly a patrol the next day?
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 17:04
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Some 30+ years ago I had a long chat with Gp Capt K R (Jasper) Coates, an interwar flying boat pilot (Southamptons and other types) who had commanded (I think) 201 Sqn and the Sunderland OTU at Alness. He told me that the most common reason for rear gunners failing the course was that they couldn't cook...
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 18:08
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The crew for a Sunderland on long patrols could be u to 12, so cooking would be a long chore!
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 18:16
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230 Sqn has an entry in their wartime F540 about one of their Sunderlands being attacked by some Italian fighters in the Med. They certainly shot at least one down, and one was listed as "flew into the sea unable to cope with the Sunderland's evasive manoeuvres" (or words to that effect) so perhaps some merit in the

" The technique that was being developed was to use a Sunderland to entice an enemy fighter onto its tail, dive steeply towards the sea to pull out at the last minute. The fighter, being much less manoeuvrable than the Sunderland, would plunge into the water. At least that was the theory! "

tactic!
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 18:55
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I find that “less manoeuvrable” concept slightly strange, TBH.

Yes, if the fighter is barrelling in at multi-knots and faced with a sharp evasive move at 20ft amsl, I could see it going wrong. But surely the fighter isn’t in close formation? It’s a few hundred feet away, overtaking relatively slowly given the target, and pumping metal and largely matching speed? Or is this statement implying ‘target fixation’?

I defer to experts to clarify ... I find it difficult to express myself in this context.
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Old 15th Nov 2019, 21:33
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I remember my father referring to "Alness". He could well have been in squadron 201;
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Old 16th Nov 2019, 11:28
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Originally Posted by Davidsa View Post
I remember my father referring to "Alness". He could well have been in squadron 201;
The references to Invergordon and Alness are possibly related to time spent on No.4 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit, who trained Sunderland crews out of Invergordon during that period
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