I think I have reached that time. I actually reached it a while ago, but the other day it struck me with great force. Now there are some things about which I am quite pleased. I am seventy four and one half years old and my hair has still not gone white. And I can still pour a whisky without spilling too much. But my joints are starting to make clicking sounds and grating noises when I try to bend them and I forget minor details of huge significance.
Now I like aeroplanes. When I was little we used to listen to “Simon Black in Coastal Command” on the radio. Ivan Southall’s novels were translated into French (where Simon Black in Coastal Command became Allo Controle, lci Radar), Swedish, Norwegian and Dutch, and adapted for radio in many countries. Coastal Command flew Sunderland Flying Boats and that led me to the other great flying boat of the second world war; the Catalina. Gwendoline of Reluctant Retiree fame has written a bit about Catalinas and their role on the Royal Australian Air Force so when I saw a bright Yellow flying boat with a pusher propeller down at the RAAF Museum in Point Cook I thought I would add a little to her stories.
So I went back to take some more photos and I asked to see the Caribou airplane. WRONG John! Wrong plane! The Caribou was parked out on the tarmac and that was not the plane I wanted to see. After a lot of back and forth chatter I realised that I meant Catalina not Caribou. Both made in Canada but I had a bad case of arthritis of the brain. The friendly Museum bloke took me to see the plane that I had described and it wasn’t a Caribou and it wasn’t a Catalina. I was wrong on both counts. It was a Walrus. So Gwen, this is my story of the Not-Catalina flying boat called a Walrus.
The very helpful volunteer told me how it was designed by R.J.Mitchell who also designed the Mosquito. Its was initially developed privately in response to a 1929 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) requirement for an aircraft to be catapult-launched from cruisers and the first one was completed in 1933. You can read a lot more by clicking on the link.
I wanted to see the engine and propeller but there was a serious stainless steel wire fence that stopped people walking where they shouldn’t. After the helpful volunteer and I had developed a deep and trusting relationship I asked him if there was any way I could go around to the back to take a decent photograph.
“No I am sorry that isn’t permitted. But I can’t stay chatting all day I have to go and make a cup of tea for the other fellows. But I’ll shut the door so you aren’t disturbed.”
He left, I stepped over the wire fence, walked around to the rear of the plane and took these;
I thought that the engine and propeller was a bit offline so when the very helpful bloke came back I asked him if I was seeing things and he told me that my eyesight was OK and that the engine is mounted 3 degrees off line because when the engine is running the back wash blows against the tail plane and rudder and causes the plane to yaw. This made taking off difficult when the plane was taking off from the water. So the 3 degrees offset countered this.
I don’t know if it is obvious but see what you think in this next shot.
Actually I think it looks quite obvious. I did stand directly in front of the nose and shot the photo straight down the line of the keel.
This particular plane was transferred from the RAAF to The Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions ANARE and ended in the Antarctic base on Heard Island. It was damaged one day in a storm when it was tied down at the base but it tried to fly all by its little self but didn’t and it got broke.
The comment in this photograph about the plane being able to do a loop is supposed to be because the structure was made strong enough to withstand the stressed of being catapulted from a ship.
My friendly mate told me that during the war in Europe the Walrus was principally used to pick up airman who had ditched in the English Channel. It is claimed that Walruses picked up over 1000 airmen during that time.
Anyway!! This doesn’t end here. I must have been on a roll because there were very few visitors that day and I wandered to another hangar and I saw another helpful attendant and I asked if there was anyway I could get into the enclosure to take a photo of a different plane (more of which to come) and while I was in there I spied what I had come for in the first place – A Catalina. Not complete – just the body. The museum has it all but hasn’t enough space to display it. The engines, wings and the rudder are stored away until such time as they have a bigger hangar.
Bye for now.