Can you imagine a lumbering Walrus departing the catapult of HMS Exeter at an alarmingly low speed? Though gunnery spotting was the main role, the little flying boats were probably most useful for flying in groceries to their mother ships. Photo presumably taken in a US port in 1938. Also see our other photo of K8343, visiting Vancouver, BC. Photo from: Naval History and Heritage Command
A Walrus at an airshow on the Candian west coast. Some searching reveals that K8343 / 769 and K8341 / 780 were on board the British cruiser Exeter which visited Victoria, BC in the summer of 1937. K8343 was apparently no longer assigned to the ship at the time of the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939. Photo by: James Crookall / City of Vancouver Archives
Developed to be ship-borne catapult launched this type was known as the Walrus in RAF and the Seagull V in RAAF service and went on to save the lives of many ditched airmen. This particular aircraft arrived Down Under in 1936 and served for many years before being transferred to the civilian register in 1951 as VH-ALB, before being repatriated to the UK in 1971 for restoration and eventual display.
Built to a UK order but shipped to Australia and delivered to Qantas on 14 September 1943 for assembly. Allocated to 2 Flying Boat Repair Depot, Rathmines, on 13 December, then to 9 Squadron on the 17th. In August 1944 allocated to 8 Comms Unit until put in storage in April 1945. Transferred to the Department of External Affairs on 2 October 1947, for use in Antarctica named 'Snow Goose' and operated by RAAF crews. Wrecked in a gale on Heard Island on 5 January 1948. Wreckage recovered in 1980.
It was a surprise on my first visit to Camden to see a Walrus. Did not know such a rare aircraft existed in Australia. It was explained this was not a Walrus but its predecessor, the almost identical pre-World War II Seagull V. In 1969 VH-ALB was restored with an intention of flying it in the London-Sydney air race in December that year. It did not make the start line. Then on January 27, 1970, it crashed at Taree, New South Wales. The battered aircraft was sold to the RAF Museum, where it has been restored as a static display.