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Supermarine Walrus

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The Supermarine Walrus was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft designed by R. J. Mitchell and operated by the Fleet Air Arm. It also served with the Royal Air Force, RAAF, RNZN, RCAF, and RNZAF. Perhaps surprisingly it was the first British squadron-service aircraft to incorporate a fully-retractable main undercarriage, completely enclosed crew accommodation, and having an all-metal fuselage.[1]


The Walrus was initially developed for service from cruisers in response to a request from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and was originally called the Seagull V; although there was little resemblance to the earlier Supermarine Seagull III. It was designed to be launched from ship-borne catapults, and was the first amphibious aircraft in the world to be launched by catapult with a full military load.[2]

The lower wings of this biplane were set in the shoulder position with a stabilising float mounted under each one, with its horizontal tail-surfaces being positioned high on the tail-fin. The wings could be folded on ship, giving a stowage width of 17 ft 11 in (5.5 m). The single Bristol Pegasus VI radial engine was housed in a nacelle slung from the centre section of the upper wing and powered a four-blade propeller in pusher configuration. One of the more unusual characteristics of the aircraft was that the control column was not a fixed fitting in the usual way, but could be unplugged from either of two sockets at floor level. It became a habit for only one column to be in use; and when control was passed from the pilot to co-pilot or vice-versa, the control column would simply be unplugged and handed over.

Supermarine Walrus being lowered from HMS Rodney

As the Walrus was stressed to a level suitable for catapult-launching, rather surprisingly for such an ungainly-looking machine, it could be looped and bunted, whereupon any water in the bilges would make its presence felt. This usually discouraged the pilot from any future aerobatics on this type.

Armament usually consisted of two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns, one in each of the "open" positions in the nose and rear fuselage; with the capability of carrying 760 lb (345 kg) of bombs or depth charges mounted beneath the lower wings.

The RAAF ordered 24 examples directly off the drawing boards, under the Seagull V 'A2' designation, which were delivered for service from cruisers from 1935; followed by orders from the Royal Air Force with the first production Walrus, serial number K5772, flying on 16 March, 1936. It was also hoped to capitalise on the aircraft's successful exports to Japan, Spain, etc.

A total of 740 Walrus were built in three major variants: the metal-hulled Seagull V and Walrus I, and the wooden-hulled Walrus II. The Walrus was affectionately known as the "Shagbat" or sometimes "Steam-pigeon"; the latter name coming from the steam produced by water striking the hot Pegasus engine.

Operational history

The first Seagull V, A2-1, was handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1935, with the last, A2-24 delivered in 1937. The type served aboard HMA Ships Australia (MTO [Mediterranean Theatre of Operations]), Canberra (MTO, SWPA, lost at Guadalcanal in 1942), Sydney (MTO, SWPA, lost off the coast of Western Australia 1942), Perth and Hobart.

Walrus deliveries started in 1936 when the first example to be deployed was with the New Zealand division of the Royal Navy, on HMS Achilles (later a victor of the Battle of the River Plate). By the start of World War II the Walrus was in widespread use, and saw service in British home waters, the Mediterranean and the Far East. Walrus are credited with sinking or damaging at least five enemy submarines, while RAF use in home waters was mainly in the air-sea rescue role.

The Irish Air Corps used the Walrus as a maritime patrol aircraft during the Irish Emergency of World War II.


Seagull V
Original Metal-hull version.
Walrus I
Metal-hull version.
Walrus II
Wooden-hull version.


File:RNZAF Walrus NZ158.JPG
Supermarine Walrus, seaplane training flight of RNZAF

Military operators

Template:Country data Canada
Template:Country data Egypt

Civilian operators

  • Kenting Aviation[7]
  • Two aircraft were embarked on board of whaling ship Willem Barentsz

Surviving Aircraft

Four examples survive. Walrus W2718 (G/RNLI) is part of the collection of Solent Sky[8], an air museum in Southampton. The museum is endeavouring to restore the aircraft to flying condition.[9] Walrus HD874 is held by the Royal Australian Air Force Museum. It was in use with the RAAF's Antarctic flight when it was badly damaged by a storm on Heard Island in 1947. It was recovered in 1980, and restored between 1993 and 2002.

The RAF Museum has Seagull V A2-4, one of the original Australian aircraft that flew from several cruisers in the 1930s, including HMAS Sydney. Walrus L2301 is displayed at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton. This was one of the aircraft flown by the Irish Air Corps, before being bought back by the Fleet Air Arm after the war for use as a training aircraft.

Specifications (Supermarine Walrus)

File:9 Sqn (AWM 044443).jpg
A Seagull V embarked on an Australian light cruiser

Template:Aircraft specification

See also

Related development

Related lists



  1. Brown 1972, p. 25.
  2. Kightly and Wallsgrove 2004, p. 10.
  3. Brown 1972, p. 47.
  4. Brown 1972, p. 40.
  5. Kightly and Wallsgrove 2004, p. 116.
  6. Brown 1972, pp. 47-48.
  7. Kightly and Wallsgrove 2004, p. 128.
  8. Solent Sky Museum
  9. Project Walrus


  • Andrews, C.F. and Morgan, E.B. Supermarine Aircraft Since 1914. London: Putnam Books Ltd.,2nd revised edition 2003. ISBN 0-851-77800-3.
  • Brown, David. "Supermarine Walrus I & Seagull V Variants". Aircraft in Profile, Volume 11. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1972.
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Five: Flying Boats. London: Macdonald & Co.(Publishers) Ltd., 1962 (5th Impression 1972). ISBN 0-356-01449-5.
  • Hall, Alan W. "Aircraft in Detail-The Supermarine Walrus". Scale Aircraft Modelling Magazine, Vol.8 No.7, April 1986.
  • Kightly, James and Wallsgrove, Roger. Supermarine Walrus & Stranraer. Sandomierz, Poland/Redbourn, UK: Mushroom Model Publications, 2004. ISBN 83-917178-9-5.
  • Nicholl, Lt/Cdr George William Robert. The Supermarine Walrus: The Story of a Unique Aircraft. London, G.T. Foulis & Company, 1966.

External links

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Supermarine Walrus".