The Supermarine Walrus was a single engine amphibious reconnaissance seaplane designed by RJ Mitchell, of Spitfire fame. It was originally designed for the Royal Australian Navy and designated the Seagull V, although it had little in common with older Seagull marks. The flexibility of the design proved attractive to the Royal Navy who eventually placed orders of their own for service on board cruisers and battleships.
Unlike most warship based aircraft, the Walrus was a flying boat design with the fuselage doubling as a hull. It was an awkward looking biplane design with a Pegasus II engine in ‘pusher’ configuration. The design also featured retractable wheels which allowed the Walrus to operate from land bases as well as ships.
By 1939 the Walrus was the standard reconnaissance plane aboard surface warships, serving around the world. British and Australian warships involved in anti-surface raider operations depended on the type to search for and interrogate merchantmen. It was a Walrus from HMS Cornwall which located the raider Pinguin in the Indian Ocean, eventually assisting in her destruction by providing gunfire spotting support to the cruiser. Force Z launched a number of scout Walruses during its ill-fated sortie into the South China Sea in December 1941.
Walruses were also used to recover pilots who had to ditch in the sea, most famously being used to recover RAF pilots during the Battle of Britain. They performed the same service for Royal Navy aircraft carriers throughout the Pacific War, landing on their decks despite lacking arrestor hooks – the type’s low landing speed meant that none was required.
Supermarine Walrus Specifications
|Supermarine Mk I Walrus|
|Powerplant||1x Bristol Pegasus VI (690hp)|
|Range||600 miles (internal)|
|Armament||2x Vickers K|
|Dimensions||37ft 7in (length)|
45ft 10in (wingspan)
15ft 3in (height)
|Wing Area||610 sq.ft.|