Photos The Flying Porcupines, 1939-45


MI.Net Member
Feb 20, 2020
From their base at Mount Batten, Plymouth, Australians of No. 10 and 461 Squadrons RAAF spent most of the Second World War in a desperate battle to keep Britain supplied with food and war materials. The ongoing struggle was fought mainly against German submarines whose task was to destroy convoys of merchant ships as they travelled to and from Britain. The German submarines, also known as U-boats (“undersea boats”), posed a constant threat to the supply lines that connected Britain to overseas markets.

No. 10 Squadron was in Britain before the outbreak of war to be equipped with the new Short Sunderland flying Boats. It was joined by 461 Squadron in April 1942 also equipped with Sunderlands which were nicknamed the “flying porcupine” by the German fighter pilots who encountered them, due to the large number of machine guns they were armed with. Although their main role was to locate and destroy enemy submarines, the flying boats of the 10 and 461 Squadrons proved to be equally useful for air-sea rescue and transport missions.

A hundred and sixty-one members of 10 Squadron, which had the distinction of being the longest serving RAAF squadron of the Second World War, lost their lives in the ceaseless struggle to keep Britain’s supply lines open. Sixty-four Australians of 461 Squadron similarly lost their lives.


Four of the original Sunderland captains of 10 Squadron RAAF checking flight plans prior to a mission over the Atlantic (AWM 128163)


A Sunderland of Coastal Command keeps watch over a convoy as evening falls over the Atlantic (AWM SUK14445)


Leading Aircraftman Basil Thornton acting as side gunner in a Sunderland of 10 Squadron RAAF based at Mount Batten (AWM SUK15151)


A German U-boat is sunk in the North Atlantic by a Coastal Command Liberator of 120 Squadron RAAF (AWM SUK11338)


Crewmembers of a 461 Squadron RAAF Sunderland returning to base after sinking a U-boat in the Atlantic (AWM SUK11730)


Maintenance crews of 10 Squadron RAAF haul a Sunderland ashore into a hanger for overhaul (AWM SUK14702)

A Sunderland of 461 Squadron RAAF is forced to land on ground due to damage to the hull sustained during a rescue mission in the Bay of Biscay (AWM 045299)


Crewmembers of a Sunderland flying boat squadron enjoying an in-flight meal (AWM 003496)


Short Sunderland Mk V in flight


Sergeant Patrick McCombie, a flight engineer of the Royal Australian Air Force, in his bunk on board a Short Sunderland of No. 10 Squadron RAAF at Mount Batten, Plymouth, Devon.


The Frazer-Nash FN13 rear turret of a Sunderland

A mooring compartment was situated in the nose of the Sunderland, containing anchor, winch, boat-hook and ladder. The front turret was designed to slide back, enabling the crew to secure the aircraft to a buoy, as demonstrated here.


A crew member of a Short Sunderland Mark I of No. 10 Squadron RAAF, washing up in the galley during a flight.


WAAF engine mechanics servicing a Bristol Pegasus engine of a Short Sunderland

View of a deployed bomb rack


Bomb rack from the inside


A Short Sunderland GR Mark V of No. 205 Squadron RAF Detachment, moored off Direction Island, Cocos Islands, about to be refuelled from a petrol tanker embarked on board a Tank Landing Craft

Sunderland EK573/P of No. 10 Squadron RAAF 'unsticks' after picking up three survivors from a Wellington shot down in the Bay of Biscay, 27 August 1944.


U-426, a Type VIIC submarine, down by the stern and sinking, after being attacked by a Short Sunderland flying boat.


Sunderland Mark II, showing ASV Mark II "stickleback" antennas in front of the tail


Two gunners in a Short Sunderland Mark I sit at their positions with .303 Vickers K-type machine guns, mounted in the upper fuselage hatches.

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