No. 10 Squadron (RAAF) att RAF Coastal Command

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About This Unit

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During WW2, 10 Squadron and its sister RAAF 'Article XV 461 Squadron, served as part of the RAF's Coastal Command operating the enormous Short Sunderland four-engined long range patrol flying boat.

When war broke out on 3 September 1939, a party of Australian personnel who were already in England to take delivery of new Short Sunderland flying boats became No 10 Squadron RAAF attached to Royal Air Force Coastal Command.  10 Squadron remained based in the SW United Kingdom to take its place as part of the RAF Coastal Command and flew anti U-Boat operations for most of the rest of the war.

They were the sole RAAF presence in the European theatre until 1940 when the first Australians trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme began to arrive in England.

The Australian and Allied airmen of RAF Coastal Command flew long and tiring patrols from bases in Britain such as Pembroke Dock in Wales and Mount Batten at Plymouth in England. They flew over miles of ocean to hunt and destroy German submarines – the U boats – which were taking a terrible toll of merchant ships in the convoys bringing vital supplies to Britain.

The design and construction of the flying boats gave great flexibility.  The Sunderland's cavernous hull could carry a lot of people and they were at times used for mid sea rescue.  Their great endurance also meant that their crews had to remain vigilant.  No less than eleven crew flew a standard mission. Sunderlands were on many occasions 'jumped' or 'bounced' (meaning attacked) by German long range fighters and although they gave a good account of themselves, the fact that  they flew alone meant they did not have the advantage of mutual defence. They did have the respect of their opponents who nicknamed the big aircraft "Flying Porcupines" because they bristled with defensive armament.

The big aircraft were vulnerable even when not on flying operations.  When moored near their base, flying boats were vulnerable to bad weather, high winds and rough seas.  They could drag their anchor, swing into wind and sustain damage in poor conditions.   They literally were "flying boats' and behaved like aircraft in the air, and like boats with a lot of side area when on the water.

The perils of night operations and in poor visibility were particularly acute.  Navigational instruments were in their infancy and of course Britain existed under blackout conditions so navigation and let down at night in poor visibility were dangerous undertakings as evidenced in this account of an incident that claimed an aircraft and six crew members.  Sunderland lost (aircrewremembered.com)

No 10 Squadron RAAF, based mainly at Mount Batten at Plymouth, flew throughout the war and was the only RAAF squadron to have remained on continuous active service during World War II. In June 1945, the squadron ceased operations and formally withdrew from RAF Coastal Command. It was officially disbanded on 26 October 1945. No 10 Squadron RAAF had flown 4,553,860 nautical miles, undertaken 3177 operational flights and had sunk five submarines.

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.

10 Squadron RAAF persists to the present day, and is based at South Australia's RAAF Edinburgh 'super base', equipped with Lockheed Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft, a design that has rendered nearly 40 years excellent service as at 2014.

 

 

(C) Steve Larkins Jan 2015

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Stories

Little known story of the first RAAF casualties of WW2 - 10 SQUADRON RAAF

In 1977 a RAAF officer named Kevin Baff was researching a book that was later published (1982) as "Maritime is Number 10", a wartime history of No. 10 Squadron RAAF.

In the course of his research he came upon the story of a most remarkable clandestine operation with which No. 10 Squadron had been tasked in the northern summer of 1940, just as France was falling to the Germans. He pieced together the circumstances around the ill-fated mission which had been a mystery since the Supermarine Walrus left on its clandestine mission from the slipway at Mount Batten at 0255 hours on the morning of the 18th June 1940.

The background to the operation was the task of extracting the family of French Under Secretary of War General Charles de Gaulle, from Carantec in Brittany in the face of the German advance. The details were not known by other than a very few people.

"In common with other squadrons of Coastal Command, No. 10 Squadron was tasked to conduct various 'special flights' during this period of tension when attempts were being made to dissuade France from surrendering. At 2100 hours (9.00pm) on the 17th, the Mount Batten Duty Controller was contacted by a staff officer working for the Commander in Chief Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Naismit, VC, Commander Pinset requested that a "float plane be made available' to fly a Captain Hope of the British Army to a place on the north coast of Brittany."

As it happened a Supermarine Walrus seaplane of No.15 Communications flight was loaned to No.10 Squadron for this task because one of its (No 10 Squadron) pilots was a very experienced pilot in the type (Flight Lieutenant John "Dinger" Bell).

"Even the Commanding Officer of No.10 Squadron was not privy to the purpose of the mission. "I understand 'Winnie C' (the Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill) had something to do with it ", Charles Pearce, (the then CO) recalled years later."

Ted Cocks, Duty NCO, recalled to Kevin Baff that they made some hasty modifications to the Walrus fitting it with a defensive machine gun in accordance with the orders.

"Chas Harris, "Dinger" Bell and the RAF airman boarded the aircraft and I was standing with Des Douglas as the aircraft taxied to the head of the slipway. At this time the fourth person appeared. This chap, in civvies, was well dressed in a brown suit, brown shoes (possibly brogues) and carrying a small tan attache case. I think he carried a hat. He climbed on board the aircraft and as they ran down the slip I noticed the open exhaust ports flaming and said to Des "Nice target!"

"At the time I thought they were putting in an agent. For reason which I cannot recall, we believed they were landing in a river or an estuary near Brest".

What happened over the next few hours will probably never be known conclusively.

"At approximately 0400 hours, a Frenchwoman living in a small farming village at Keranou near Ploudaniel noticed a loud noise overhead as she went about her morning chores. Further investigation revealed an aircraft on fire and flying very low over the village. Madame Marie Yvonne Pengani recalled that the Walrus was 'coming from Ploudier and we heard that at a place called Valeury someone had shot at them.'"

There was a thick enveloping fog ;ying over the countryside that morning and Flight Lieutenant Bell was obviously experiencing some difficulty selecting a field in which to carry out a forced landing. He overflew a few fields before crashing at Kebiquet less than a mile from from Keranou. Unfortunately although the field Bell touched down on was cultivated and fairly level, the Walrus hit a small embankment, nosed over and broke apart".

"Robert Kerbrat, 13 years old at the time, recalled that 'the crashed airplane was broken in two. Certain parts were still burning and, when I first saw the wreckage, the four aviators' bodies had been taken out of the cockpit by close-by neighbours."

Bell and Harris were the RAAF's first war time casualties since its formation in 1921.

Compiled by Steve Larkins, January 2017

Reference

"Maritime is Number Ten" Flight Lieutenant K.C. Baff RAAF, Griffin Press Netley SA 1983 ISBN 0 9 5923960

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