Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

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Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

Postby Philthy » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:11 pm

A mate of mine is in close contact with Capt Jack Gillies, brother of Ron Gillies of 10 Squadron RAAF, said to be responsible for initiating the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp conversion of the Sunderland. We are keen to get to the bottom of the conversion story as various versions have appeared over the years, not all of them consistent.

So - can anybody provide any firm, primary source, documented evidence of how these conversions came about? Was it a Shorts idea or a 10 Squadron idea? Or both? How much input did Shorts have to the 10 Squadron prototype conversion?

I'm not interested in published accounts unless they are backed up with detailed references to primary sources.

Any hard information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Philthy
Aeradio Operator John G. 'Johnnie' Walker, Karumba Flying Boat Base, 1938.
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Re: Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

Postby Pondskater » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:35 pm

Hi

Interesting one. It is a great story - but there is a fundamental question of why would approval be given for a squadron to build a prototype rather than a manufacturer. It is an odd situation and I suspect there are probably multiple reasons - Short Brothers' recent failure with the Sunderland IV design, their nationalisation having had a falling out with the Ministry all likely to have played a part in what would be seen as a snub.

From what i've dug out so far, it seems the request came from RAAF - ostensibly in connection to the delivery of Sunderlands to Australia. They didn't want the too overstretched Bristol engines but eyed the P&W enviously. Their experience with the Bristol engines would, obviously, have been from the frontline with 10 and 461 sqns RAAF based in the UK.

That their case was taken up by Coastal Command highlights the concerns the command had with the Bristol engines - and the lengthening delay in the Mk IV which was supposed to be their saviour.

Anyway, I think the core of the story is told in these pages - taken from AIR 2-859 in the National Archives. It is an Air Ministry file of correspondence concerning design and alterations to the Sunderland over quite a long period from 1939 to 1944.

Image

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Ok, so if the Air Ministry was told - via Coastal Command - that the RAAF wanted different engines on their Sunderlands and decided they would be of use for the RAF as well, then the question remains, where in the RAAF did the question originate. Did it come from the UK based squadrons and reach Coastal Command via RAAF HQ back home? There may be more in the Australian archives. But this is a start for discussion

AllanK
Last edited by Pondskater on Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

Postby Philthy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:03 pm

Allan,

That's terrific material that will take a while to digest properly. Thanks very much.

Don't forget that the RAAF in Australia also had some Pegasus experience, notably with the chartered Empire flying boats of 11 Squadron. Not, perhaps, directly relevant but when Qantas delivered the Catalinas for the RAAF in 1941 they were very impressed with the lack of oil thrown by the R-1830s compared with the Pegasii. No doubt the RAAF would have found the same.

I'll see what I might be able to dig up in the Australian Archives.

Thanks again,

Philthy
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Re: Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

Postby Pondskater » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:08 pm

And of course they also had some experience of the Sunderland III with 40 squadron's six aircraft. Although perhaps they were operating at different loading to the UK Coastal Command ?

Let me know how you get on - it would be really good to give a solid basis to this story. I'd be interested to hear more from Jack Gillies - eyewitnesses can be good primary source, if corroborated.

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Re: Sunderland Twin Wasp conversion

Postby Philthy » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:14 am

Allan,

Captain Jack himself did not fly Sunderlands, but was an airline pilot for many years. Unfortunately he's not very well at the moment, but he has always held his older brother in high regard and would like the definitive story of the Twin Wasp conversion to be told some day.

We're presently trying to find out whether Ron's family have any of his old records.

Regards,

Phil
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