The Supermarine Walrus owes its existence to R.J. Mitchell, the same aeronautical engineer who designed the Spitfire in its early stages.
In the early days of the Second World War in the Mediterranean, the Royal Air Force’s air-sea rescue (ASR) capabilities were small. The air fighting above Malta was serviced by motor launches, while most of the air fighting in the Western Desert occurred over land. That all changed with Operation Torch and Operation Husky.
In February 1943, No. 283 Squadron became the first RAF ASR squadron in the western Mediterranean. In anticipation of the invasion of Sicily, No. 284 Squadron formed in the United Kingdom and transited to Malta just in time for the assault. Both units flew the Walrus. With Allied aircraft flying to targets in Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy from North Africa, Malta, and Pantelleria, these ASR crews would be busy during the campaign.
In fact, according to Beyond Courage, aviation historian Norman Franks’s book on Walrus squadrons in the Mediterranean, these squadrons made 36 rescues (of Allied and Axis aircrews) between the end of fighting in North African and the end of fighting in Sicily. It must have given Allied aircrews some confidence to know that if they went down over water there was a chance of rescue.
Type: 3-4 seat amphibious reconnaissance aircraft
Powerplant: one 510kW (680hp) Bristol Pegasus VI radial engine
Performance: maximum speed 215km/h (135mph) at 1450m (4750ft); range 965km (600 miles); service ceiling 5650m (18,500ft); rate of climb 318 meters per minute (1050ft per minute)
Weights: empty 2220kg (4900lb); maximum take-off 3650kg (8050lb)
Wingspan: 14m (45ft 10in)
Length: 11.45m (36ft 7in)
Height: 4.6m (15ft 3in)
Armament: two or three 7.7mm (0.303in) Vickers K machine guns, plus 600lbs of wing-mounted equipment.
The following Northwest African Coastal Air Force units used the Supermarine Walrus in the invasion of Sicily:
- No. 283 Squadron RAF
- No. 284 Squadron RAF