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Mystery of the Portland Seaplane Solved

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Mystery of the Portland Seaplane Solved

Unread postby KlausNW » Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:06 pm

Mystery of the Portland seaplane solved

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First published 00:42 Tuesday 7 April 2015 in Nostalgia Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by Joanna Davis, Features & entertainments writer


IN LOOKING Back last month we were trying to get more information on this photo of a seaplane pictured at Portland Harbour.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch to shed some light on the mystery.

All that was known was that the photo was taken by Weymouth photographer Edwin H. Seward.

Thanks to Peter Dye, director of the General Royal Air Force Museum, who told Looking Back that the aircraft is a twin-engined Supermarine Southampton II flying boat, flown by the Royal Air Force.

He said: "The Southampton II had a metal hull rather than the wooden hull of the Southampton I.

"The Southampton was designed by R.G. Mitchell, perhaps better known for designing the Supermarine Spitfire.

"The Southampton II entered service in 1929. This particular aircraft was operated by 480 Flight and Nos 201 and 204 Squadrons.

"It was withdrawn from service in December 1936, so the picture will date to the early 1930s."

Peter tells us that a single example of the Southampton has survived (having been used as a house-boat for many years).

It is currently on display at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, London.

And a big thanks to Mike Walker of Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth, who has done a lot of research on the seaplane. He has been good enough to supply us with some more photos of the plane and its sister aircraft.

Its designer, RJ Mitchell, would later go on to achieve notoriety as the creator of the Spitfire.

He said: "The Supermarine Southampton Mark I, introduced in 1925, was a bi-plane with both a wooden hull and wings and was propelled by two tractor engines mounted between the wings.

"Although the Southampton first entered RAF service in August 1925 with No. 480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight based at RAF Calshot, I believe that the actual aircraft in the photo with the serial number '1232' to be on roll with 201 Squadron, probably the oldest British military flying unit, tracing its origins back to the formation of No 1 Squadron, RNAS at Fort Grange in Gosport on 16 October 1914 and, following the end of the war, it was disbanded on the last day of 1919.

"A decade later, No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight was expanded to become a re-formed No 201 Squadron with Southampton flying boats and based at Calshot.

"In the accompanying photographs can be seen '1232's sister aircraft, '1233' & '1234'

"One shows '1233' over The Needles and the other shows both sister aircraft over the Solent and Southampton en route to RNAS Calshot."

"Regarding HMS Osprey on Portland, following the Armistice in November 1918 all aircraft left and there were no permanent units based there until just before the start of WW2.

"However RAF flying boats were frequently seen there as we can see in one of the photos depicting three Supermarine Southamptons at anchor."

He thinks the date of the photo was around 1930 and it's interesting to speculate as to whether the serials of the aircraft were 1232, 1233 & 1234 on a training exercise.

Jim Long also got in touch to tell us that the seaplane is a Supermarine Southampton Mk 1 built in the 1920s for the Australian and New Zealand air forces.

Also getting in touch was Wyke Regis resident John Watts, who correctly identified the seaplane as the Supermarine Southampton Mk II.

He said: "It was built in 1927 under contract number 765929/27 and was one of nine.

"The aircraft is powered by two 500hp Napier Lion VA engines and had a crew of four.

"It had a span of 75 feet; length 49 feet 8 inches and a height of 20 feet 5 inches. "Maximum speed 95 mph at sea level an absolute ceiling of 8100 feet and a range of 544 miles at 86 mph at 2000 feet; endurance 6.3 hours.

"The aircraft was assigned to 201 squadron RAF based at Calshot."

John said he is unsure what the aircraft was doing at Portland , but suggested it could have been a courtesy visit which the aircraft made from time to time.

Klaus Marx - Piper Pacer Pilot
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