Short Sunderland Mk.III W3999/ RB-Y No.10 Squadron RAAF, RAF Mount Batten, Plymouth Sound, Devon, Early 1942
The majestic Sunderland Flying boats of RAF Coastal Command were some of the most impressive aircraft of the Second World War and performed vital duties in protecting Britain's sea lanes from enemy attack. With crews having to endure long and arduous patrols, they would often be sent to rescue downed airmen in perilous situations, with little thought for their own safety. Such an incident occurred on 21st June 1942, when the crew of Sunderland W3999 took off from RAF Mount Batten to try and locate a dinghy containing the crew of a ditched Coastal Command No.172 Squadron Vickers Wellington. On reaching the search area, the Sunderland, along with an accompanying Whitley patrol aircraft, were attacked by a German Arado Ar196 Float plane, with the Sunderland taking a number of hits. Losing height immediately, the Flying boat effected a landing on the open sea, but at the end of its landing run was seen to explode and sink beneath the waves. Coming under further attack, the Whitley took evasive action, before setting course for home, with the crew having the unpleasant task of confirming that there were no survivors from this tragic incident.