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Supermarine Walrus HD 874

Designed to meet Australian requirements, the Supermarine Seagull Mk V (or Walrus, as it was known in British service) was engaged as a spotter-reconnaissance aircraft. Designed by R.J. Mitchell, who was later responsible for the design of the Spitfire, the Seagull V was a metal-hulled amphibian powered by a Bristol Pegasus engine. Designed to be catapulted with full military load from warships, the prototype first flew in June 1933. Often described as the sturdiest aircraft ever built, twenty-four Seagull V aircraft were initially ordered for the RAAF with an additional thirty-seven Walruses being delivered during World War II. Affectionately known as the "Shagbat ", the aircraft was said to be capable of performing an outside loop.

During April 1936, the RAAF commenced the re-equipment of No 101 Flight, Richmond, NSW, with Seagull V aircraft, subsequently forming No 5 (Fleet Cooperation) Squadron. This squadron was given the task of providing pilots, maintenance personnel and aircraft to fleet units, while still continuing the aerial survey role that commenced in the 1920s. One of the type's more unusual duties included working with the Fisheries Section to study the migratory habits of species, particularly tuna.

The Walrus on display, HD874, was delivered to QANTAS, Rose Bay, NSW, from the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in September 1943, and was one of a second batch of Walrus aircraft allocated to No 9 Squadron in December that year. Repaired by QANTAS after an emergency landing at Cairns in June 1944, HD874 was then transferred to No 8 Communications Unit for use as a target-towing aircraft, the conversion to this configuration being completed by November 1944. In March 1945, HD874 was allotted to No 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake Boga in Victoria, for a 240-hourly servicing and complete re-covering of fabric surfaces.

In storage until 1947, HD874 was then sent to Maintenance Squadron Rathmines for servicing before issue to the RAAF's Antarctic Flight in October of that year, for the first Australian expedition to the Antarctic region since World War II. Nicknamed 'Snow Goose' and painted bright yellow, HD874 was transported aboard Landing Craft LST3501 to Heard Island, and flew only once before being totally destroyed in a storm on 21 December 1947.

Recovered by the RAAF in 1980, and transported to Point Cook, restoration of the airframe began in 1993, and was completed in 2002. Sections of the aircraft have been covered in a clear plastic film in lieu of the original fabric to highlight the internal structure of the aircraft.



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