5 DEC 1939: World War II and today sees the first official RAAF operation of the Second World War. A Sunderland aircraft of No. 10 Squadron RAAF, flew on the first official RAAF operation of the Second World War. This was the beginning of six years of war for 10 Squadron, which flew as part of RAF Coastal Command continuously against U-boats in the battle of the Atlantic.
The prototype Short Sunderland flying boat first flew on 16 October 1937, and nine Mk I versions were ordered for the RAAF under the A18 designation. However, when No 10 Squadron accepted the first aircraft, P9048, at Pembroke Dock on 11 September 1939, the squadron remained in the UK with RAF-serialled Sunderlands, and was later joined by No 461 Squadron. From the first confirmed submarine “kill” by Flight Lieutenant W. N. Gibson’s crew on 1 July 1940, the two squadrons destroyed almost a dozen U-boats.
No 10 Squadron also introduced many modifications, including increased defensive armament, and the installation of Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasps, which resulted in the Sunderland Mk V. Not to be outdone, No 461 Squadron safely landed the first Sunderland on an airfield (through necessity), looped another (somewhat inadvertently) and, on 2 July 1943, Flight Lieutenant Walker in N461 engaged eight JU88s, claiming three destroyed, one probable, one possible, and damage to the other three.
In 1944, when six Sunderland Mk IIIs (ML730 to ML734, and DP192) were flown from No 10 Squadron to the Pacific, the flying boats were well known to Australians. By this time the A18 serials were redundant, as the last Short Empire flying boat had been returned to Qantas in 1943, so the Sunderlands were renumbered A26-1 to A26-6 respectively. The aircraft operated with No 40 Squadron on transport duties, and on 28 November 1944, A26-6 was severely damaged at Townsville.
The remaining five Sunderlands were sold to B. Monkton in 1947, and at least two (VH-AKO ex A26-4, and VH-AKP ex A26-5) were modified and registered with DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) as Short S25 Hythe flying boats.