The flying boat played a crucial role in all theaters of operation during World War 2 (1939-1945). The types offered excellent range and the inherent ability to land and take-off from water sources, providing the needed loitering times and "eyes-in-the-skies" for commanders and warplanners alike. Supermarine, generally remembered for its contribution of the classic "Spitfire" fighter used during the conflict, was a potent flying-boat-maker as well and delivered, for the British and others, a steady stable of such aircraft - many of which saw considerable action during the Second World War.
One of these contributions became the Supermarine "Walrus". The design appeared as a private venture by Supermarine with origins in an Australian Royal Air Force (RAAF) requirement for a relatively compact flying boat able to be supported from existing Australian Navy cruiser warships. Work, led by one R.J. Mitchell, on the aircraft began in 1930 and a flyable prototype was available in 1933. A first flight was recorded on June 21st of that year and series introduction was had in 1935. An amphibious quality was also built into the design which allowed the aircraft to use prepared runaways as needed.
The aircraft was originally known by the name of "Seagull" and this encompassed the original Seagull V production model and its all-metal hull (34 examples were completed). Then came the Walrus Mk.I which retained the metal hull and this was followed by the Walrus Mk.II model and its wooden hull.
The basic design incorporated a raised biplane wing arrangement and this was sat over the dorsal spine of the fuselage. A single engine was fitted between the two planes and over the spine itself to keep it as far away from the water as possible. The cockpit was stepped and positioned at the nose section, ahead of the wing mainplanes. The hull was designed to be boat-like so as to better adhere to water landings and take-offs. The fuselage tapered to the rear and was capped by a single, rounded vertical fin with high-mounted tailplanes fitted. Main landing gear members (wheeled) were positioned along the sides of the hull while a small leg was set under the tail for land-based operation of the aircraft.
Dimensionally the aircraft exhibited a length of 37.6 feet with a wingspan of 45.9 feet and a height of 15.2 feet. Empty weight was 5,000lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 8,050lb. Power was from 1 x Bristol Pegasus VI series air-cooled radial piston engine developing 680 horsepower. Maximum speeds reached 135 miles per hour with a range out to 600 miles and a service ceiling up to 18,500 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,050 feet-per-minute.
Internally, there was a typical operating crew of three to four. Armament included two to three 7.7mm Vickers K machine guns. The bombload totaled 6,100lb of drop ordnance which could be a mix of conventional drop bombs or depth charges.
The Australian Air Force was the first to receive the Seagull / Walrus in useful numbers and this took place in 1935 and the last was delivered in 1937. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) followed as an operator in 1936. Both countries fielded the type from active warships heading into the war.
When World War 2 began in September of 1939, the Walrus series was already an entrenched asset for the British and Commonwealth forces. As such it was immediately placed into direct action and undertook various roles such as maritime reconnaissance, artillery spotting and Search and Rescue (SAR). Walrus aircraft operated in all of the major theaters of the war, such was its versatility. Production spanned from 1936 until 1944 and some 740 total aircraft were produced during that time.
Beyond its wartime service, the Walrus continued flying into the post-war period. The global list of operators included Argentina (military, post-war), Australia (military, civilian), Canada (military, civilian), Egypt (military), France (military, navy), Ireland (Air Corps), Netherlands (civilian), New Zealand (military), Norway (civilian), the Soviet Union (Naval Aviation), Turkey (military, Air Force) and the United Kingdom (military, civilian).