Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 3: The Second World War, and post-War, Consolidated Catalina, Boeing Canada & Canadian Vickers Canso A

Consolidated Catalina, Boeing Canada and Canadian Vickers Canso A 

Data current to 12 Aug 2020.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388278)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Model 28-5MC Catalina Mk. IIA (later named Canso), RCAF, possibly (Serial No. 9706), (the 97 is visible under the port wing), on the Ottawa River at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 29 Sep 1941.  This date means it was still a Catalina when the photo was taken, as these aircraft did not formally receive the name "Canso" before Dec 1941.  All of the initial aircraft were delivered in aluminum finish.  Cansos were painted camoflage from (Serial No. 9725) onward.  (Serial Nos. 9719-9736) went to the UK.  Both RCAF and RAF aircraft were painted in a British colour-sceme, only the markings differed.  This dark dress was revealed inadequate on convoy escort. In May 1942 a "low visibility" white camouflage was introduced in the RCAF to lure the submarines.

Consolidated Aircraft Corporation Catalina Mk. IA (10), RCAF (Serial Nos. W8430-32, Z2134, Z2136, Z2137, Z2138, Z2139, Z2140, DP202), Mk. IB (8), (Serial Nos. FP290, FP291, FP292, FP293, FP294, FP295, FP296, FP297), Mk. IVA (12), (Serial Nos. JX206, JX207, JX209, JX211, JX212, JX213, JX217, JX219, JX571, JX572, JX579, and JX580), for a total of 30 aircraft. 

The PBY-5 was not amphibious.  The PBY-5A Catalina is the American amphibious version.  The designation "PBY" was determined in accordance with the US Navy aircraft designation system of 1922; PB representing "Patrol Bomber" and Y being the code assigned to Consolidated Aircraft as its manufacturer.  Catalinas built by other manufacturers for the US Navy were designated according to different manufacturer codes, thus Canadian Vickers-built examples were designated PBV, and Boeing Canada examples were designated PB2B.   In accordance with the contemporary British naming practice of naming seaplanes after coastal port towns, the RAF used the name Catalina and the US Navy adopted this name in 1942.  The USAAF, later the USAF, used the designation OA-10.  

The first production Canso aircraft (Serial Nos. 9751 to 9805), were assembled from parts provided by Consolidated to Boeing.  The PB2B-1 (conventional tail) and PB2B-2 (tall tail) were manufactured later after different contracts with Canadian manufacturing.  The aircraft designated PB2B-1s and PB2B-2s were for the US Navy, and the RAF aircraft were designated Catalina Mk. IVB and Catalina Mk. VI.  In Canadian service they were given RAF serials because they were RAF aircraft.  

Serial Nos. 9701 to 9736 were Consolidated Aircraft Model 28-5MC Canso in RCAF service.  Serial Nos. 9737 to 9750 were Consolidated Aircraft Model 28-5AMC Canso A in RCAF service.  Serial Nos. 9751 to 9805 were Boeing Canso A.  Serial Nos. 9806 to 11100 were Canadian-Vickers Canso A.

Boeing Canada built 240 PB2B-1 (PBY-5, non-amphibious) for the RAF and the RCAF from 1942. 

Boeing Canada also built 67 PB2B-2 aircraft with a taller fin.  Most were supplied to the RAF as the Catalina Mk. VI.

Consolidated Aircraft Corporation built 50 Catalina Mk. I at San Diego, and 20 Catalina Mk. IIA (non-amphibious) for the RAF.  (None of these marks were built by Canadian factories).

After the RAF, the RCAF was the next biggest user of the PBYs, operating thirteen squadrons; five on the Canadian west coast, six on the east coast and two overseas.  In the RCAF, the Catalina first went into service in Eastern Air Command with No. 116 Squadron at Dartmouth on 28 June 1941.  These first aircraft were ten Catalina Mk. Is diverted from an RAF contract to fulfill a request from the AOC, A/C A.E. Godfrey, to obtain long-range aircraft to equip the anti-submarine squadrons.  The Digbys. Bolingbrokes, Hudsons, and Stranraers had insufficient range to cope with the marauding U-boats, and the Catalinas were the first really long-range aircraft to be used by the EAC.  Overseas, the first Catalina squadron was No. 413, formed 1 July 1941 and later moved to Ceylon.

Later Catalinas ordered by the RCAF and built to RCAF specifications were called Cansos.  At first the aircraft were supplied from Consolidated-Vultee through RAF contracts and Canadian orders.  Besides the Catalinas mentioned earlier, another eight were obtained from an RAF order in 1942 and another 12 with modified armament were delivered to fill an RCAF order in early 1942.  At the start of 1942, the RCAF had only 32 of these aircraft on strength.  How ever, later in the year the Air Force began receiving Canadian built Cansos to replace the aging Stranraers in Western Air Command and to form new squadrons in Eastern Air Command.  The two squadrons overseas were supplied by the RAF.

During early 1941, under an agreement between the U.S. and Canadian government, Canadian Vickers Ltd., at Cartierville, Quebec, and Boeing Aircraft of Canada at Vancouver, British Columba, began production of the PBY-5 and PBY-5A.  During early 1942 (Flying boats from August to November 1941), Consolidated Aircraft began delivery of its first batch of Canso flying boats for the RCAF.  However the first 36 aircraft were to go to the RAF as Catalina Mk. IIAs to replace Catalinas the RCAF had received earlier from RAF contracts.  Of these 36 aircraft, only 29 were actually delivered, the rest going to the RCAF.  The first PBY-5A Canso A was completed on 3 April 1943.  (CAC Amphibians from November 1941 to January 1942).  (Boeing delivered Canso A  from October 1942 to July 1943 - Canadian Vickers from March 1943 to July 1944 ) (9806 to 9835 were built at St Hubert before Canadian Vickers moved to Cartierville)

When production ceased on 19 May 1945, Canadian Vickers had built 369 aircraft of this type. The RCAF received 139 aircraft from Vickers and the USAAF took delivery of 230, designated OA-10A (from December 1943 to May 1945).  Of these, 183 were to have gone to the U.S. Navy as the PBV-1A, but none were delivered to that service.  In the USAAF the OA-10A was used mostly for search-and-rescue, although some saw service in North Africa as bombers.

The Vancouver Boeing plant on Sea Island produced 240 Catalinas designated PB2B-1, entirely for Lend-Lease.  Of these, 193 went to the RAF as Catalina Mk. IVBs, 41 to the RVZAF and 6 to the RAAF, the first of these having flown on 12 May 1943. 

The RCAF was not interested in them.  A CAS minute, dated January19, 1944, reads: "We are not directly interested in PB2B-1 aircraft and as long as information copies of alterations are received, our present needs will be adequately met".

Later the company produced the PB2B-2 (based on the Naval Aircraft Factory’s PBN-1 Nomad), of which 50 were built and supplied to the RAF as the Catalina Mk. VI.  Also produced by Boeing were 17 flying boat and 55 amphibious Cansos for the RCAF to bring total production to 362 aircraft.  During the peak of production, the two plants were producing 50 aircraft per month.  Canadian Vickers also produced 119 hulls and 172 wing centre-sections for the Consolidated-Vultee plant in New Orleans.

In Canada a total of 254 Catalinas and Cansos were used by the RCAF units in the Home War Establishment.  They served in both EAC and WAC and one squadron operated overseas for about a year-and-a-half from bases in Iceland and Scotland.

After the war, all the Catalinas and most of the Cansos were struck off strength, with only about 40 Canso remaining active.  These saw service with the search-and-rescue flights and a few others were used in heavy transport duties.  The last Canso, RCAF (Serial No. 11089), was retired from service on 29 November 1962 and went into civilian service as CF-PQO. 

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, RCAF (Serial No. 11089), over RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, 1951.  This was the last Canso to fly with the RCAF.

Another Canso was retired to the National Aircraft Collection (now the Canada Aviation and Space Museum).  This was RCAF (Serial No. 11087 stored in military condition), but it is restored in markings of No. 162 Squadron as the aircraft flown by F/L Hornell, VC (Serial No. 11084), CF-PQL.  A large number of these surplus aircraft were sold to civilian operators and to foreign air forces.  Sweden obtained three Cansos, redesignated Tp. 47, to serve in its Air Force Rescue Service which became (Serial Nos. 47001, 47002, and 47003).  (Source: Canso Investment Counsel Ltd)

In the spring of 1945, four Cansos were flown by No. 170 (Ferry) Squadron to spray against the Spruce Budworm infection in Cada's forests.  One of these aircraft, 11090 was also operated in the spring of 1946 under civil registration CF-OBK.

 (SDASM Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Model 28-5MC Catalina Mk. IIA, RAF, (Serial No. 9706). 

 (SDASM Photo)

Consolidated Catalina Mk. IIIA, RAF (Serial No. FP529), one of 12 former U.S. Navy PBY-5A aircraft used by the RAF on the North Atlantic Ferry Service.  These were the only amphibians that saw RAF service.  Note the roundel is on the forward fuselage, unlike most others.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM1184-S3-: CVA 1184-11862)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9751), "Athlone", the first Canso A built at the Sea Island plant, near Vancouver, British Columbia, 27 July 1942.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM1184-S3-: CVA 1184-1196)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9751), "Athlone", the first Canso A built at the Sea Island plant, near Vancouver, British Columbia, 27 July 1942.

 (SDA&SM Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. IA, RAF (Serial No. W8406), No. 209 Squadron, Jan 1941.

 (SDA&SM Photo)

Boeing Canada Catalina Mk. VI, RAF (Serial No. JX637), with tall tail fin.

 (SDA&SM Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. Z2136 ), 26 May 1941.

(RCAF Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. IV, RCAF (Serial No. JX212), on patrol with No. 7 (BR) Squadron. 

 (RCAF Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. IV, RCAF (Serial No. JX580) in flight.

(SDA&SM Photo)

Boeing Canada P2B-1 Catalina Mk. IVB, RAF (Serial No. JX286), March 1944.

 (IWM Photo, ATP 12693E)

Boeing Canada P2B-1 Catalina Mk. IVB, RAF (Serial No. JX286)on the ground at Saunders Roe Aircraft Ltd, Beaumaris, Anglesey, United Kingdom.  JX286 served first with the RAF Coastal Command Development Unit, followed by No. 302 Ferry Training Unit, and finally with No. 205 Squadron RAF in Ceylon.

 (SDA&SM Photo)

Boeing Canada P2B-1 Catalina Mk. IVB, RAF (Serial No. JX286), Mar 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3545895)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. I, RAF (Serial No. AH557), on beaching gear, preparing to be ferried to the UK, 1941.

 (IWM Photo, CH2448)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. II, RAF (Serial No. AM269), coded BN-K, No. 240 Squadron RAF based at Stranraer, Ayrshire, moored on Loch Ryan, United Kingdom, March 1941.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3545899)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. IA, RAF (Serial No. W8432), on beaching gear, preparing to be ferried to the UK, 1941.  

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3545900)

Consolidated Aircraft (San Diego) Catalina Mk. IA, RAF (Serial No. W8432), being ferried to the UK, 1941. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584169)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. unidentified), 11 Dec 1948.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584648)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11074), 23 Nov 1951.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3581907)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. unidentified), radio equipment, 29 Sep 1941. 

 (RCAF/World War Photos)

Consolidated Aircraft Model 28-5AMC Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9750), 3 Jan 1942.

Canadian Vickers Canso A, (244), RCAF (Serial Nos. 9806-9844, 11001-11100).

RCAF examples of the amphibious version of the Consolidated PBY-5A were named Canso, after the town of that name in Nova Scotia.  (The PBV-1A is a US Navy term for this aircraft, the designation was not used in Canada).  The Canso is the Canadian Vickers-built version, of which 380 were built, including 150 provided to the RCAF as the Canso A and the rest to the USAAF as the OA-10A.  620 variants of the Canso were built in Canada.  

The PBY-5A models had hydraulically actuated, retractable tricuycle landing gear, with a main gear design based on one from the 1920s designed by Grumman, for amphibious operation.  The bow gun position featured a turret equipped with twin .30 calibre machine guns, improved armour and a self-sealing fuel tank.

Post war, 12 Canso A models were converted to freighters and designated Canso 2F and nine were converted to search and rescue versions designated Canso 2SR.  AIC St. Johns did the conversions of Cansos to Mk. 2F and Mk. 2SR, from Cansos A and  Cansos 2U.  de Havilland Canada was also alloted some aircraft mostly for Freighter conversion.  
Although some Cansos were referred to as Canso 2U on some documents and data plates, 'Canso 2U' was not an official designation.  They were Canso A "Unmodified" by dictinction with those that had been refurbished.  When they were returned to service, they were in turn refurbished to become Canso 2F and -2SR bringing up the fleet to a total of 23 freighters and 14 search-rescue aircraft.  (Ref. the total, Serial No. 11060 was converted from 2SR to 2F and Serial No. 11067 was converted from 2F to 2SR, hence the balance with the final total).

Aircraft Industries of Canada (AICL) St. Johns did the conversions of Cansos to Mk. 2F and Mk. 2SR, from Cansos A and Cansos 2U. de Havilland Canada was also alloted some aircraft mostly for Freighter conversion.   (Jean-Christophe Polet). 

 (RCAF Photo via Hugh Muer)

Consolidated Aircraft Model 28-5AMC Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. unknown), ca 1942.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM54-S4-: LP 112)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9751).

 (DND Photo)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9802).  Taken on strength at Western Air Command (WAC) on 21 June 1943.  9802 was serving with No. 4 (BR) Squadron when it nosed in, then water looped to port and sank while landing in Ucluelet Inlet beside Lyche Island, British Columbia, on 9 July 1943.  The aircraft was recovered and subsequently repaired at Canadian Pacific airlines in Vancouver, BC on 12 July 1943, for repairs following its Category B crash.  It was sent to the stored reserve on 10 June 1944.  It returned to WAC on 29 Sep 1944.   It went back into storage with No. 2 REMU, Air Command on 7 Aug 1945.  It was struck off, to War Assets Corporation for sale on 20 August 1946.

 (DND Photo via Gary Cook)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF, possibly (Serial No. 11010), No. 3 Operational Training Unit at RCAF Station Patricia Bay, BC. 

 (DND Photo via Gary Cook)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No.11051).

 (Natural Resources Canada Photo)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, RCAF (Serial No. 11088), with magnetometer installed in the tail boom.  This aircraft was on indefinite loan to the Federal Department of Mines from 1949 to 1958, Reg. No. CF-GMS.

 (DND Photo via Bob Ayres)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, RCAF (Serial No. 11089), over RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, 1951.  This was the last Canso to fly with the RCAF.  11089 was retired from service on 29 Nov 1962 and went into civilian service, Reg. No. CF-PQO. 

 (DND Photo via Bob Ayres)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, RCAF (Serial No. 11089), last flight ferry flight from RCAF Station Trenton, to Dunnville, then placed in storage, Ontario, 1952.

(RCAF Photo)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2SR, RCAF (Serial No. 11015), flying over the Fraser River in 1961.

 (DND Photo via Mike Kaehler)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2SR, RCAF (Serial No. 11015), front view.  Post-war, 11015 served with No. 121 (K) Unit at RCAF Station Sea Island, British Columbia.

(RCAF Photo via James Craik)

Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9741).

 (RCAF Photo, PL-8500)

Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9741), No. 116 Squadron, RCAF, over Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3582015)

Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9742), after breaking through the ice on the Ottawa River near Rockcliffe, Ontario, 1942. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583331)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11003), 29 June 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3643747)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11003), coded AP-K, No. 413 (Tusker) Squadron, RCAF, 15 Dec 1948. 

 (Ivan Mitchell Photo)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, RCAF, JATO launch, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, ca 1950s.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584376)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11003), JATO equipped, No. 413(T) Detachment No. 10 Geodetic Survey, on Golden Lake, Ontario, 17 Jun 1950. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583403)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11079), 11 Aug 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583405)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11079), 11 Aug 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3586082)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11079), Rockcliffe, Ontario. 

 (RCAF Photo)

Canadian Vickers Canso A (Serial No. 9771), 13 May 1944.  No. 4 (BR) Squadron - note the stork crest on the nose.  This aircraft served with the RCAF from 25 Aug 1941 to 26 Apr 1962, with No. 160 Bomber Reconnaisance Squadron which was formed on Sea Island, British Columbia.  It later moved to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and from there to Torbay, Newfoundland.       

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388268)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9792), No. 3 OTU, RCAF, Patricia Bay, British Columbia, 3 May 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388269)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. unknown), No. 160 (BR) Squadron, Newfoundland, 13 Oct 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388270)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9798), No. 160 Squadron, Newfoundland, 13 Oct 1944. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 358979)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9793). 

  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583330)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11033).

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3582988)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9787) with a flexible nose gun installation being developed and tested at T & DE, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 21 July 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3589737)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9787), Fairey Battle, RCAF (Serial No. R7439), Avro Anson, RCAF (Serial No. 11631), Lockheed Hudson, RCAF, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 30 June 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3589727)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9787), Fairey Battle, RCAF (Serial No. R7439), Avro Anson, RCAF (Serial No. 11631), Lockheed Hudson, RCAF, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 30 June 1943. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3589675)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9787), Fairey Battle, RCAF (Serial No. R7439), Avro Anson, RCAF (Serial No. 11631), Lockheed Hudson, RCAF, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 30 June 1943.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583515)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11079), 25 Sep 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3194315)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, RCAF, No. 161 Squadron, flying over the German submarine U-889 during its surrender, May 1945.

 (Griffin Library Photo via Mike Kaehler)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2SR (Serial No. 11024), coded HQ, configured with JATO bottles mounted by the rear fuselage blisters.  The HQ code may stand for the Flying Instructors School.

 (Griffin Library Photo via Mike Kaehler)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2SR (Serial No. 11024), coded HQ, configured with JATO bottles mounted by the rear fuselage blisters.  The HQ code may stand for the Flying Instructors School.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388267)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11040), coded AK-D, No. 408 Squadron,  2 Apr 1951.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584319)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11040), coded AK-D, No. 408 Squadron.  Note, sliding door with small blisters.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584323)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11040), coded AK-D, No. 408 Squadron, 1949.

 (DND Archives Photo, PC-2156)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11041), over the Lion's Gate Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia.

 (DND Photo via Roger Litwiller)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11042), coded MN, No. 408 Squadron.

 (DND Archives Photo, PC-842)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2F, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11042), coded MN, No. 408 Squadron.

(Alain Rioux Photo)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, (Serial No. 11093), Reg. No. CF-NJL.  Gananoque Airport hangar, Ontario.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3388272)

Canadian Vickers Canso Mk. 2SR, converted from Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 9830), coded CH-M with No. 103 Search and Rescue Flight, on the water at Moose Factory, Ontario, 1949.  Note the radar housing over the cockpit, possibly unique.  This aircraft has been preserved with Fondation Aerovision Quebec.

 (Author Photos)

Canadian Vickers Canso A (Serial No. 9830), c/n CV-264, built in 1942, Reg. No. C-FPQK, Gouvernement du Quebec 712, initially preserved here with Fondation Aerovision Quebec.  As of 2017, this aircraft is now in the USA.

 (Author Photo)

Consolidated Vultee PBY-6A Catalina (BuNo. 46655), C/N 2019, 4, C-FIZU, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Service, Goose Bay, 1977.    This aircraft had a tall tail, until it was changed to the conventional tail to comply with Canadian civil registration.

 (Chris Charland Photo)

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina )Serial No.), Botwood Flying Boat Museum, Newfoundland.

(DND Photo)

Consolidated Aircraft model 28-5ME, RAF Catalina Mk. I  (Serial No. AJ155), with RCAF Squadron Leader L.J. Birchall in the cockpit, ca 1942. 

An RAF Catalina flown by Squadron Leader L.J. Birchall foiled Japanese plans to destroy the Royal Navy's Indian Ocean fleet on 4 April 1942 when it detected the Japanese carrier fleet approaching Ceylon (Sri Lanka).  He would later serve as Air Commodore Leonard Joseph Birchall, CM, OBE, DFC, OOnt, CD, (6 July 1915 – 10 September 2004).

In early 1942, he joined RCAF No. 413 Squadron, then based in the Shetland Islands and flew patrols over the North Sea.  After the Japanese successes in southeast Asia, the squadron was sent to Ceylon to provide a reconnaissance force.  On 4 April 1942, only two days after his arrival, Squadron Leader Birchall was flying an RAF Catalina Mk. I on a patrol over the ocean to the south of Ceylon.  Nine hours into the mission, as the Catalina was about to return to base, ships were spotted on the horizon. When S/L Birchall investigated the sighting he discovered a large Japanese fleet, including five aircraft carriers, heading for Ceylon, which at that time was the base for the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet.  Birchall's crew managed to send out a radio message, but the Catalina was soon shot down by six Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighters from the IJN carrier Hiryu.  The Easter Sunday Raid went ahead despite Birchall’s signal, but his warning put the defenders on alert and allowed the harbour to be partially cleared before the Japanese attacked Colombo.

Three of his crewmen were killed in the action and the others, including Birchall, spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war (PW).  For many captured servicemen, a trip to a Japanese camp meant death.  As the senior Allied officer in four successive Japanese prisoner of war camps, the resistance led by Birchall helped to reduce the Allied death rate from an average of 30% to less than 2%.  During his time in the PW camps, he repeatedly stood up to the Japanese and demanded fair treatment of the prisoners, in compliance with the Geneva Convention.  In his first camp, he struck a Japanese soldier who was forcing a wounded Australian to work.  This earned Birchall a severe beating and solitary confinement, but won him the respect of the other PWs.  In 1944, Birchall encountered a situation in which sick men were being forced to work on the docks.  He ordered all of the men to stop working until the sick were excused.  Birchall was beaten and sent to a special discipline camp, where he again was beaten.  He saved many ill soldiers by taking their beatings.  Birchall was liberated on 27 August 1945 by American troops.  His wife Dorothy had not known whether he was dead or alive for two years.  His diaries, written during his captivity and buried, formed the basis of a number of Allied wartime trials at which Birchall testified.

 (DND Archives Photo, PMR77-147)

Boeing Canada Canso A RCAF (Serial No. 9754), belonging to 162 Squadron, RCAF, photographed in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in 1943.  This is the aircraft that Flight Lieutenant David Hornell was flying when he and his crew were shot down on 24 June 1944.  Hornell was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism following the crash.

 (J.S. Bond Photo)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11084), RAF (Serial No. CV-417), Reg. No. C-FPQL.  Painted as RCAF Canso A     (Serial No. 9754), No. 162 Squadron, coded P, "Mary K", in honour of F/L David Ernest Hornell aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell was flying as aircraft captain on a Canadian Vickers Canso A (Serial No. A9754), No. 162 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron, RCAF, operating from RAF Wick in Northern Scotland, when the following action took place for which he was awarded the VC.  On 24 June 1944 on sea patrol near the Faroes in the North Atlantic, Hornell's aircraft was attacked and badly damaged by the German U-boat U-1225.  Nevertheless he and his crew succeeded in sinking the submarine.  Hornell then managed to bring his burning aircraft down on the heavy swell.  There was only one serviceable dinghy, which could not hold all the crew, so they took turns in the cold water.  By the time the survivors were rescued 21 hours later, Hornell was blinded and weak from exposure and cold.  He died shortly after being picked up.  He is buried in Lerwick Cemetery, Shetland Islands.

Citation

Flight Lieutenant Hornell was captain and first pilot of a twin-engined amphibian aircraft engaged on an anti-submarine patrol in northern waters.  The patrol had lasted for some hours when a fully-surfaced U-boat was sighted, travelling at high speed on the port beam.  Flight Lieutenant Hornell at once turned to the attack.

The U-boat altered course. The aircraft had been seen and there could be no surprise.  The U-boat opened up with anti-aircraft fire which became increasingly fierce and accurate.

At a range of 1,200 yards, the front guns of the aircraft replied; then its starboard guns jammed, leaving only one gun effective.  Hits were obtained on and around the conning-tower of the U-boat, but the aircraft was itself hit, two large holes appearing in the starboard wing.

Ignoring the enemy’s fire, Flight Lieutenant Hornell carefully manoeuvred for the attack.  Oil was pouring from his starboard engine, which was, by this time, on fire, as was the starboard wing; and the petrol tanks were endangered.  Meanwhile, the aircraft was hit again and again by the U-boat’s guns.  Holed in many places, it was vibrating violently and very difficult to control.

Nevertheless, the captain decided to press home his attack, knowing that with every moment the chances of escape for him and his gallant crew would grow more slender.  He brought his aircraft down very low and released his depth charges in a perfect straddle. The bows of the U-boat were lifted out of the water; it sank and the crew were seen in the sea.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell contrived, by superhuman efforts at the controls, to gain a little height.  The fire in the starboard wing had grown more intense and the vibration had increased.  Then the burning engine fell off.  The plight of aircraft and crew was now desperate.  With the utmost coolness, the captain took his aircraft into wind and, despite the manifold dangers, brought it safely down on the heavy swell.  Badly damaged and blazing furiously, the aircraft rapidly settled.

After ordeal by fire came ordeal by water.  There was only one serviceable dinghy and this could not hold all the crew.  So they took turns in the water, holding on to the sides.  Once, the dinghy capsized in the rough seas and was righted only with great difficulty.  Two of the crew succumbed from exposure.

An airborne lifeboat was dropped to them but fell some 500 yards down wind.  The men struggled vainly to reach it and Flight Lieutenant Hornell, who throughout had encouraged them by his cheerfulness and inspiring leadership, proposed to swim to it, through he was nearly exhausted.  He was with difficulty restrained.  The survivors were finally rescued after they had been in the water for 21 hours.  By this time Flight Lieutenant Hornell was blinded and completely exhausted.  He died shortly after being picked up.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell had completed 60 operational missions, involving 600 hours’ flying.  He well knew the danger and difficulties attending attacks on submarines.  By pressing home a skilful and successful attack against fierce opposition, with his aircraft in a precarious condition, and by fortifying and encouraging his comrades in the subsequent ordeal, this officer displayed valour and devotion to duty of the highest order.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 2218627)

Canadian Vickers Canso A, 35 cent stamp, 1979.

 (RAMWC Photo)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11005).  

 (Adrian Pingstone Photo)

Boeing Canada Canso A, RCAF (Serial No. 11005), ex-USAAF (Serial No. 44-33915), UK Reg. No. G-PBYA, at the 2009 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), Fairford, Gloucestershire, England.  Built in 1944, this aircraft is owned by Catalina Aircraft Ltd and kept at Duxford, England.  It is painted as USAAF (Serial No. 44-33915), in remembrance of this aircraft, lost-straffed at sea by a Messerschmitt Me 262 while carrying out a rescue mission.