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Latitude 50° 21.17 N
Longitude 004° 08.00 W
Accuracy 500m
Location Description Plymouth Breakwater
Craft type Sunderland Aircraft
Date of loss 13 November 1942
Manner of loss Crashed
Outcome Abandoned
Nationality United Kingdom
Departure port Gibraltar
Destination port Plymouth
Armament 4 x 0.303 guns in nose and tail turrets, 2 x 0.50 beam guns. Bomb load, 907 kg (2,000 lb)
Crew 12
Built Short
Master Flight Lieutenant Wynton Thorpe
Owners Royal Air Force

Sunderland Aircraft (W6054)

A Sunderland II flying boat (W 6054) crashed on landing in Plymouth Sound in thick fog on 13 November 1942 at approximately 9pm(2). The aeroplane from 10 squadron Royal Australian Air Force was on a flight from Gibraltar to Plymouth piloted by Flight Lieutenant Wynton Thorpe with a crew of 11 and 5 passengers. With only 15 minutes of fuel left the pilot attempted a blind landing, but with the altimeter still reading 600ft the Sunderland ploughed into the sea. The aircraft flipped on its back, split in half and the pilot was thrown into the sea. The eleven crew were left in the sea for 90 minutes before rescue, none of the passengers survived (3).

'During the first part of the sortie, lightning, hail, sleet and very poor and bumpy flying conditions were encountered with headwinds of 35 to 40 knots. Seven and a half hours later, with strong headwinds still prevailing, Thorpe sent a message to base: 'May force land outside breakwater'. A further message was transmitted at 19.50 hours stating that there was only enough fuel remaining for fifteen minutes flying. Six minutes later the Sunderland approached the flare path near Mount Batten but overshot in the heavy fog and had to climb and circle to starboard before attempting another approach. The Sunderland continued to starboard and as it made a second approach in almost zero visibility suddenly crashed into the sea approximately one and a half miles from the breakwater lighthouse. The aircraft hit the water with the starboard wing down causing it to turn on its back and break-up' (6).

The remains of this Sunderland were found spread over a wide area on the north side of the breakwater between the Fort and the lighthouse. The propeller and reduction gear was recovered in 1985 and shipped to the RAAF Museum near Perth.

Crew :
RAAF 407014 PO Thorpe, W P Captain (Pilot)
RAAF 407895 PO Gray R P (1st Pilot), Injured
RAAF 407901 FO Lees, F J (2nd Pilot), Seriously injured
RAAF 296813 PO Moore, W S (Navigator)
RAAF 33244 Cpl D E Bennington, (2nd Fitter)
RAAF 16858 Cpl D L Graham, (Rigger)
RAAF 34000 Sgt R B Wilkinson, (1st Wireless Operator)
RAAF 405615 Sgt S J Smith, (2nd Wireless Operator)
RAAF 21903 LAC P Stanton, (Armourer)
RAAF 41449 Sgt D G Keating, (Tail Gunner)

Passengers :
Royal Army Brigadier F W Vogel, Killed
Royal Navy Captain G W Wadham, Killed
Royal Navy Captain R N Peters, Killed
Royal Navy Commander R R Devlin, Killed
RAF Sgt R E Cordrey (Ait Gunner), Killed

All aircraft in UK waters that have crashed during military service are protected by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

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Images

Sunderland Cattewater

A Sunderland flying boat entering the Cattewater

Sunderland W6054

The propeller from W6054 being recovered (Bax Archive)

Sunderland Aircraft Plymouth

The propeller from W6054 being recovered (S. Roue)

References

(1) Wasley G., 2006, Mount Batten - The Flying Boats of Plymouth, Halsgrove, ISBN 1 84114 495 9, p102
(2) McDonald K., 1997, Fort Bovisand, Wreckwalker Books, ISBN 0 9528637 1 5, P48
(3) Mitchell P., 1992, The Wreckers Guide to South West Devon - Part II, Sound Diving Publications
(4) Submerged - Sunderland Flying Boats, Accessed Dec 11
(5) Picture Australia - Accessed Dec 11
(6) Baff K.C., 1983, Maritime is Number Ten: a history of No. 10 Squadron RAAF, the Sunderland era, 1939-1945, Griffin Press Limited, 1983. pp 248-249