Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden
huskyteer

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Operation Large Lumps

I spent a fun and relaxing weekend in Portsmouth in the company of silverwindblade, Anna and Ultrafox, and I am all the better for it. The centrepiece of the trip was an expedition to Southampton and the Solent Sky Museum, with in-flight refuelling of meatballs at IKEA in honour of swedish_lars.

The museum is small but packed with information and planes, and with two galleries above the main floor. Dominating the hall is the massive, stately form of a Short Sandringham, the civilian passenger makeover of the Sunderland flying-boat.

I love flying-boats and wandered happily through the cabin, imagining an evening flight admiring the view from the large windows as I sat back one of the luxurious seats. Spying a notice which invited us to apply at the desk to visit the flight deck, we fetched one of the lovely volunteers one always finds in small museums.

While Silverwind and Ultra made for the pilot's and co-pilot's seats, I relaxed in a comfortable chair just aft of them. I was informed that this was where the owner's wife, a Hollywood actress, sat in-flight, drinking gin & tonic and occasionally serving the passengers with meals she prepared in the galley.

When I moved to the pilot's seat, our volunteer asked me my name and if I was easily impressed, then assured me that, what with only six examples of the aircraft surviving, I was undoubtedly the only Alice in the entire world to be sitting in the cockpit of a Sandringham at that moment. He also entertained us with the tale of a putative mission to take out the Tirpitz using Sunderlands, code-named 'Operation Large Lumps'.

In order for the operation to come off, the planes would have needed to fly below 50 feet to avoid enemy radar. A Sunderland is getting on for 30 feet tall, and waves in the North Sea can be pretty high...

We were also very taken by a display about the Folland company (of the Gnat aircraft, flown by the Red Arrows before they moved on to Hawks). Having scored a success with their hovercraft in the early 1960s, they decided to branch out into making a hovering version of just about everything else they could think of, including wheelbarrows and stretchers.

You can see the Hover Stretcher in action at britishpathe.com, and it is well worth it.
Tags: planes
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