YOU FOLKS are amazing at dragging things from your memories! Last week, I asked whether anyone remembered the construction of Walrus amphibious biplanes at Weybridge and several of you have contacted me to say that you did.
Roy Moyes of New Haw, now 83, was a 16-year-old member of Walton and Weybridge 199 Squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC) in 1943. He told me: “I was a member of the ATC .22 rifle shooting club which used to meet on Wednesday evenings and our practice range was on Chertsey Meads. A chap called Sammy Walsh, who was the chief armourer for the Vickers factory in Weybridge, ran it.
“The range was on an escarpment which looked down over the Meads by the Thames and we quite often used to see Walrus aircraft sitting there with their wings folded waiting to be flown off.”
Roy says he believes one of the aircraft actually crashed while trying to take off.
“I believe the propellers on those Walruses were built in two parts and if I remember rightly, somebody had put one set of blades on back to front so it didn’t have enough power to get off the ground. I can’t remember if anyone was hurt in the crash.”
Roy also has a happier memory of the Walrus aircraft – because he got to fly in one.
“My ATC squadron were taken down to the Royal Naval Air Station at Lee on Solent in Hampshire and we got to go up in a Walrus,” he recalls. “It was funny seeing as I’d watched them being built back home.”
Another local resident who has first hand memories of the Walruses at Weybridge is Doug Millson, of Weybridge, who actually worked at the Saunders Roe factory from 1943 to 1945.
“I was an apprentice tool maker and I remember those aircraft quite clearly. We sometimes used to go for a walk down to the Meads in our lunchtime – there were always one of two waiting to be flown off,” he said.
Doug also remembers that because it was an aircraft factory, it was a prime target for the Germans.
“Late in the war there was a V2 rocket which landed close to the factory – it almost totally destroyed the hangar they used for the Walruses.”
Next week, I’ll be sharing some more memories you’ve sent in to me about those naval launches and gunboats that were built at Chertsey and Walton during the wartime years.
The Supermarine Walrus
- The Walrus was an amphibious biplane designed by R J Mitchell – the man who designed the Spitfire.
- It first flew in 1933 and was primarily used as a catapult-launched spotter plane by the Royal Navy.
- Walruses were also used as air-sea rescue planes and plucked many pilots from the ocean.
- 740 aircraft were built between 1933 and 1944.
- The last one left naval service in 1947.
- There are currently only four examples of the aircraft left in the world – none, at present, in flying condition.
- The aircraft was powered by a single Bristol Pegasus ‘pusher’ engine and carried a crew of four. It had a top speed of 135mph.