Sunderland over Far-Eastern Seas, Group Captain Derek K. Empson

Sunderland over Far-Eastern Seas, Group Captain Derek K. Empson

An RAF Flying Boat Navigator's Story

The author of this autobiography rose to high rank in the post-war RAF, but this book tells the story of his first tour of duty, as the navigator of a Short Sunderland flying boat in the Far East in the mid 1950s. During his time in the East Empson took part in the fighting around Korea, the campaign in Borneo and was based at a wide variety of ports, from Singapore to Japan.  

Empson does a very good job of explaining how different life was in a flying boat compared to in any other RAF aircraft. The most obvious difference was the need for the flying boat's crew to be good sailors as well as good airmen, and just how difficult it could be to move a flying boat around on a crowded anchorage with no rudder and limited control from the engines.

The sea dominated the life of the flying boat crew, even having an impact on how difficult it was to enter their aircraft - no dash across the runway here, but instead a boat ride. The size of the Sunderland also made a massive difference to the life of their crews, with large cabins that made it easy to move around the aircraft, a mess and even a kitchen. As a result the crews saw their aircraft as almost a second home, and took a great deal of pride in being 'on boats'.

As well as giving us a good idea of why their crews enjoyed being on flying boats so much, Empson also gives us a view of the last few years of RAF Flying Boat operations, and of the RAF's commitments in the Far East in the last few years of the British Empire.

1 - Early Days in the Far East
2 - Ferry Flight to and from the UK
3 - An Unwanted Dilemma
4 - Korean War Operations from Japan
5 - Operations from Hong Kong
6 - What was Special about Flying Boats?
7 - The Queen's Birthday Flypast - June 1953
8 - Penang and Ceylon
9 - Operations around British North Borneo
10 - Co-operating war RAF Marine Craft
11 - My Own Crew
12 - Mayday in December
13 - Firedog Operations over Malaya
14 - Far East Sunderland Dress Coade
15 - Sunderland Navigation - A Question of Teamwork
16 - Trouble in French Indo-China
17 - RAF Seletar and Singapore
18 - The Beginning of the End
19 - Reflections

1 - Statistical Analysis of a Far East Flying Boat Tour
2 - Selected Operating and Technical Data - Sunderland Mark V
3 - Dead-Reckoning Navigation Techniques used by Far East Sunderland Flying Boat Crews in the 1950s
4 - A Tour of Sunderland Mark V, ML796
Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Author: Group Captain Derek K. Empson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2010

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