S.25 Sunderland file photo [5215]

S.25 Sunderland

CountryUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerShort Brothers plc
Primary RoleSeaplane
Maiden Flight16 October 1937


ww2dbaseThe Short S.25 Sunderland, in spite of being one of the last flying-boats designed, was durable enough to remain in service for some twenty-one years, and is generally considered to have been one of the finest flying boats ever built.

ww2dbaseTo meet the requirements of the Air Ministry Specification R.2/33 Short's Chief Designer, Arthur (later Sir Arthur) George, prepared a tender which was submitted to the Ministry in 1934. The Design was based on the Company's C Class "Empire" flying boats which had been operated by Imperial Airways in the 1930s. The Air Ministry, already sufficiently familiar with the aircraft's civilian counterpart, accepted the proposal and placed an order in March of 1936, a full eighteen months before the prototype (K4774) made its maiden flight (16 October 1937). Deliveries to the Royal Air Force began in June 1938 with the first batch of production Sunderland Mk Is being delivered to No.230 Squadron based in Singapore. These Sunderlands would replace the RAF's mixed fleet of biplane flying boats and represented a huge leap forward in capability.

ww2dbaseInitially two squadrons were equipped with the Sunderland Mk.1 during 1938, but by the outbreak of war in the following year a further two squadrons had converted to the type (with a further three being formed within the opening months of the war). Sunderland 1 production would eventually total 90 machines (15 of which were built by the Blackburn Aircraft Company). These first machines were powered by four 1,010 hp Bristol Pegasus XXII radial engines.

ww2dbaseThroughout the Second World War the Short Sunderland would play a decisive role in the defeat of German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. The first confirmed U-Boat kill by aircraft was achieved on January 30, 1940 when British destroyer HMS Whitshed, British sloop HMS Fowey, French destroyer Valmy, French destroyer Guépard, and a British No. 228 Squadron S.25 Sunderland aircraft sank German submarine U-55 by depth charges. The large Sunderland was also much in demand for convoy escort work, due not only to its striking power but its ability to land on the water for immediate rescue. The Sunderland was a very welcome sight to the many seamen from sunken vessels and airmen who had had to ditch (When the British Merchant ship Kensington Court was torpedoed, 70 miles of the Scillies on September 18, 1939 two patrolling Sunderlands had the entire crew of thirty-four personnel back on dry land within an hour of the vessel sinking). In this, and during many subsequent desperate evacuation operations early in the war, Sunderlands were regularly found carrying a large number of personnel in an almost continuous stream without ever needing the use of a land airfield.

ww2dbaseAs more capability was added to the airframe, anti-shipping strikes were undertaken across the globe. With their great endurance, Sunderlands could easily spot German ship movements when other types were forced back to base due to lack of fuel. In addition the aircraft's excellent defensive armament became so notorious perilous to the Germans that it gained the nickname of the 'Flying Porcupine'.

ww2dbaseIn 1941 production switched to the improved the Sunderland Mk.II. This model differed from its predecessor in having 1,050hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII engines; a two gun dorsal turret (replacing the single guns in the waist (beam) position of the Sunderland I); and the addition of a surface search radar. 58 Sunderland IIs were built.

ww2dbaseThe Sunderland III was first flown in June 1942. This was basically similar to the Sunderland II but with a revised planing bottom. The Sunderland III would become the major production version with some 407 machines being manufactured until late 1943. Six Sunderland IIIs would be converted for use as long range passenger aircraft, operated by BAOC from 1943 (firstly from Poole to Lagos, West Africa and to Calcutta, India, and from then on gradually extending their routes).

ww2dbaseThe final model of the Sunderland was the G.R. Mk.V, of which 143 would be completed by the time that production finally ended in 1946 (Bringing total Sunderland aircraft built to a total of 739 machines), The G.R.Mk.V switched to the 1,200 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1830-90B Twin Wasp engines. It also had better armament and other detail modifications.

ww2dbaseOften overshadowed by more glamorous aircraft, the Sunderland served throughout the war, and would later deliver nearly 5,000 tons of essential supplies during the Berlin airlift. It was also the only RAF aircraft to be used from the beginning to the end of the Korean War. The last Sunderland was finally retired from RAF service on the 20th May 1959 after an extensive and notable career.

Aircraft of World War II (Chris Chant, Dempsey-Parr, 1999)
Collins-Jane's Aircraft of World War II
World Aircraft Information Files, file 254 (Aerospace Publishing-Periodical)
The World Encyclopedia of Bombers (Francis Crosby, Anness Publishing, 2004)

Last Major Revision: Nov 2007

S.25 Sunderland Timeline

16 Oct 1937 The first flight of the prototype Short Sunderland flying boat took place.
18 Sep 1939 When the British merchant ship Kensington Court was torpedoed 70 miles of the Isles of Scilly west of the southwestern tip of England, United Kingdom, two patrolling Sunderland aircraft had the entire crew of thirty-four personnel back on dry land within an hour of the vessel sinking.
26 Dec 1939 The first Royal Australian Air Force personnel arrived by boat at Pembroke, Wales, United Kingdom for anti-submarine duty in Sunderland flying boats with No. 10 Squadron.
30 Jan 1940 The first confirmed U-Boat kill by an aircraft occurred when British destroyer HMS Whitshed, British sloop HMS Fowey, French destroyer Valmy, French destroyer Guépard, and a British No. 228 Squadron S.25 Sunderland aircraft sank German submarine U-55 with depth charges.
3 Apr 1940 A British Short Sunderland flying boat on patrol off Norway attacked by six Junkers Ju 88 aircraft successfully shot one down, forced another to land immediately and drove the rest off.


Sunderland I
MachineryFour Bristol Pegasus XXII 9-cyl radial engines rated at 1,110hp each
Armament2x7.62mm trainable bow turret machine guns, 4x7.62mm trainable tail turret machine guns, 2x7.62mm trainable beam machine guns, 907kg of ordnance
Span34.39 m
Length26.00 m
Height10.00 m
Wing Area138.00 m²
Weight, Empty13,875 kg
Weight, Maximum22,226 kg
Speed, Cruising336 km/h
Rate of Climb3.67 m/s
Service Ceiling4,570 m
Range, Normal4,023 km


Sunderland flying boats in Kalamata Harbor waiting to pick up British troops for evacuation, Kalamata, Greece, Apr 28, 1941.Short Sunderland tied to a mooring buoy, probably in the Mediterranean circa late 1942.A war weary Sunderland III flying boat of Royal Australian Air Force No. 10 Squadron being hauled out of the water for an overhaul at Mount Batten Seaplane Base, Devon, England, United Kingdom, Jan 1943Sunderland Mk V in flight, circa late 1940s

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Karen Beverly daughter of Glen James Ferguson, deceased says:
24 Mar 2010 08:03:10 PM

My father flew the Sunderland during World War II. My mother said that he was sure he got one kill when the debris floating to the surface included a toilet seat.
2. David says:
29 Mar 2010 11:03:52 AM

I am surprised that none of the leading manufactors have not made a modern version of the Shorts Sunderland. Other that Airfix which is an old kit, the only other is CMR resin kit of a flying boat which is selling at £140 + which is too dear.
3. John says:
8 Sep 2010 04:55:23 AM

My dad Sydney Craigie flew Sunderlands as a navigator and radio operator so ime told. if any one remebers him I would be interested to know more.
4. stirling rosser says:
4 Apr 2011 05:44:44 PM

my father flew in sunderlands he was in 179 squadron group 15 based at benbecula in the search for u-boats in the north sea his name was howard rosser
5. stirling rosser says:
11 Sep 2011 12:06:47 PM

i just discovered a photo that my mother had of ww2 raf benbecula 179 squadron group 15 the names on the back of the photo are as follows ac.hay,ac.forbes,ac.tyrell,ac.kennedy,ac.rosser,cpl.nuttol,cpl.lambert,cpl.remmington,cpl.smith,lac.taylor,lac.anderson,lac.dodds,lac.w.cockeron,lac.edwards,sgt.hargreaves,sgt.maxwell,sgt.hutcheon,flight lieutenant sanders,flying officer r fuller,flying officer davies,squadron leader waters. i hope this imformation helps.
6. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
10 Aug 2013 05:28:39 AM

Manned by a mixed British, Dominion and Colonial crew "Z for Zebra" a RAF Coastal Command Sunderland flying boat carried out the the Royal Navy's last convoy escort of the war. At one minute past midnight on 4th June 1945, while on patrol some 500 miles northwest of Ireland "Z for Zebra" received the "cease patrol" order with gratitude for a job well done.
7. Iakobos says:
26 Dec 2013 09:00:46 AM

your report of U-55 on Jan 31, 1940 is incorrect; the submarine was attacked and sunk by depth charges from four ships and one Sunderland
8. Dopplerup says:
30 Jan 2015 02:03:17 PM

I was still flying a Mk V in 1966...
9. Andrew Mielnik RAF says:
28 Sep 2015 05:11:49 PM

No one mentions 88/205/209 RAF Squadrons during the Korean War. I was one of many that took part.
10. Henrik says:
30 Dec 2018 09:08:13 AM

My dad lived in the middle of Denmark west of Aarhus in a place called Brabrand, and over the big lake Brabrand sö (lake) came a Sunderland from west and turned back west. This was during ww2 and i cant figure out what he was doing so far inland.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments
Security Code



1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB & Partner Sites

S.25 Sunderland Seaplane Photo Gallery
Sunderland flying boats in Kalamata Harbor waiting to pick up British troops for evacuation, Kalamata, Greece, Apr 28, 1941.
See all 4 photographs of S.25 Sunderland Seaplane

Famous WW2 Quote
"All that silly talk about the advance of science and such leaves me cold. Give me peace and a retarded science."

Thomas Dodd, late 1945

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!