TO REPLACE THE SEAGULL III AMPHIBIAN AIRCRAFT that were carried in the seaplane carrier Albatross a more robust unit was required. Being of wooden construction, the Seagull III was not considered strong enough to withstand the shock of being catapulted and as catapult launching was essential, an aircraft specially designed for the purpose had to be found. The answer seemed to be an amphibian designed by Mr. Mitchell, who later gained world renown for the Spitfire. The Royal Air Force did not seem to be interested in the new aircraft, but the RAAF was of the opinion that the new plane, known as the Seagull V, would really suit Australian requirements, and an order for 24 Seagull Vs was placed with Supermarine. Shortly after the Australian order was placed, the RAF had a change of heart and went ahead and ordered the new type, giving it the service designation of Walrus.
The first two Seagull Vs, registered numbers A2-1 and A2-2, were issued to HMA Ships Australia and Sydney, both being in the United Kingdom at the right moment. This series of photographs were taken in Australia during the period when the new aircraft was undergoing its initial service.
Accidents could, and did, occur, but for all that, the Seagull V was to give good service with the RAN for ten years. As there was no fleet air arm at that time, it was usual for the RAAF to supply the aircraft, the pilot and the ground staff, whilst the RAN supplied the observer and the telegraphist-air gunner. This arrangement worked until the aircraft were withdrawn from seagoing service.
Being a catapulted aircraft, there were many advantages over the Seagull III, the main one being that the ship did not have to stop to lower the aircraft into the water for take off, but it still had to stop to recover.
One odd feature was that the engine was arranged for pushing, with the propeller at the rear, instead of the usual pulling system. As is usual, the Seagull V was given a nickname, ‘The Pusser’s Duck’ and, in a small way, the old name is still alive. 9 Squadron, RAAF, was the parent body for the Naval wing, and they adopted a duck’s head and a naval crown as their squadron badge, and this badge is still in use at the present time.
In a clear case of poetic licence, the Seagull V never did perform the duty that it was designed for, being carried as the main armament for Albatross.
The old seaplane carrier was laid up for some time, and was only fitted with its catapult in time for the ship’s final disposal from the RAN. The Seagull V was used to test Albatross’s catapult, but was not used operationally by that ship in the RAN.