View Full Version : Seeking info on Catalina AJ155

Rob Stuart
27th October 2010, 02:52
I would like to learn some additional information about Catalina I AJ155. This aircraft was shot down, as QL-A of 413 Squadron, on 4 April 1942 after reporting the approach toward Ceylon of the Japanese task force which attacked Colombo the next day. (See http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp) The pilot was S/L Birchall, RCAF, who won the DFC and OBE and later became known as the Saviour of Ceylon. I know it was completed at San Diego in October or November 1941. How might I learn when it was ferried to the UK, when and where it was taken on charge by the RAF, if it was modified by Saunders-Roe and/or Scottish Aviation, and when it was taken on strength by 413 Squadron?


Rob Stuart

27th October 2010, 05:54

There does not appear to be a manufacturer's serial number or US serial, if there was one, recorded for AJ155 (per Air-Britain's 'British Air Commission and Lend-Lease').

For some reason the records I have don't contain a delivery date or route for AJ155 but AJ154, 157, 158 and 159 all departed Bermuda for the UK on Nov 22, 1941, while AJ156, 160 and 162 left on Dec 4 (which doesn't prove much but gives an idea of a possible date range). That accounts for seven of that batch of nine (AJ154-162), all of which were delivered to the UK.

I found a lot of delivery dates for my area of interest in the Ferry Command aircrew assignment cards at DHH in Ottawa, although the cards are by airman and then aircraft crewed rather than by individual aircraft so it can be a long search. But if a Catalina had a crew of five (at a guess), that would narrow the odds.

Am sure others can help with squadron dates.

Good luck!



Bill Walker
27th October 2010, 16:05
I believe that this batch was a direct purchase by the UK, and therefore would not have US serial numbers. I also believe that the whole batch was brought up to RAF standards by Saunders Roe before delivery to squadrons, but I'm going by memory here.

27th October 2010, 19:07
Rob and Bill:
From 'Air Arsenal North America', AJ155 was one of a batch of nine aircraft on option to Australia but purchased by Britain prior to Lend-Lease. Hence no US serial.** From the same source, Saunders Roe Ltd. at Beaumaris was the 'sister firm' for the Catalina.

**That said, the 20 purchased Boeing Fortress Is (B-17Cs) had USAAC identities although looking at a shot of newly-finished AN536 at Boeing Field it doesn't appear that they were ever applied.

Rob Stuart
2nd November 2010, 09:56
Robert and Bill, thanks for the great information. It's a real help.



Terry Higgins
8th November 2010, 20:41
Hello gentlemen,
I can't add too much to the aircraft's production history as our research here agrees with what has already been said. I do, however, have some detail from the other end of her service life. The copy of a page from S/L Birchall's log book which I have reveals the following:

• March 19 – self [S/L Birchall] plus 9 crew Pem. Dock [sic] to Gibralter [sic] – 3:30 day + 12:00 night

• March 22 – self plus 9 crew Gibraltar to Cairo (Egypt) – 3:50 day + 12:00 night

• March 26 – self plus 9 crew Cairo to Abu Qir (Egypt) – 2:00 day

• March 29 – self plus 9 crew Abu Qir to Basra (Iraq) – 9:00 day

• March 30 – self plus 9 crew Basra to Karachi (India) – 10:10 day

• April 1 – self plus 9 crew Karachi to Koggala (Ceylon) – 3:50 day + 11:00 night

• Total hours for Sqn. move 74:55 (39:55 day + 35:00 night)

S/L Birchall's signature is immediately below this total hours summary below which is added "Flight Commander 413 SQD."

Below all of this is an interesting line, apparently by the same writer (Birchall post-war?) but in a slightly modified printing which accounts for the April 4th mission thus:

• April 4 – self plus 9 crew Patrol. Spotted Japanese Fleet, Sent Message & Was Shot Down. – 10:15 day

below that, in an entirely different handwriting is written "Sergeant Brian Catlin's log - Flight Engineer, Q-LA 413 Squadron.

I'm currently working up research on the markings and technical details of this aircraft and the 4 other initial arrivals from 413 to Kogalla in preparation for model decal design and profile illustrations. Please feel free to get in touch should you have anything to add. Hope that doesn't hijack the thread too much(?).

Terry @ Aviaeology

Rob Stuart
9th November 2010, 00:17
Hi Terry. This is very interesting info on several fronts:

1. I had wondered if Birchall's pilot's log had gone down with his Catalina or if, more likely, it had been left behind at Koggala for security reasons. May I ask how you got a (partial?) copy?

2. "Pem. Dock" would be Pembroke Dock.

3. I am intrigued by the reference to "self plus 9 crew" in each entry. There were definitely only 9 crew, including Birchall, when QL-A was shot down: Birchall, Kenny, Onyette, Phillips, Colarossi, Davidson, Cook, Catlin and Henzill. Does the log include some other name?

4. I have 413 Sqn's ORB for March and April 1942, but there is no entry for 31 March or 1 April, and the entry for 30 March has info only on QL-G, so thanks for filling these gaps.

5. On 4 April QL-A took off at 0652 (according to the ORB) and was shot down at about 1620 (according to the Japanese), which was 9 hours and 28 minutes. The 10:15 may include taxiing time and I suppose Birchall may have been a little uncertain of the time he was shot down.

6. You refer to "the other 4 initial arrivals". I am aware of only three others:

QL-Y (F/L R. Thomas), arrived 28 March
QL-P (F/L Roberts) , arrived 6 April
QL-G (W/C Plant), arrived 7 April

I think there was a distinct delay before another 413 Sqn aircraft arrived.

Thanks for "hijacking" the thread in a direction of real interest!



Terry Higgins
9th November 2010, 22:23
Hi Rob,
Glad to hear that you find it useful. In answer to your questions:

1) Yes, I assume that the logs had remained at Koggala as well and stayed with the Group / Squadron admin. I have a copy of one page of Birchall's, which seems to cull its last entry from Catlin's as noted.
I got it from Birchall's personal papers, some of which should be available via LAC in the near future. I think the collection is currently being catalogued there in preparation for public access.
Feel free to email me if you would like a scan for research/reference.

2) My assumption is the same as yours… the literature and history on the subject certainly agrees.

3) Sorry, this "plus" may be an error introduced by my method of transcribing for the post, combined with Birchall's own log entry. What's in the "PILOT, OR 1st PILOT column in the log I placed to the left of my "plus" with that in the "2nd PILOT. PUPIL or PASSENGERS" column to the right of it. He may have included himself in the overall count I suppose?
My research indicates he saem crew as yours for the final sortie, but I am not certain if an extra was carried on the ferry flight (at least one other 413 aircraft making the same voyage carried a passenger for example).

4) I'd love to see that. I ordered a copy but it never turned up (3 months and still waiting!).

5) Your assessment here makes sense to me. The 10:15 appears to come from flight engineer Catlin's log, transcribed to Birchall's log after the fact. One wonders if the Flight Engineer may have made his start time official the second the engines were both running? Makes sense, no? ;o)
I was also thinking was there may be a potential for local time / zulu time error in meshing the data derived from A) a crew that just arrived after crossing many time zones and B) a Japanese ship that had a similar journey from a different direction.
Further, does the Japanese report come from aircrew (who claimed the victory) or the ship that picked up the survivors?
I suppose a combination of variables could make either time turn out to be correct, within a narrow margin, depending on how you look at it.

6) My mistake… you are correct, there were 4 total initial arrivals. Incidentally, as you may know, Birchall refers to QL•G as "my aircraft." This aircraft, which Plant took to Ceylon, had the unofficial Squadron emblem painted under the L/H cockpit window. Some good material on how this surfaced has come up in the papers now going through the organizational mill at LAC. I'll save the specifics for our upcoming profile prints and model decal docs.
The log page has two entries for "G W8427"… both with 14 crew… Sullom Voe to Oban on March 2nd (3:55hrs) and Oban to Pembroke Dock, again with 14 crew on the 4th (3:40 hrs).

Again, my reading of the subject agrees with your statement… ref the delay before more arrived.

Prints and model decals aside, I'm very interested in building on the Second World War story of 413; both forward from the "Saviour of Ceylon" incident, and backwards from it to their work with the UK based Coastal Command. Thanks for allowing the hijacking!

Detail aspects of the technical evolution of the Consolidated Model 28 through its various PBY / Catalina / Canso is also of interest if anyone who might be lurking is "in the know?"

PS: Rob, I really enjoyed your recent(ish) article on this subject for the Canadian Forces Military Journal. Excellent read. Great context. Level-headed conclusion. Positively good history all around IMHO.

Rob Stuart
13th November 2010, 20:13
Hi Terry,

There seems to be one discrepancy between Birchall’s log and the 413 Sqn ORB. Both have QL-A leaving Gibraltar on 22 March but the ORB has it arriving at Aboukir (using the ORB’s spelling for this place) on 23 March rather than the 26th. Both then show it leaving Aboukir for Basra on 29 March. I think we can assume that Birchall’s log would be the more reliable source and that the ORB is wrong in this particular case. I’ve been wondering about who compiled the info in the ORB for the period when 413 Sqn was in transit. The groundcrew, including no doubt the operations section and the orderly room, did not arrive until 29 May, when Nieuw Holland made Colombo. I presume that the CO, W/C Plant, compiled the March ORB himself after he arrived on 7 April, mostly from the logs of the four aircraft captains.

So far as I know, the crew of QL-A totalled nine, including Birchall, and he is not known to have carried any passengers during the transit to Ceylon. QL-Y (F/L Thomas), on the other hand, is reported to have carried two passengers. Radar mechanic Joe Soper flew aboard QL-Y all the way to Ceylon, according to "Canadians on Radar in South East Asia 1941-1945", at http://www.rquirk.com/cdnradar/cdnseacradar.htm, and on board as far as Cairo was Lt-Gen Sir Archibald Nye, Vice CIGS, according to "The Most Dangerous Moment", pp. 84-85. Thomas’s crew apparently numbered eight, including himself. QL-G and QL-P had nine, including the captain.

The 413 Sqn ORB is on oversize paper, bigger than the screen on my scanner, but I may be able to make a copy at the local library and mail it to you. I’ll email you shortly.

Regarding the 10.15 flight time, I too was supposing that it might be based on engine start up time if derived from the flight engineer’s log. The navigator’s log would have recorded take-off time, no doubt.

You’re right that time zone conversion errors can be a problem. In the chapter on Ceylon in "Bloody Shambles" volume 2 a few of the timings given are out by exactly one hour from other sources. However, I don’t think that there is any doubt about the approximate time QL-A was shot down. All the Japanese ships kept Tokyo time (JST), which was three hours ahead of local time, which was in turn six hours ahead of GMT. It’s pretty clear that QL-A was shot down between 1620 and 1622, local time.

Regarding QL-G on 2 and 4 March: because the squadron did not do any operational flying in March, the ORB has just a summary. The first two entries read as follows:

1/3/42: Squadron preparing to leave Sullom Voe. Two A/C left for Pembroke Dock.

2/3/42: Remaining aircraft left Sullom Voe. Part of ground crew left for West Kirby by air.

The next several entries refer only to personnel and administrative matters. The next entry which refers to any aircraft movement is for 18/3/42, and has QL-Y departing from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland (where 240 Squadron was based) for Gibraltar. It’s just about certain that QL-G had no passengers when it arrived at Koggala, since the Koggala ORB names the nine crew who were aboard when it arrived there and lists no passengers.

A question that has bugged me for a while is whether or not QL-A was fitted with extra ferry tank(s) when shot down. Birchall claimed post-war that it was, but apparently Catlin says it did not. Can this be confirmed from the log you have, or from some other source? Also, where would the ferry tanks have been fitted – under the wings, or maybe inside the fuselage?

Thanks for the great info, and for your kind words about my CMJ article. Over the last couple of years I’ve discovered a few errors in it but no real faux pas so far!



David Duxbury
13th November 2010, 21:40
Standard ferry tanks for the early Catalinas being delivered to RAF and Netherlands Navy in 1941 (and possibly the same for US Navy?) comprised four cylinderical (aluminium or steel?) tanks strapped in a wooden cradle in the fuselage on the Centre of Gravity (directly below the wing position), with a crude arrangement of an electric drum pump which could be moved from one tank to another as they were in turn drained, to transfer the fuel up to the main tanks from where it was drawn on by the respective engines. I believe that these tanks were highly unpopular as the cabin tended (not surprisingly) to fill with petrol fumes during these transfer operations. Much later on Catalinas had underwing streamlined tanks (beleived non-droppable) complete with pumps which accomplished the same job, but out in the fresh air, but this was not till about 1944. Obviously the earlier cabin tank system was very dangerous and all measures had to be taken to avoid asphyxiating the crew or destroying the aircraft by explosion, which is why they were only ever intended for ferrying duty. The standard wing centre section tanks in the Catalina contained fuel sufficient for about 16 to 20 hours flying, which could probably get them from San Diego to Hawaii, but I believe to give them some safety margin, ferry tanks were normally fitted for this stage. Despite this, the RAF did use ferry tanks on operations in the early days (as in the hunt for the Bismarck) to help close the mid-Atlantic "gap", and QANTAS used them on their "Double sun-rise" trans Indian Ocean service from Ceylon to Western Australia (27 hours flying!) Possibly there was at some stage a redesign of the cabin tank system to incorporate proper plumbing to all these tanks so that the dangerous fumes were kept under control. Nobody ever claimed that flying in WW2 was safe or comfortable. Any other comments on this subject welcome!
David D

13th November 2010, 21:59
Rob and David:
Slightly off the original topic but hopefully of interest. Per RAF Ferry Command pilot Arthur Sims:
Most of my flights were fairly routine except for the delivery of Mosquitos. To enable them to be flown across that Atlantic they were given special bomb bay tanks. This was a sort of ‘tied on’ affair and modifications sometimes caused things to go wrong with the fuel system. I clearly recall one flight with a Mosquito when petrol was swishing about in the fuselage by
the time we got to Prestwick. Some pilots refused to fly Mosquitos. They were a good aircraft but the modifications required for the transatlantic flights gave rise to serious problems.

Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 00:19
Robert, it's interesting to learn about the Mosquito ferry flights. The Mossies in question were presumably those made in the de Havilland plant at Toronto. As it was a full-fledged factory, you'd think they could have provided tanks that would not leak.



14th November 2010, 00:42
Yes that would be them. Sim's last delivery was KA970. Seventy-five miles out of Prestwick the pneumatic bottle in the rear fuselage blew out after the regulator valve froze, creating a seven-by-two-foot hole in the rear fuselage and sucking out the crews' luggage. They made Prestwick and belly landed -- Sims resigned shortly afterwards.
Sources: 'Ocean Bridge', 'Mosquito', and Sims' aircrew assignment card

Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 00:43

Thanks for the very interesting information. AJ155 (aka QL-A) flew a number of operational missions from Sullom Voe in February 1942 (and maybe in January too), so I’m sure the ferry tanks were removed after it arrived in the UK from Bermuda. Birchall claimed that QL-A arrived in Ceylon equipped with ferry tanks, in which case they must have been re-installed before it headed for Ceylon. As Terry notes, the Pembroke Dock to Gibraltar and Gibraltar to Cairo legs were almost 16 hours long, so it’s plausible that it was deemed prudent to add them. And since QL-A’s 4 April mission was flown less than 48 hours after it arrived at Koggala, maybe there had simply been no time to remove the ferry tanks. The other thing is that Birchall repeatedly explained postwar that the plan was for QL-A to remain airborne for 24 hours, so that he could land it on Koggala Lake after dawn on 5 April, since he had never landed there in the dark before, and no one seems to have contradicted this. Would it have been possible for QL-A to have remained airborne for 24 hours without ferry tanks?



Bill Walker
14th November 2010, 03:34
Rob, don't remember the source, but I have heard this "stay aloft through the night" story before for the 413 Squadron aircraft on their arrival in the Indian Ocean. Doesn't take 24 hours endurance though, only 12 hours or even less.

Edit: I think this was from "Canadian Flying Operations in South East Asia 1941-1945" by T.W. Melnyk, Directorate of Defence, 1980. I'll have a dig through in the morning.

Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 04:00
Bill, regarding your comment that "Doesn't take 24 hours endurance though, only 12 hours or even less.", Birchall left from Koggala at about dawn on 4 April and was expected to remain on station 360 miles from shore until last light, or close to it. If he was not to alight in the dark, then he had to stay aloft until dawn on 5 April, about 24 hours.


Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 11:05
Hi Bill,

Melnyk's "Canadian Flying Operations in South East Asia 1941-1945" was published in 1976 by the Directorate of History at the Department of National Defence, and you're right that it does refer to this, on page 28:

"Birchall ... was tasked to do a crossover patrol, regularly covering an area 200 miles by 50 miles in order to identify all shipping and establish their course. The patrol was uneventful until near the end of the day when Birchall decided to do one more circuit in order to take advantage of the newly risen moon to get a good astro fix of his position. The crew was in no hurry to return for they could not land until the next morning because they had not had time to practice night landings in the restricted landing area at Koggala."

The following is from "A History of 413 Squadron", by Dennis Baker:

"The lake at Koggala base had only two approaches, and night landings over the tall palm trees surrounding the water were exceedingly tricky. Normally, a pilot would have familiarized himself with the landing areas before leaving to carry out an operational night landing. The station commander [W/C George Butler] knew this but, owing to the urgency of the situation, he asked S/L Birchall to accept the mission.

"Birchall's Catalina possessed overload fuel tanks that allowed the aircraft to remain airborne for up to thirty-two hours. The station commander's plan had Birchall take off from the unfamiliar lake, do the patrol, and then remain airborne until daylight, which eliminated the need for a night landing. Birchall agreed."

In a rather long 1987 speech in Calgary quoted in "Burma Liberators: RCAF in SEAC", Birchall himself commented that:

"We had kept our long range tanks used on the overseas ferry from Bermuda to England and hence we could stay airborne for 32 hours. Our normal patrol out of the Shetlands was 24 hours." [I have my doubts about this latter statement and will check the 413 Sqn ORB.]

"We would leave early in the morning and be out all day. We would come back to Ceylon during the night and put in time until daylight when we would land. This we could do with our long range tanks."

So, there are a number of sources saying that QL-A had ferry tanks when it was shot down, and the fact that the aircraft was to stay aloft for 24 hours supports these assertions, but I understand that the flight engineer, Brian Catlin, denies that it had ferry tanks at the time.

I am told that Catlin has also asserted that at the time it was shot down QL-A was carrying bombs, either as well as depth charges or instead of depth charges. I have been dubious about this but I now note that, according to a 222 Group report, the Blenheims from 11 Squadron which took off from Colombo’s racecourse to attack the Japanese task force were carrying mixed loads of 250 lb. and 500 lb. AS (anti-submarine) and SAP bombs. Evidently there was a stock of AS bombs on Ceylon at the time, so if there was a shortage of aerial depth charges perhaps 222 Group's Catalinas carried AS bombs at the time and not depth charges. Would anyone know about this?



Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 12:00
Further to my last post, Birchall's statement that "Our normal patrol out of the Shetlands was 24 hours" does not seem to be accurate, as least not for February 1942. According to 413 Squdaron's ORB for February, the longest mission that month lasted 15 hours and 15 minutes. It was flown on 14 February by QL-G, which was apparently Birchall's normal aircraft until he took QL-A to Ceylon. QL-A was airborne for 15 hours and 11 minutes on 16 February, and this appears to have been its longest flight of the month. This would seem to support my assumption that ferry tanks were not carried during the operational missions flown from Sullom Voe by 413 Squadron.


David Duxbury
14th November 2010, 21:03
I may have slightly understated the time taken to fly from San Francisco to Pearl Harbour by PBY - it may have avaeraged about 19 hours from memory, and at take off the fuel load was supposed to be 2,080 US gallons, with trip to Hawaii made at 8,000 feet. Typically on arrival at Pearl the aircraft's tanks would still contain some 450 to 500 gallons. It was also noted in March 1944 after the first delivery of Canadian-built PB2B-1 from San Francisco to Pearl that "A great deal of trouble experienced with leaking internal long range fuel tanks, three of the four PB2Bs being affected. These tanks were being removed at Kaneohe owing to high danger factor. External tanks are now being fitted to Catalinas and it is suggested that, if possible, RNZAF arrange to have have its aircraft so fitted for ferrying."
David D

David Duxbury
14th November 2010, 21:05
For long-range ferrying or for maximum endurance on patrol, Catalinas were cleared for take off at about 35,000 pounds. Naturally take off run could be very extended (and often nerve-wracking!)
David D

Rob Stuart
14th November 2010, 23:39
David, thanks for the interesting posts. Would you happen to know how long a Catalina I with no internal or external ferry tanks could remain airborne on patrol at 2,000 feet if it were armed with four 250-pound depth charges or bombs?



15th November 2010, 02:37
According to Royal Air Force, Volume 2 (Richards and Saunders), the endurance of a Catalina I flown at economical cruising speed to 'tanks dry' with 2,000b of depth charges was 17.6 hours or 25 hours with no weapon load. Operational planning was based on 25% less. I would assume a cruising altitude of around 2,000 feet as most Coastal ops were flown at no more than 3,000 feet.

Terry Higgins
17th November 2010, 21:12
Hi gents:
I really like the way this thread has developed over the last little while. I for one am certainly learning lots. Many thanks all around.

I'll try to backtrack and answer any questions I can, from the materials presently at hand, over the next little while. One thing that does come to mind in a very general way immediately is the distinct difference between fuel systems in the Catalina I and later marques, including amphibians. I don't have it nearby at the moment, but I remember distinctly reading about the aux. fuel system setup, IIRC comprising four tanks and one master valve/pump arrangement, in a MAP Air Publication that I have on the Mk.I. Incidentally this same AP also distinguishes certain systems (including fuel?) between early Mk.I/IB/II and later Mk.IV. Minor differences, which do not include any fuel system bits as far as I recall, are also noted between the three early subtypes. As you may know, all of these Catalina subtypes are pure flying boats.

I also have similar manuals for early and late PBY-5A amphipians. No mention is made of aux. fuel tanks within the hull… at least the very detailed fuel system maintenance and operations sections make no mention of it.

More from "inductive reasoning" (a sometimes dubious affair historically speaking) than anything else, and in lieu of diagrams in the AP, my guess is that the Mk.I aux. fuel system, when installed, was located between hull stations 4 and 5. Diagrams and descriptions usually have this space reserved for flame / smoke floats on operational (vice ferry configured) aircraft. This also explains why their is no mention of it in the amphibian documentation since a large proportion of that space is taken up by the main wheel wells.

I was very interested in reading your account of early a/c as this agrees with the AP nicely. I was surprised to learn of the "wet" wing you mention for later a/c though. I had thought this was a feature of the one producers (I forget which) run of USAAF OA-10A machines only. I believe there is also a photo of a USCG OA-10A (equivalent) featuring external wing tanks as well. Do you have a serial identity of such an a/c in RNZAF service? I would love to have it to narrow down the ongoing research here.

One final thought cluster for today on AJ155s configuration during that famous last sortie…
• judging by another early a/c's loadout in a photo (W8406 AXD of 205) they do appear to have had the earlier 450lb Mk.VII D/Cs and large sea markers (200-250 lb class?) in the East Indies at the time. Given the GR presence being built up there since Malaya and Singapore days, I wouldn't be surprised if 250lb A/S bombs were in use as well. The period is correct for these weapons but somewhat too early for the later 250lb D/Cs. Given the mission, I'm in favour of 4 of these as the likely load.
• Somewhere (Arthur Banks excellent "Wings of the Dawning" maybe?) there is a detailed account of the actions inside AJ155 as she was being attacked. I believe it is based, for the most part, on an interview with Catlin and possibly supplemented by others. Whatever the case, it may offer up some clues as to whether or not the aux. tank setup was present.
• Regarding the difference in reports on this installation from Birchall and Catlin, hte log page holds no clue. However – and again I resort to the dubious art of guessing – my bets would be on the aircraft's flight engineer being the best to maintain accuracy with that kind of detail.
Cheers for now and thanks again one and all for the excellent thread,

Rob Stuart
19th November 2010, 13:58

Thanks for your wide-ranging posting. I would agree with you that normally one would defer to the flight engineer rather than the pilot on a question such as whether or not extra fuel tanks were fitted. However, in this case it may be the recollections of Brian Catlin 50 to 60 years after the event versus accounts recorded by Birchall when he was still a young man. Furthermore, Catlin has claimed that QL-A was carrying bombs (or depth charges) when it was shot down, and there is evidence to support him, and as Robert points out the endurance of a Catalina I was less than 18 hours on such a mission when so armed. (Thanks Robert!) If Birchall was wrong to say that ferry tanks were fitted then he was also wrong to say that QL-A was due to land after first light on 5 April, since it could not have stayed aloft that long without the ferry tanks. Note that QL-A was shot down 360 miles from Ceylon, and a little further than that from Koggala, less than two hours before last light. It could not have made it back to Koggala before last light. It seems to me that the evidence supports Birchall's claim that QL-A was carrying ferry tanks, but I'd say that this is not yet proven.

Wings of the Dawning says that on the morning of 4 April "In the dark the crew and Birchall, with no breakfast, were taken down to the jetty on the lake to prepare for a 24-hour flight. Because there had been no time to practice night landings on this hazardous take-off area, the Catalina would have to stay aloft all night and land by daylight." The book has a long account of the attack on QL-A, quoting Birchall, Catlin and Phillips, the radio operator. None mention ferry tanks being fitted but perhaps they weren't hit, or had already been emptied and therefore did not burst into flames when hit.

It's not in Wings of the Dawning, but in an account recorded elsewhere I think Birchall commented that when QL-A sank the crew in the water was worried that its depth charges might go off, indicating they had not been ditched. I've always wondered why they were not ditched as soon as the Zeros approached, but maybe it was not so easy. Am I right to suppose that they could only be ditched using the controls at the bomb aimer's position? If so, was it possible for someone to reach these controls if the front guns were manned and in use? Sgt Henzell, the front gunner, was badly wounded, early in the engagement I think.



Terry Higgins
19th November 2010, 21:47
Hi again Rob,
And thanks for continuing to unfold the possibilities ref this particular mission.

Yes, I'd read this account of "Depth Charges going off" as well. However, just because they didn't go off (by all accounts?) does not mean they were not there. It may be that the safety wires / pins stayed jammed in the fusing mechanism after everything came to a halt, rendering the hydrostatic pistols inoperative even while sinking. This could be true even if the ordnance stayed attached to the wing, or came off (with bomb carriers either attached or dislodged) and entered the water independently. It needs more study of course, but this would likely be true for either the Mk.VII D/C, 250lb A/S bomb, or 500lb A/S bomb.

As far as endurance goes, I'll send you some related material from the Catalina I/IB/II/IV Air Publication and will eagerly await any resulting impact this might have on your interpretation.
I'd post the scans here but am not sure how to do so.

19th November 2010, 22:21
Rob and Terry:
You may have missed this as it squeaked in under one of Rob's postings, sent a few seconds after mine...
According to Royal Air Force, Volume 2 (Richards and Saunders), the endurance of a Catalina I flown at economical cruising speed to 'tanks dry' with 2,000b of depth charges was 17.6 hours or 25 hours with no weapon load. Operational planning was based on 25% less. I would assume a cruising altitude of around 2,000 feet as most Coastal ops were flown at no more than 3,000 feet.

Rob Stuart
19th November 2010, 23:05
Hi Robert,

No, I didn't miss your posting. In fact, I quoted from it in my last one, albeit I kind of buried it, when I said "as Robert points out the endurance of a Catalina I was less than 18 hours on such a mission when so armed. (Thanks Robert!)" Your posting provided important support for my theory that QL-A pretty much had to be carrying auxiliary tanks.



20th November 2010, 05:40
Hi Rob:
Oops - that will teach me not to scan long posts when I'm in a hurry. Glad the data was useful.

Rob Stuart
27th December 2010, 13:30
In the last para of my posting at 08:58 on 19 November, I alluded to the depth charges on Birchall's plane apparently not being ditched when the Zeros approached and I speculated that perhaps they could not have been easily released from the cockpit. Well, I now have a copy of the January 1945 edition of the US Navy "Pilot's Handbook of Flight Operating Instructions" for the PBY-5A. It notes that "The emergency salvo release controls are installed both in the bomber's and in the pilot's compartments." and that "The emergency salvo release will release bombs either armed or safe." The description of the pilot's release controls reads as follows:

"b. The pilot's emergency release controls have two handles, mounted just below the pilot's instrument panel, one left-hand and one right-hand of the center line. The left-hand handle controls bombs or torpedo on left side of airplane and the right-hand handle controls bombs or torpedo on right side of airplane. The handle is connected by flexible cable and a cable splice plate to the bomber's emergency release cable. A pull on the pilot's emergency handle will operate the emergency release system.

"c. A two inch pull on the cable is required to release the bombs. In adjusting the cables, turn the turnbuckles just enough to remove the slack in the cables and no more. Check to see that the emergency release handle is in the closed position after the cables have been adjusted. Too great a tension on the cables may result in dropping bombs inadvertently."

I presume that in this particular there was no difference between the PBY-5A and the PBY-5, AJ155 being a PBY-5.

It would appear that it was very easy to ditch the bombload from the cockpit. However, the fact that the one handle released the weapons slung under the port wing and the other those slung under the starboard suggests that the normal drill would be to have the pilot pull the port handle and the co-pilot the starboard at the same time, so that there would be no loss of balance by having, for example, 2000 pounds under one wing and nothing under the other. There is a photo showing the two handles. The one for the port wing bomb rack is just to the right of the pilot's right knee. I'm not sure if the co-pilot could easily reach over and pull it with his left hand while pulling the other handle, just to the left of his left knee, with his right hand. If not, then the two pilots would have to coordinate their operation of the handles and it may have gotten too hot too fast for Birchall and Kenny to do that once the Zeros were seen.

Any thoughts?


Terry Higgins
27th December 2010, 14:50
Hi Gents:
Rob, I have a copy of this document also (I believe I sent you a time / endurance chart scan?). As well, I have the something similar for the Catalina Mk.I (did I send scan?). The last time we coresponded, I had wanted to find this, and did as I recall, but misplaced it again and have since moved on to other things. Oops! I'll try to locate and pass along the details later.
The reason why I caution here is because, although they may be outwardly similar, one major difference, besides the fuel system, between the early RAF-destined Catalinas (Mk.I) and the PBY-5/5A/Canso was the wing centre section. In fact it was so different that they were not interchangeable. And as luck should have it differences were primarily in the parts of the wing associated with the ordnance-toting hardware and electrical hardware. I mention this because it seems likely that it may have affected the engineering of the jettison gear as well.

From the Mk.II onwards (I've not yet finished investigating the Mk.IB configuration so the jury's still out), the Catalina featured the standard-production PBY/Canso wings so your findings would be absolutely correct there.
Once I find the Catalina Mk.I doc, I'll pipe back in.
If there's anybody out there who can share any knowledge or documentation on this point, I'd love to hear from them.

PS: There is an account of a 413 pilot (in Arthur Banks' book IIRC) jettisoning a load before returning to base and the flight time was way up there: something like 24 hrs. Don't remember the exact details but I believe he was in a Catalina Mk.I. Might be worth chasing down the details?

Rob Stuart
8th February 2011, 10:32
Hi Terry,

I’m not sure that we have exactly the same document. The US Navy "Pilot's Handbook of Flight Operating Instructions" for the PBY-5A uses US gallons, shows .30 calibre machine guns and US radios, and refers to US bombs and torpedoes. (Presumably the AP you have uses imperial gallons, shows .303 machine guns, etc.) The USN pub also does not seem to have the time/endurance chart you allude to, although maybe it has it in a different form and I’m just not recognizing it. Did you derive your chart from some more complicated table or does the chart in the AP look just like what you shared with me?

I have a partial copy of Banks’ Wings of the Dawning but it does not include the episode you refer to. It’s fairly clear that AJ155 was carrying depth charges when it was shot down but it’s not at all clear how many depth charges it was carrying. Perhaps it could have stayed aloft for more than 24 hours, without having ferry tanks, if it had a reduced depth charge load?


Further to your posting of 27 October, extracts from Birchall’s pilot’s log book have been shared with me and by chance it turns out that it was Birchall who ferried AJ161 from Bermuda to Stranraer, on 8 December 1941, during a flight lasting 23 hours and 45 minutes. So, from that batch of nine Catalina’s it’s only the date of AJ155’s flight to the UK which we still don’t know.



Rob Stuart
14th February 2011, 03:06
I've now been passed some specific information on the bombload AJ-155 was carrying on 4 April 1942. The flight engineer, Brian Catlin, states emphatically that the bomb load was:

Amatol Armour-Piercing Bombs – 250 lb. (2)
Depth Charges – 250 lb. (2)
Depth Charges – 500 lb. (2)

Earlier today I saw a list of RAF bombs which showed no AP bomb smaller than 500 pounds, so I think that the 250 lb AP bombs Brian refers to were probably SAP bombs, but if anyone could confirm or refute this, that would be great.

I think Brian has also said that the AP (or SAP) bombs were to be dropped on any Japanese carriers they encountered. Can anyone confirm that 222 Group gave such orders? Or were the AP (or SAP) bombs to be used against submarines? Were other Ceylon-based Catalinas armed with a similar bombload?

Earlier in this thread we discussed whether or not AJ-155 could have remained aloft for over 24 hours while carrying a load of depth charges but we weren't sure of the load it was carrying. Assuming it was carrying a 2,000 lb load as Brian says and did not have ferry tanks, how long could it have remained aloft? The 17.6 hours that Robert suggested seems about right to me.



Rob Stuart
5th June 2011, 15:38
Hello again everyone,

If there is still any interest in discussing AJ155, aka QL-A, I wonder if anyone might be able to say what paint scheme it had when shot down on 4 April 1942. A few artists have produced paintings of QL-A but these paintings show two or three different paint schemes.

There is one fairly good clue. At http://www.telefilm.gc.ca/en/catalogues/production/saviour-ceylon there is a photo of 23 people in front of a Catalina. This is Library and Archives Canada image PL-7403, taken on 17 March 1942. It is of QL-G, the aircraft W/C Plant flew to Ceylon. Birchall is fifth from the right in the rear row. Given the date, it was presumably taken at Pembroke Dock, since Birchall departed from Pembroke Dock in QL-A on 19 March, as did QL-P, and Plant followed from there in QL-G on 22 March. As the fourth 413 Squadron aircraft, QL-Y, left from Lough Erne and not from Pembroke Dock, the 23 officers and airmen may be the crews of QL-A, QL-P and QL-G, minus Plant, who had not yet joined the squadron, and perhaps two or three other people. I would think that all four of the 413 Squadron Catalinas sported the same paint scheme and it’s unlikely that they were repainted between 17 March and 19 or 22 March, so unless they were repainted en route when they underwent minor overhauls at Aboukir (presumably at No. 103 Maintenance Unit), as they all did, then this is probably the paint scheme QL-A wore when it was shot down.

Is anyone able to recognize this paint scheme and say what the colours are? The undersides of the wings and hull are clearly in a light colour but I can’t say if it’s white, light blue, or something else, and I can’t say what the dark colours on the upper surfaces may be. However, the paint scheme looks like it might be the same as the paint scheme worn by 205 Squadron’s Catalinas in the Far East, as in these IWM images:

http://www.iwmcollections.org.uk/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll?AC=PREV_RECORD&XC=/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll&BU=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwmcollections.org.uk%2FqryPho toImg.php&TN=Uncat&SN=AUTO23665&SE=7500&RN=1&MR=25&TR=0&TX=1000&ES=0&CS=1&XP=&RF=phoResults&EF=&DF=phoDetails&RL=0&EL=0&DL=0&NP=1&ID=&MF=WPENGMSG.INI&MQ=&TI=0&DT=&ST=0&IR=0&NR=0&NB=0&SV=0&BG=0&FG=0&QS=

http://www.iwmcollections.org.uk/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll?AC=PREV_RECORD&XC=/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll&BU=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwmcollections.org.uk%2FqryPho toImg.php&TN=Uncat&SN=AUTO24024&SE=7502&RN=1&MR=25&TR=0&TX=1000&ES=0&CS=1&XP=&RF=phoResults&EF=&DF=phoDetails&RL=0&EL=0&DL=0&NP=1&ID=&MF=WPENGMSG.INI&MQ=&TI=0&DT=&ST=0&IR=0&NR=0&NB=0&SV=0&BG=0&FG=0&QS=

http://www.iwmcollections.org.uk/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll?AC=PREV_RECORD&XC=/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll&BU=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwmcollections.org.uk%2FqryPho toImg.php&TN=Uncat&SN=AUTO24429&SE=7504&RN=1&MR=25&TR=0&TX=1000&ES=0&CS=1&XP=&RF=phoResults&EF=&DF=phoDetails&RL=0&EL=0&DL=0&NP=1&ID=&MF=WPENGMSG.INI&MQ=&TI=0&DT=&ST=0&IR=0&NR=0&NB=0&SV=0&BG=0&FG=0&QS=

Finally, I’ve read that Coastal Command adopted its all-white paint scheme in the summer of 1941 but no doubt it took some time to repaint all its aircraft. Is it likely that by the end of February 1942 all of 413 Squadron’s aircraft would have had the all-white scheme, in which case the first four sent to Ceylon were presumably repainted during the first half of March? The unit received the order to move to Ceylon on 27 February. PL-7403 was taken 18 days later, which presumably was enough time to repaint four aircraft. I also wonder if, prior to the introduction of the all-white scheme, Coastal Command Catalinas had a different paint scheme than Far East Catalinas had?



Terry Higgins
5th June 2011, 19:38
Hi Rob,
I've researched this subject pretty extensively and have come to the conclusion that all of these early delivery RAF Catalina I / IB aircraft were finished at the factory-applied, MAP-specified scheme for operational flying boats of the period.

If you have a copy of our Carl Vincent book Canadian Aircraft of WWII (http://www.aviaeology.com/aad001-aviadossier-1-canadian-aircraft-of-wwii.html) I created some profiles of a home-based Catalina in this scheme and provided some findings from my notes on the scheme itself in the captions. In short, it is Dark Slate Grey (actually a green) and Extra Dark Sea Grey tops and sides in a disruptive pattern with Sky undersides. It has been reasoned that American factories were using "American produced equivalents" to the MAP specified colours at the time. Some of these were close to the MAP standards, others noticeably deviant. I've seen some good gen on what was in use contemporaneously by Douglas and North American, but nothing specific yet for Consolidated.

Back to 413's early Catalinas… If these a/c were repainted enroute, it is very likely that the scheme was retained but new paint – whether overall or spot refinishes – may have used finsihing materials of UK factory origin.

I'm in the process of creating profile illustrations of early 413 Cats, including QL•G (Birchall's claimed personal a/c which was flown out to Ceylon by Plant) and QL•A (the "boss's usual mount, flown out to Ceylon by Birchall and used on the "Saviour" sortie) based on my findings. Send me a PM / email if you're interested in seeing them ASAP after completion.

Ref: Coastal's change to all white.
Not sure about that date. I have the AMO promulgating the change orders here somewhere but am thinking it was applied to landplanes with an ASW role first, and then to flying boats. Have to find it to confirm. Photos taken of 413 a/c enroute certainly do not show any evidence of o/a white, and many Cats operating in the east up through 42 sport the old scheme. As you may know, refinishing something as complex as the Catalina is quite involved and this may have been a consideration. The exigencies of the day, initiating the move east, may have deemed such things as complete repaints undesirable. Also, there were not too many Catalinas available in the UK at the time. According to some Aircraft Movement Cards I have, A/C were swapped between Squadrons quite often, at least in the period leading up to 413 being taken off the front line in preparation for their move east. Some gaps between squadron assignments suggest that some airframes could have spent enough time at MU or depot for a repaint, but given the photos of the enroute 413 a/c and mid-42 service Cats of other units in the east c. mid-42, I doubt if this was likely the case.
So, I'm going with the bog-standard scheme until evidence to the contrary is forthcoming.

7th June 2011, 00:18
Hi Terry and Rob:

The first mention of Temperate Sea and White for Coastal Command appeared on August 10, 1941, although the Memorandum didn't mention flying boats which suggests that Coastal Command was happy with Temperate Sea and Sky for that category at the time.

There are a couple of Library of Congress colour images of PBY(s) with Temperate Sea and Sky finish and USAAF insignia although they may well have been RAF-bound and had their markings overpainted in advance of delivery to the UK. Can send you the images if you would like.

Given the approximate photo date and all the squinting I've done at White versus Sky undersides, I'd put my money on Sky undersides for IWM photo K1102.

Afterthought: ...I believe all RAF PBYs with White undersides had camouflage on just the upper decking for and aft of the wing pylon (Pattern No. 2). The IWM photos have the entire upper fuselage down to the chine in Temperate Sea (Pattern No. 1) reinforcing the thought that these aircraft are in the earlier Temperate Sea and Sky finish.



10th June 2011, 00:18
Adding to my last, there is another Library of Congress colour photo of a PBY-5A in Temperate Sea and Sky (or equivalent) with an FP??? serial showing.

Rob Stuart
11th June 2011, 17:43
Terry and Robert, thanks for your responses. I’ve been a little slow to reply to them, as it’s been busy here (work seems to interfere quite a bit with one’s life) and I have a rival for the use of our computer, someone who seems to think quilting is more important than 1942 colour schemes.

My source for saying that Coastal Command decided in the summer of 1941 to adopt the white paint scheme was John Terraine's "Business in Great Waters". On page 370 he has a quote which reads "After various experiments in camouflage it was discovered that plain white on all sides and under-surfaces of the aircraft gave a remarkable degree of invisibility in the cloud and sky conditions generally prevalent in northern latitudes. [...] Thus started in the summer of 1941 the familiar "White Crows" of Coastal Command." Terraine cites the unpublished Air Historical Branch narrative “The RAF in the Maritime War” (AHB/II/117/3(C) p. 40) as his source. Presumably there was some correspondence about the experiments before 10 August 1941 (eg, the reports(s) of the officer in charge of the tests to the Air Ministry and/or Coastal Command HQ) but if the memorandum of that date was a directive from the command to its groups, I think that would be consistent with what Terraine says.

Robert, thanks for noting that prior to the all-white scheme there were two schemes, Pattern No. 1 and Pattern No. 2. Also, I’ve gone to http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=pby to search for the Library of Congress images you mention. I get 25 hits when I search for “pby” but none seem to be the ones you’re describing. Can you give me the image numbers or tell me the search terms you used?

Terry, I have ordered a copy of your book. Hopefully it will arrive before the pending postal strike. I look forward to seeing the colour images of the Coastal Command colour schemes. Also, you refer to photos of 413 Sqn aircraft taken enroute. Can you provide any details, eg, which a/c, when, where, etc? Better still, could you send them to me? My email is robstuart@live.ca.

As it appears then that the four 413 Squadron aircraft probably did not sport the all-white scheme and therefore did not spend the first half of March 1942 having the previous paint scheme re-applied, I have to wonder why it took as long as it did for them to get to Ceylon, compared to the Catalinas of 240 Squadron dispatched at about the same time. Consider these two timelines:

240 Squadron

23 February: Three Catalinas of 240 Squadron leave their base at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for Ceylon (per The Most Dangerous Moment, p. 69). They were apparently BN-L (F/L Bradshaw), BN-K (F/O Round) and BN-M (F/Sgt Redmond).

10 March: BN-L arrives at Koggala, 15 days after leaving Lough Erne

11 March: BN-K arrives at Koggala, 16 days after leaving Lough Erne

18 March: BN-M arrives at Koggala, 23 days after leaving Lough Erne

A fourth 240 Sqn plane, BN-F (F/O Walker), arrived at Koggala on 1 March but I don't know when it left Lough Erne.

413 Squadron

1 March: Two Catalinas (I don’t know which two) leave Sullom Voe for Pembroke Dock

2 March: Remaining Catalinas leave Sollom Voe. The ORB does not give details but from Birchall’s log we know that he flew QL-G to Oban.

4 March: Birchall flies QL-G from Oban to Pembroke Dock

6 March: ORB says "All ranks granted embarkation leave" but this possibly applied only to the ground crew awaiting embarkation at West Kirby. (They embarked on the Nieuw Holland on 17 March and arrived at Colombo on 29 May.)

17 March: photographs taken at Pembroke Dock

18 March: QL-Y (Thomas) departs from Lough Erne (16 or 17 days after leaving Sollum Voe)

19 March: QL-Y arrives at Gibraltar. QL-P (Roberts) and QL-A (Birchall) depart from Pembroke Dock (17 or 18 days after leaving Sollum Voe). QL-P arrives at Gibraltar.

20 March: W/C Plant takes command of 413 Squadron. QL-A arrives at Gibraltar. QL-Y arrives at Cairo.

21 March: QL-Y arrives at Aboukir for minor overhaul.

22 March: QL-A and QL-P depart Gibraltar for Cairo. QL-G (Plant) departs Pembroke Dock for Gibraltar (20 days after leaving Sollum Voe).

24 March: QL-Y departs Aboukir for Basra, arrives at Basra, departs for Karachi.

25 March: QL-Y arrives in Karachi, undergoes minor overhaul.

26 March: QL-A arrives at Aboukir, undergoes minor overhaul. (This is the date in Birchall’s log. The ORB says he flew from Cairo to Aboukir on 23 March.) QL-P arrives at Aboukir, undergoes minor overhaul

28 March: QL-Y departs Karachi, arrives at Koggala (26-27 days after leaving Sollum Voe)

29 March: QL-P departs Aboukir, arrives in Karachi. QL-A departs Aboukir, arrives in Basra. QL-G leaves Gibraltar, arrives in Aboukir.

30 March: QL-A departs Basra for Karachi. QL-G leaves Aboukir for Basra.

1 April: QL-A departs Karachi for Koggala. (This is from Birchall’s log. There are no entries in the 413 Sqn ORB for 31 March or 1 April.)

2 April: QL-A arrives at Koggala (31-32 days after leaving Sollum Voe)

6 April: QL-P arrives at Koggala (35-36 days after leaving Sollum Voe)

7 April: QL-G arrives at Koggala (36 days after leaving Sollum Voe)

The three 240 Sqn aircraft took an average of 18 days to get to Koggala but for the four 413 Sqn aircraft the average was about 32 days. The slowest 240 Sqn transit time (23 days) was three days faster than the quickest by a 413 Sqn aircraft.

The longest stop for 413 Sqn seems to have been at Pembroke Dock (and Lough Erne in the case of QL-Y), where they were held up for something like 16 to 20 days. Possibly the 413 Sqn aircrew were granted leave at this time, but given the urgency assigned to sending reinforcements to the Far East it seems unlikely that they would be given two weeks off, unless the aircraft required maintenance.

Three of the 413 Sqn aircraft may have had various systems fail along the way, as they stopped at Aboukir or Karachi for three (QL-P and QL-A) or four (QL-Y) days for a "minor overhaul". QL-P may have broken down a second time, since it arrived at Karrachi on 29 March but did not get to Koggala until 6 April. QL-G was at Aboukir for only one day but was at Gibraltar for almost a week. These possible breakdowns may reflect the impact of the difficult conditions at Sollum Voe under which the unit operated for several months – and perhaps a lack of maintenance during the first half of March? With 413 Sqn’s groundcrew away on embarkation leave, would groundcrew from other units have worked on its aircraft at Pembroke Dock and Lough Erne? Were there maintenance units at these bases?

The impact of the extended length of the transfer to Ceylon is that all four 413 Sqn aircraft, instead of just two, would probably have arrived at Koggala well before 5 April had it not been for the various delays. With two more Catalinas at Koggala, it might have been possible to keep a better grip on Nagumo's movements on 5 April, which might have allowed Somerville to attack him that night, as he would have done had he had better information on Nagumo’s movements. Or maybe someone other than Birchall would have flown the sortie that found Nagumo on 4 April if there had been two more Catalinas to choose from.

Finally, the longest legs Birchall flew on his way to Ceylon were Pembroke Dock to Gibraltar (15 hours, 30 minutes), Gibraltar to Cairo (15 hours, 50 minutes) and Karachi to Koggala (14 hours, 50 minutes). Based on our exchanges of mid-November in this thread, a flight of 16 hours without offensive armament being carried would not require the use of ferry tanks, but the 413 Sqn aircraft were heavily loaded with assorted baggage and spare parts (and at least one of them had passengers), and I expect it would have been deemed necessary to carry a healthy reserve of fuel to allow for headwinds, bad weather or other problems. Is it plausible that ferry tanks were installed in March for the transfer to Ceylon, for these reasons? I don’t buy Birchall’s story that QL-A still had the ferry tanks installed for its transatlantic delivery flight, so if it had them when shot down on 4 April they must have been installed in March.



Rob Stuart
4th April 2012, 00:21
Terry and Robert,

Regarding this exchange of several months ago, today I found another nail for the coffin of my now disproved speculation that 413 Squadron's Catalina I's sported the all-white scheme when they arrived in Ceylon in March-April 1942. It's from an article about 413 Squadron in the September 1988 issue of Scale Aircraft Modelling (which may have been one of your sources, I suppose). It notes that:

"The squadron's Catalina Is wore the standard camouflage of dark sea grey and slate grey upper surfaces, with sky undersides. Type 'B' roundels were above the wing with Type 'A1' on the fuselage and a Type 'A' fin flash. The squadron code letters 'QL' and the aircraft letter were in medium grey."

Terry, I'm looking right now at your profile of Z2138 in my copy of Avia's Canadian Aircraft of WWII. It's terrific. Thanks for drawing my attention to the book. I'm glad I bought it.


4th April 2012, 16:31
Hi Rob:

I believe the Temperate Sea colours should read *Extra* Dark Sea Grey and *Dark* Slate Grey.



6th July 2013, 16:27
Can I just say that I have enjoyed this thread and learned from it.
I have in my possession a personal account of the trip out to Ceylon, and the action on the 4th, and a bit about life in Japan written in a light hearted 'chatty' style by one of crew.

Terry Higgins
6th July 2013, 19:58
I'd be very interested in a transcript of that personal account if you're willing… it would surely help with an expanded 413 story that I am attempting to piece together. Please PM with details if it is no trouble.

Rob & Robert,
Rob, thanks for buying the book and your kind words… I'm glad you are enjoying it. I'm now (resuming) working on profiles for a number of other 413 Cats as well and, yes, all of the early ones featured EDSG / DSG uppers with Sky lowers as prescribed for flying boats at that stage of the war, and as confirmed by Robert as one variation of the Temperate Sea Scheme. Photos of pre-Ceylon and early-service Ceylon based Catalinas agree with this.

I presume that the orders took a little while to follow the actual experiments in scheme… the photographic record seems to point that way anyway.

Cheers all 'round,
Terry (with apologies for taking so long to come back to this very interesting thread).

PS: Rob, some time ago we'd discussed whether or not the Birchall crew had the mid-fuselage aux. fuel tank on board. Something related of interest popped up in a CCDU document that I've recently gotten hold of. It summarized the changes made to ferried Catalinas prior to service entry, and one of the items was the removal of that part of the fuel system. This has me wondering if it may have been installed for ferry flights, and uninstalled / stored at the nearest Catalina MU (or equivalent) prior to ops. As I recall, the 413 aircraft were delayed in leaving the UK due to a trip to Ireland(IIRC?) to be outfitted for the trip east. Besides fresh engines, radios, etc, I wonder if the ferry tank was reinstalled? And, given the short time the a/c was in Ceylon prior to that fateful mission, I wonder if they had time to uninstall? Any insights?

PS 2: Ref Coastal Commands (indeed, the whole RAF with the possible exception of Training Command) maintenance workflows of the period. Interestingly enough, the whole maintenance organization was under scrutiny during this period and it occurs to me that delays imparted on the start of this particular deployment east may have been a result of some of the failings then being realized. I'm attempting to find out more on this… just starting to read some literature pointing at primary source material on the subject now.

23rd November 2015, 21:00
I came across this by accident. My father was a member of this crew. The chatty account sounds like the one he wrote. I also have a copy. He still has the original. I am fascinated to know how Trev has a copy and wether you are still researching this action.