Aviation Historian 26
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T.Lipscombe - RAF Far East Flight (2)
With pith helmets - otherwise known as sola topees - very much the order of the day, work is undertaken on Far East Flight Southampton S1149, recognisable by virtue of its single stripe on the bow and fuselage aft of the trailing edge. The other FEF aircraft were marked as follows: S1150, two stripes; S1151, three stripes and no stripes at all for S1152.
The four Southamptons of the FEF on the newly completed concrete slipway at RAF Seletar in Singapore after their arrival in February 1928. Although the new base was not yet finished, much of the native mangrove swamp had been cleared and a hangar and several “attaps” - matting huts on stilts - had been constructed.
Bearing three stripes, S1151 shows off its undersurfaces while in flight. Fuel supply to the Napier Lion engines was by gravity feed from the upper wing tanks, clearly visible here, obviating the need for petrol lines to be accommodated within the hull - although a pump was later fitted for moving fuel to the overhead tanks from a sump located amidships.
The residents of Melbourne queue for an opportunity to view the cockpit of Sqn Ldr Livock and Flt Lt Maitland’s aircraft, S1149, by means of a specially constructed wooden bridge. After a thorough overhaul at Melbourne, each of the Southamptons was given a 30min test flight in the week before their departure for Victoria.
Domestic chores along the way were the responsibility of each crew, and Livock’s Southampton is seen here with the crew’s sleeping bags hung out for an airing from its interplane wires during the Flight’s stop on the Tigris at Hinaidi, near Baghdad, in November 1927, during the Flight’s five-month cruise from the UK to Singapore.
On September 15, 1928, the FEF arrived back at Singapore, where they were hauled ashore and given a major inspection and overhaul, the Napier Lion engines being replaced on all except S1149, which was dismantled and returned to the UK for a much more detailed inspection. On November 1 the Flight set off again, with S1127 replacing S1149, on a "minicruise" around South-east Asia.
With Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction in the background, the four Southamptons of the FEF make the most of their sheltered moorings at Farm Cove in Sydney Harbour. The Flight arrived in Sydney on August 1, 1928, and stayed until August 11, when they took off, circled in formation, and departed for Brisbane.
The FEF arrived in Melbourne on June 29, 1928, and S1149 is seen here overflying the nearby RAAF base at Point Cook
Single-striped S1149 at anchor during one of the Flight’s open-water stops. In contrast to the RAF’s standard bare-metal Southamptons, the hulls and wingtip floats of the FEF machines had a white varnish applied to their hulls, and one was given an enamel finish developed by Rylard, the British narrowboat paint specialist.
The interior of the metal-hulled Southampton II was somewhat cramped - but less so than that of its forerunner, the wooden double-hulled Southampton I.