At the annual RAF Defford Re-Union in Croome Court on July 17th, Lloyd Griffiths who is the son of Group Captain Frank Griffiths, gave to the Defford Airfield Heritage Group for display and safe keeping, a set a paintings by Wally Hammond illustrating an episode in Frank Griffiths’ flying career with TFU at Defford.
The story behind the paintings is as follows.
THE WALRUS AND THE SUBMARINE
One of the responsibilities of TFU at RAF Defford was to work with the Royal Navy, perfecting airborne radar for ASV (air-to-surface-vessel) and anti-submarine work, in support of RAF Coastal Command and of the Fleet Air Arm.
In January 1943, Frank Griffiths (later Group Captain and o/c Flying at Defford) flew a Walrus amphibian flying boat from Defford to Northern Ireland for trials in co-operation with an elderly Royal Navy Submarine, H33.
On the last day of the trials, the submarine H33 suffered a loss of control and was immobilised as a consequence of a collapse of part of the deck plating on the hull. Frank Griffiths observed the problem from the air, and unable to break radio silence, decided to make a landing on the calm open sea alongside the submarine, to establish the extent of the difficulties.
While the submarine crew repaired the damage, Griffiths enjoyed a convivial lunch in the wardroom of H33. When he emerged however, he found the sea had risen with breaking waves which would make take off impossible. He hatched a daring plan with the captain of the submarine, for the vessel to steam at full speed into wind to create a slick of calm sea in its wake in which the following Walrus might take off. This required precise timing. Starting too early, and the Walrus might hit the submarine – too late, and returning high waves would make take off impossible.
In his reminiscences, Griffiths wrote: “I was unhappily aware this was one of those cases where if things went wrong it would mean a court martial. Their Lordships…… took the poorest possible view of those who broke aeroplanes in this kind of lark. On the other hand a successful take-off would be regarded as a good show”.
“I opened up and we roared over the crest of the first swell, and I could see the submarine going up the slope of the next one ahead – unpleasantly close… as soon as we were at the bottom of the swell the sub vanished again. We got to the top of the next one – and we were airborne…..”
This story was related in his inimitable style by the late Group Captain Griffiths in his book “Angel Visits – From Biplane to Jet”.
The paintings of the incident of the Walrus and the submarine, were kindly loaned by Captain Lloyd Griffiths, the son of Frank Griffiths, for display to the RAF Defford Reunion Association and for safe keeping by the DAHG.
Photos of the paintings below: