Coastal command

When war broke out on 3 September 1939, a party of Australian personnel who were already in England to take delivery of new Short Sunderland flying boats became No 10 Squadron RAAF attached to Royal Air Force Coastal Command. They were the sole RAAF presence in the European theatre until 1940 when the first Australians trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme began to arrive in England.

The Australian and Allied airmen of RAF Coastal Command flew long and tiring patrols from bases in Britain such as Pembroke Dock in Wales and Mount Batten at Plymouth in England. They flew over miles of ocean to hunt and destroy German submarines – the U boats – which were taking a terrible toll of merchant ships in the convoys bringing vital supplies to Britain. The design and construction of the flying boats also meant that their crews had to remain vigilant, even when not on flying operations.

… when we weren't flying very often we were manning the aircraft to prevent from being swept ashore by severe gales. And we would sometimes just get into bed at night, and we had these Nissan huts, and the guards would come around and say, 'Gale crew, gale warning, all out'. So a skeleton crew would have to be taken out in a dinghy, clamber aboard the aircraft, an engineer and a pilot, the engineer to start the engines and a pilot just as control the weight of the aircraft against the anchor cable because the winds were so severe that if the anchor cable broke you were washed up on the rocks and that was the end of the aircraft. So sometimes we flew on the water with the engines running for hours and hours on end. We weren't out on any training flight; all we were doing was trying to save the aircraft.

[Allen Cover, Archive No 1185, Australians at War Film Archive]

RAAF Flying Officer Allen Cover [Archive No 1185, The Australians at War Film Archive]

Flying Officer Allen Cover was one of the 600 Australians who trained with the Empire Air Training Scheme in Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe). After his training in Africa he was posted to Coastal Command at Inverness in Scotland to train on Catalina flying boats. In September 1942, 262 Squadron RAF was formed and Cover returned to South Africa with the squadron to patrol the Indian Ocean in Catalinas.

Not only enemy aircraft, but the weather was another enemy for aircrews, and according to Allen Cover, 262 Squadron RAF, [was] perhaps the biggest hazard that you had to contend with.

No 10 Squadron RAAF, based mainly at Mount Batten at Plymouth, flew throughout the war and was the only RAAF squadron to have remained on continuous active service during World War II. In June, the squadron ceased operations and formally withdrew from RAF Coastal Command. It was officially disbanded on 26 October 1945. No 10 Squadron RAAF had flown 4,553,860 nautical miles, undertaken 3177 operational flights and had sunk five submarines.

Ground staff

Flight Sergeant Oswald 'Ossie' Ferguson, 10 Squadron RAAF, arrived in England from Australia in December 1939. He was responsible for the maintenance of the Short Sunderland flying boats flown by the squadron from RAF Mount Batten on Plymouth Sound. His dedicated work was recognised by the award of a British Empire Medal in the King's Birthday Honours list in 1944. According to the official citation, he had 'worked night and day under very bad conditions, forgoing all privileges in order to meet a high standard of serviceability'.

On 30 June 1944, Flight Sergeant Ossie Ferguson was on sick leave in London when he was killed by a German flying bomb ('doodle-bug') in the vicinity of Australia House. He was buried in the World War II RAF plot in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England.


Last updated: 14 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Coastal command, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 March 2023, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/air-war-europe-1939-1945/coastal-command
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