BLACKBURN SKUA IN PICTURES
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This page is devoted to pictures and
images of the Skua I
have found in my collection of old pre-war or wartime postcards books
and magazines. If
any of these images are covered by current copyright or are owned by
please let me know and I will remove them from the page straight away.
A rather nice view of a Skua showing well
the four wing mounted machine guns. It was usual to tape these over
with red coloured fabric tape to prevent water and dirt ingress, hence
the dark "squares" on the wing leading edge. In the background are some
bell-tents, a couple of Swordfish aircraft and what looks like the nose
of a Walrus amphibian peeking out from behind the Skua.
This is a Wartime postcard, this time a half-tone reproduction. Note the square of gas detection paint on the wing. Everyone expected the Second World War to start with massive gas attacks. Note also the way the rear machine gun protrudes a little from the recess in which it would normally sit. Just aft of the wing you can see they have left the folding footstep in the "down" position. The small protrusion behind it is the tube down which a trailing wire antennae could be extended.
If you look closely at the picture above you can see what looks like a panel line running from the rear gunner/observer/WT operators position to the tail. This was a dual cable run running outside the fuselage to operate an anti-spin parachute in the tail (one cable operated the parachute, the other cut it free once it had done its job). This was a late addition to the Skua's design and the reason it had to run outside was that the fuselage was designed to be water-tight to keep the aircraft afloat in the event of ditching. The designers took the easy way out when adding this modification! The cable run takes a dog-leg so as not to obstruct the door to the dingy compartment on top of the rear fuselage. This is another aspect of the Skua's design not given in published plans of the aircraft. The early aircraft in the first production batch of Skuas had landing lights in both wings. All the later batches only had a single lamp in the port wing. Hence these are early Skuas from the first batch. Note the oval panel just forward and below the cockpit, this panel allowed the removal of the oil tank. A similar but much larger panel positioned lower down on the port side of the aircraft gave access to the forward fuel tank.
From the same "photo shoot" the picture above shows pre-war Skuas of 803 Sqdn sporting their silver finish.
The picture above is from a Blackburn publicity brochure. it shows well the curved undercarriage doors and gives a hint of the way the underside of the wing swept up to mate with the large fillets which went back towards the tail..You can clearly see the way the fuselage seems to sit on top of the wing, with the broadest part of the fuselage being only slightly behind the wing's leading edge. The Fuselage tapers towards the tail from this point, rather than from the wings trailing edge as in most aircraft of this layout. The recess in which the bomb sat was well aft, with the front of the recess being in line with the main spar. The large size of the Skua meant that even the big 500 lb bomb it carried in this recess looked tiny when fitted. The two projections under the fuselage are the rearmost pair of four fittings for the catapult trolley used to launch FAA aircraft at this period.
The picture above shows the prototype Skua called the Skua Mk I, note the shorter nose and wings that do nor have upswept tips. The engine of the prototype was a Bristol Mercury IX, which needed small bulges in the cowling over the engine rockers, something the sleeve-valve Perseus engine of the production Skua (Skua Mk II) did not require.
I am indebted to Mrs Rita Freeman for allowing me to show the dramatic picture above of the recovery of a Skua lost overboard. It comes from her two brothers' collection of photos. Both of Rita's brothers served on HMS Illustrious and it would seem certain the picture was taken from that famous aircraft carrier. The tropical uniforms worn by the crew and the low island in the background suggest a possible location for this scene as being Bermuda. The Illustrious went to Bermuda for a part of its "shake down" cruise in 1940, on board were the Skuas of 806 Squadron. On the 7th July the Carrier was anchored off the island, but a stiff wind over the flight deck prompted the launching of a training flights of Swordfish and Skua aircraft. Unfortunately the wind then dropped, and the aircraft did not have enough fuel to wait for the carrier to build up steam. Since there was no airfield on Bermuda there was no option but for the aircraft to attempt to land back on the carrier. The Swordfish, with their lower landing speed, managed to land OK.The Skuas did not fare so well, and this could be one of the Skuas lost over the bow of the Illustrious that day. One Skua had its landing hook torn off and managed to get back into the air, it then crash landed on a golf course on Bermuda. Later that year HMS Illustrious won fame for launching the raid by Swordfish aircraft on the port of Toranto that crippled the Italian fleet.
This enlargement shows the Skua in greater detail. You can see the bomb recess is well aft , and only ends just above the waterline . Note that the inside of the port side wheel-well and flap housing are painted black - no doubt left over from the colour scheme the aircraft would have worn when shore-based, the underside of the port wing would have been painted black to aid identification by ground observers. You can also make out the vague outline of an overpainted roundel on the port wing. The small holes for ejecting the spent cartridges from the four wing mounted machine guns are clearly visible. The heavy staining on the starboard wing, near the fuselage, is due to the engine exhaust .
A Skua coming in to land on a carrier. You can see the "V" form of the arrestor hook. This hook could not be retracted again once released. You can also see the flaps which doubled as dive brakes. These flaps were of the "Zap" type : as they extended the front edge of the flap was drawn back, ending up in the middle of the recess in which the retracted flap sat. The advantage of this type of flap was that the centre of gravity of the aircraft was not affected by their operation, hence there was no need to re-trim.
Skua taking off from aircraft carrier.
Loading a belt of .303 ammunition for one of the Skua's four wing mounted Brownings.
Skuas in formation, showing a range of roundel styles.
In the late 30's the Blackburn Skua was the very epitome of Speed and Power (embossed book jacket).
This splendid cover to an American comic book was clearly meant to show the attack on the Königsberg. The artist has used the limited photos of Skuas available at the time... So the nearest Skua is in pre-war markings (see photo near the top of this page, clearly the photo the artist copied) and the Skua behind it has the black stripes of a target tug, (actual target tug markings were black on yellow "tiger stripes"). The ship is not the Königsberg but is copied from pre-war photos of the pocket battleship Graf Spee. I do not think the little 20lb bombs tumbling from the second Skua would have done much harm to a pocket battleship! For my own attempt at a painting of the attack on the Königsberg CLICK HERE.
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