Stephen Brown is a self-taught artist who has specialised almost exclusively in aviation subjects for the last 15 years. Building on a background as a landscape and aviation photographer, his style carefully combines both these areas of interest. Stephen’s originals in oil are in much demand and have been regularly exhibited with the prestigious Guild of Aviation Artists. Demand for his originals is high with regular commissions being undertaken for commercial and private clients as well as the RAF.
The following Sunderland pilots have all signed copies of “Tireless Vigilance”.
We do hope you will find these biographies of interest. We think that by knowing a little about the men behind each signature, it will help you get the most from your copy of “Tireless Vigilance”. We would ask you not to reproduce the biographies in any format without our permission. Please bear in mind that the notes have been prepared by each individual and copied, with virtually no editing, by SWA Fine Art.
Flt. Lt. John Bishop joined the RAF in April 1943 from Edinburgh University Air Squadron and trained as a pilot in Rhodesia. In August 1944 he was posted to Diego Suarez to fly Catalina flying boats on anti-submarine patrols. He converted to Sunderlands at Mombassa on 209 Sqdn. and 57 MU also on Sunderlands until 1953. This included the Berlin airlift in 1948, flying from the river in Hamburg to Havel Lake. In April 1945 and flew in an anti-shipping role in Burma. At the end of the war in the Far East he flew from Hong Kong and Singapore until returning to the UK in September 1946. He continued on 201 Sqdn. Flying boats until 1953. Thereafter he was mainly employed on V.I.P. duties flying from Malta, Northolt, Fontainebleau, Bovingdon and White Waltham. He flew 173 ops. including 1800 hours on Sunderlands and 1800 hours on Devons out of a total of 6250 flying hours. The last five years of his service was as an Air Traffic Controller at R.A.F. Benson and R.A.F. Abingdon.
Wg. Cdr. V. Hodgkinson DFC, MID, MRAeS, joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1937 (Service No. 463). He was posted to No. 10 Sqdn. RAAF in the UK in January 1940 flying Sunderlands from Pembroke Dock and went on to serve until 1942 flying operations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean from bases in Pembroke Dock, Oban, Plymouth, Gibraltar and Alexandria (Egypt).
In 1942 he was posted back to No. 20 Sqdn. in Australia flying Catalinas from Cairns on bombing raids over Japanese bases and anti-shipping patrols throughout the Solomon Islands and north of New Guinea. He went on to complete 44 operations and commanded this squadron until 1943 before becoming Chief Flying Instructor, Catalinas 3 OTU Rathmines. Vic later formed and commanded No. 40 Sqdn. RAAF Sunderlands, Port Moresby, New Guinea until 1945. He retired from the RAAF in 1946 to join BOAC, Hythe, flying their civil Sunderland conversions – Hythes, Sandringhams and Solents.
Vic transferred to landplanes in 1950 flying Canadair “Argonauts”, Bristol “Britannias”, DH Comet 4s, 707-436s and 336s. Vic retired in 1971 having amassed 19,300 hours, including some 4,300 hours on Flying Boats. In his retirement Vic is currently restoring and maintaining a Sandringham Flying Boat at the Southampton Hall of Aviation.
Wg. Cdr. A.W.L. “Paddy” Mahon MBE, C. Eng. MRAeS, started his 37-year career in the Royal Air Force in 1930 when he enlisted as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton. He served as Metal Rigger and later as an Aircraft Fitter on Fleet Air stations and ships, for a while on Queen Bee aircraft. In 1937 he finally succeeded in selection as an Airman Pilot. EFTS at Bristol, SFTS at South Cerney, Maritime Recce at Thorney Island, and finally Flying Boat School at Calshot. There he learned his craft as a “Boat” pilot on aging Supermarine Scapas formerly used by 202 Squadron, Malta.
On completion he was posted to 228 Squadron at Pembroke Dock which was in process of re-equipping with Stranraers. In December 1938 he was 2nd pilot on the collection from Rochester of the Squadron’s first Sunderland. In June 1939 the Squadron moved to Alexandria for Naval Cooperation Exercises. In addition to these the Sunderlands were used for long-range V.I.P. flights and for transport around the Med. In course of these, the crew of which Sgt Mahon was a member, visited Malta, Bizerta, Cairo, Cyprus and for the third time Athens, leaving there on 2nd September 1939.
The Squadron was ordered home to Pembroke Dock on 9th September and immediately started the round of convoy escorting anti-submarine sweeps and general maritime tasks covering from Norway to Malta. On 24th November Sgt Mahon was one of the crew detailed to search for the “Deutschland” after it had sunk the armed merchant cruiser “Jervis Bay”. The operation involved the crew in 15 hours of flying in the most severe weather. Detachments to the Shetlands often meant the whole crew living on the aircraft for several days at a time because the weather prevented small craft coming along side but flying by day continued.
In June 1940 he was seconded to 10 RAAF Squadron at Mount Batten to increase their roll of qualified first Pilots. One of his first trips was to convey Lord Gort and Mr Duff Cooper to Rabat on an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Sultan of Morocco to continue the war on its allies’ side. That trip earned the Captain a DFC. In the months he spent with 10 Squadron several trips were made to Malta supporting the Hurricane reinforcement by aircraft carriers conveying essential ground personnel and equipment including one load of several tons of Browning gun links, none of which were held on the island.
In February 1941 it was back to “two layers of wing”. He was posted to 202 Squadron at Gibraltar, which was flying Saro Londons but expected to be re-equipped with Sunderlands. He travelled as a “passenger” on a 10 Squadron aircraft in company with Anthony Eden and Lord Dill. That trip is recorded in several books on the Sunderland’ as being “special”. It was Sgt Mahon’s last ever time flying in a Sunderland as 202 Squadron were subsequently re-equipped with Catalinas.
The transfer meant flying to U.K. with a London, a memorable trip of over 15 hours. Qualifying courses at Stranraer on the Catalina led to the ferrying flight back to Gibraltar. Unfortunately on Sgt Mahon’s ferry trip the elevator controls failed en route and the attempted landing at Gibraltar using only trim tabs resulted in a serious crash ending his flying career. After a long period of hospital and subsequent rehabilitation, he reverted to his ground trade. He was commissioned into the Technical Branch in which he served until 1967 being awarded the MBE in 1963.
Sqn. Ldr. Alan Nicoll joined the RAF in February 1939 and trained as an Observer (Navigator). His first posting was to 44 Squadron newly equipped with the Hampden bomber at RAF Waddington. When war was declared on 3rd September 1939 he was immediately involved in operations flying that night on the very first sortie of WW2. By the end of 1940 he had completed a full tour of 37 raids before being commissioned and selected for advanced navigation training in Canada. He was subsequently posted to Rhodesia as a navigational instructor and examiner.
He completed Pilot training before returning to the UK where he qualified as a Sunderland flying boat Captain serving at Calshot and Pembroke Dock. In 1956 he took the last RAF aircraft to moor up in the Pool of London for “Battle of Britain” celebrations. A posting to RAF Seletar (Singapore) followed where Sunderlands were finally retired from service in 1959. He then served on Shackletons and in Transport Command before retiring in 1975.
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