Flying Boats on Hornsea Mere

The Royal Naval Air Service flew Sea Planes and flying Boats from Hornsea Mere in 1917 & 1918 on Submarine Patrol in the North Sea. The planes were both small and light and required a short take off and landing area that the Mere accommodated.

In September 1937 two types of flying boats of the RAF Admiralty Branch landed at Hornsea to assess the feasibility of using it again for Anti-Submarine Patrols in the event of War. The planes used in 1937 however were much heavier than their predecessors and it was thought that the Mere’s length would be a critical factor in if the modern sea planes could actually use it.

The first plane to land was a Supermarine Scapa, an all metal Southampton Mark IV biplane flying boat of which 14 were made between 1935 and 1938. It was followed a day later by four Supermarine Stranraers which were a twin engine biplane reconnaissance flying boat developed as a Southampton Mark V, these were obviously seen as more successful as 58 were built but were replaced in 1941 by the Consolidated Catalinas.


Supermarine Scapa



Supermarine Stranraer

300px-Supermarine Stranraer 3 ExCC


Consolidated Catalina




The Flying Boats took part in an Exercise with the Home Fleet with HMS Rodney, the Battleship Ramillese and the Aircraft Carrier Courageous with five destroyers. The Fleet was reported to be off Felixstowe and Patrols from Hornsea were to carry out Reconnaissance Surveillance over the North Sea and bomb the fleet if feasible. Planes from Courageous flew bombing sorties to inland targets while others engaged the flying boats in aerial combat.

In October Short Singapores, reconnaissance bombers-flying boats built between 1934 and 1937 arrived. These were biplanes with two paired engines. Nineteen were still in service when war broke out but they were all replaced by Sunderland Flying Boats in 1941.


Short Singapore



Sunderland Flying Boat




Further trials were held but it was found that the Mere was just not suitable as a base for Flying Boats and floating obstacles were anchored on the Mere to prevent enemy flying boats from landing. On the 23rd December 1943 a Supermarine Walrus based at Hutton Cranswick illegally landed on the Mere and on takeoff the Pilot hit what he thought was a gravel bank but it could easily of been one of the obstacles. A lucky pilot indeed.


Supermarine Walrus

Supermarine Walrus



On the 28th February 1918 - Acting Flight Commander Paul ROBERTSON RNAS, attempted rescue of a crashed pilot, Hornsea Mere, East Yorkshire. Here is the article from the London Gazette of the award of the ALbert Medal for gallantry, Subsequently the Albert Medal was exchanged for the George Cross.


The London Gazette 18 June 1918 (from Whitehall, June 15, 1918)


The KING has been pleased to award the Albert Medal to Acting Flight Commander Paul Douglas Robertson, R.N.A.S., in recognition of his gallantry in endeavouring to save life in February last. The circumstances are as follows: —


On the 28th February, 1918, a Seaplane got out of control and spun to the ground. Acting Flight Commander Robertson, the Observer, jumped from the machine just before it reached the ground and landed safely, as the ground was marshy. The Pilot, Flight Lieutenant. H. C. Lemon, was imprisoned in the Seaplane, which, on striking the ground, immediately burst into flames, and notwithstanding that the vicinity of the Seaplane was quickly a furnace of blazing petrol, and that heavy bombs, a number of rounds of ammunition, and the reserve petrol tank were all likely to explode, Acting Flight Commander Robertson returned and endeavoured to extricate the Pilot, and only desisted when he had been so severely burned in the face, hands and leg that his recovery was for some time in doubt.

He displayed the greatest gallantry, self- sacrifice and disregard of danger in his efforts to extricate the Pilot





A trip around the Mere today.


Today much of the original infrastructure still remains and it is not hard as you are stood looking out over the mere to imagine Flying Boats coming in and taking off. The Cafe that sits proudly looking over the mere was once the workshops and fitters would of worked on engines and planes as when needed.








The Cafe is the Original Workshop.






The double doors on the right of this building was designated as a Morgue, but was never used as one.





In this photograph you can just abot make out a concrete circle. This was where the compass for which every sea plane would be dragged up to, to calibrate its own compass to the airfield Compass.




Looking across from the Compass Base to the Workshops. Sea Planes would have been dragged up onto the grass area.




Lastly a long forgotten War Relic, the Explosives Store collapsed into itself lying half submerged on the shore line, a real true reminder of the purpose of the Sea Planes that flew out of Hornsea Mere.