23 September 2009

During the Berlin Airlift, the Royal Air Force used two Short Sunderland squadrons, No. 201 and No. 230, to augment airlift capacity by flying into Lake Havel (Havelsee) just west of Berlin. The Sunderlands were based near Hamburg on the Elbe River. They had a load capacity of 4.5 tons and were valued as salt carriers as their specially-treated airframes designed for operations in a sea environment made them resistant to corrosion. On the return flights to Hamburg, they carried manufactured goods and refugees, mostly German children.

Between July and December, when the Sunderlands had to stop operating due to the Havelsee freezing over, the Sunderlands flew over 1000 sorties, carried over 2500 tons of salt into Berlin and flew over a 1000 German children out. By the time the Havelsee thawed out in the spring, airspace saturation prevented the Sunderland operations from resuming.

Source: International Air Power Review, Volume 26. "Air Operations: Berlin Airlift" by Warren E. Thompson, additional material by David Donald, p168.

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