Short Sunderland at the Tower of London

Short Sunderland at the Tower of London, 1983

Short Sunderland at the Tower of London, 1983

One Sunday afternoon in 1983, I was strolling over Tower Bridge in London, when I happened to look down at the Thames. There, moored in the Pool of London, was a vintage Short Sunderland flying boat. The photo above shows the scene from the South Bank (after I’d walked around from Tower Bridge), with the Tower of London in the background.

I learned later that this aircraft, registered G-BJHS, was the last flying Sunderland. It originally carried the military serial ML814, and served with the Canadian and New Zealand air forces before being civilianized. It now resides at Fantasy of Flight in Florida, but hasn’t flown since 1996.

Incidentally, the “Imperial Airways” markings on the aircraft, visible above, were fictitious and were probably applied for movie work. Imperial Airways was in fact defunct before the Sunderland entered service.

The photo below shows the first view I saw of the aircraft, from Tower Bridge. The same Google Streetview today is almost unrecognizable; the only common features seem to be the River Thames and the Tower of London!

Short Sunderland from Tower  Bridge, London, 1983

Short Sunderland from Tower Bridge, London, 1983

In the background you can clearly see the British Telecom Tower, and, in front of it, the blackened twin towers of Cannon Street Station. The top of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is just visible behind the office blocks on the far right.

This aircraft was already quite the globetrekker that I some day hoped to be, but, back in 1983, my immediate travel ambitions stretched no further than London. The idea that I would soon leave all this behind, and would look back on living in London as a mere stepping-stone to greater things, would probably have been incomprehensible to me.

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