Blackburn Shark Biplanes
March 4, 1936: No. 6 Squadron was established as a Torpedo Bomber unit at Trenton, ON. Operating Blackburn Shark biplanes, they were soon moved to the West Coast. Trained to defend Canada against marauding enemy warships through the use of air-dropped torpedoes, they were a concrete manifestation of Canada’s rearmament program in the face of increased tension in the lead up to the Second World War.
The Sharks were equipped with floats, which allowed the RCAF to operate them from the many inlets and coves along the British Columbian coast, where mountainous terrain impeded the construction of airstrips.
When war broke out, the Sharks were re-equipped for anti-submarine and reconnaissance duties. Re-designated Bomber Reconnaissance (BR), No. 6 Squadron put away their torpedoes and anti-submarine bombs were installed in their place. Their mission was to keep an eye out for Japanese submarines and attack them should any be found.
No. 6 reached a maximum strength of 15 Sharks by February 1940; although the first few aircraft were built by the original British plants, most of them were built in Boeing’s factory in Vancouver. They became stationed at Alliford Bay, an RCAF station built from scratch on the isolated Pacific coast of the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Throughout the first years of the war, the Sharks were used for many more duties than just patrolling for Japanese warships. They were also a welcomed addition to the scattered civilian communities and villages all along the West Coast. The floatplanes were used to deliver injured workers to hospitals, support police operations, and many other miscellaneous tasks not originally envisioned for a squadron initially created to torpedo enemy ships.
To learn about the Blackburn Biplanes, check out the Shearwater Museum.
Main photo: Blackburn Shark (Credit: Wikipedia).