Menu Close

Flying Boats

The Last African Flying Boat

If you love flying you should enjoy this Documentry

Time lines

Imperial Airways

The government implemented the recommendations of the Hambling Committee about the future of British air services. Imperial Airways was incorporated on 31 March as the “chosen instrument” of the British government with the mission of developing British commercial air transport on an economic basis. The new airline was formed out of and took over the fleets of The Instone Airline Limited, The Daimler Airway, Handley Page Transport Limited and British Marine Air Navigation Co Ltd (operating a Southampton to Guernsey flying boat service).

Based at Croydon Airport, Imperial Airways would receive a government subsidy of £1m spread over ten years on the basis that they would be required to develop routes to the Empire – to South Africa, India and ultimately Australia – particularly for the carriage of mail. The Chairman was Rt Hon Sir Eric Geddes GCB, GBE. The initial fleet was three Handley Page W.8bs, two Supermarine Sea Eagles, one Vickers Vimy Commercial and seven DH34s. The primitive aircraft were used to develop the European routes to Paris, Zurich, Basle, Amsterdam, Hanover and Berlin.

Imperial Airways’ first flight was London Croydon to Paris Le Bourget, on 26 April, was by DH34 G-EBCX (Captain H.S. Robertson). It opened London (Croydon)-Brussels-Cologne daily services on 3 May, London (Croydon)-Amsterdam-Hanover-Berlin (in conjunction with Deutsche Aero-Lloyd AG) weekday services on 2 June and London (Croydon)-Paris-Basle-Zurich thrice-weekly services on 17 June.

17 November 1934
The Government introduced an unsurcharged airmail scheme to many parts of the Empire. The ‘Empire Air Mail Scheme’ created a huge demand for cargo space on aircraft. Imperial Airways, therefore, took the bold step of ordering from the drawing board 31 large, modern, four-engined flying boats from Short Brothers, of Rochester, Kent, the famous C Class Empire Boats. These boats carried a large volume of mail, whilst passengers were accommodated in luxurious cabins with a promenade area in which they could relax and gaze down at the passing scenery. By the mid 1930s all the mainline Empire routes were operated by these flying boats.
2 July 1936
G-ADHL Canopus, first of Imperial Airways’ fleet of Short S23 C Class Empire flying boats launched on the Medway at Rochester.
2 June 1937
Imperial Airways’ first through flying boat service to South Africa left Southampton, G-ADHL Canopus. The route was Marseilles-Rome-Brindisi-Athens-Alexandria-Cairo-Wadi Halfa-Khartoum-Malakal-Butiaba-Port Bell-Kisumu-Mombasa-Dar es Salaam-Lindi-Mozambique-Beira-Lourenco Marques-Durban. The route had optional stops at Macon, Mirabella, Luxor, Kareima, Laropi, Quelimane and Inhambane. The first northbound service by G-ADVC Corsair left Durban on 6 June.
28 July 1938
The Empire Air Mail programme using C Class flying boats now included two flights to South Africa per week.
6 – 8 OctoberImperial Airways’ Short S20 floatplane G-ADHJ Mercury set a world long-distance record for seaplanes by flying non-stop from Dundee to the Orange River, South Africa covering 6,045 miles in 42 hours 5minutes. The Mercury was assisted from the Tay at Dundee by Maia.
3 September
Following the formal declaration of war by the British Government on Germany, all civil flying ceased. The head offices of Imperial Airways, British Airways Ltd and the Civil Aviation Department of the Air Ministry were evacuated to Bristol. The airlines’ landplanes were moved from Croydon and Heston to Whitchurch and Imperial Airways’ flying boats from Hythe to Poole.
4 May 1948

BOAC introduced Short Solent flying boats on UK to Johannesburg service. The route was Southampton-Augusta-Cairo-Luxor-Khartoum-Port Bell-Victoria Falls-Vaaldam. The first flight was operated by G-AHIT Severn.

Construction Number (C/N):S.1306

Day 1, 1948/05/04 Southampton-Augusta
Day 2, 1948/05/05 Augusta-Cairo
Day 3, 1948/05/06 Cairo-Luxor
Day 4, 1948/05/07 Luxor-Khartoum-Port Bell
Day 5, 1948/05/08 Port Bell-Victoria Falls-Vaal Dam

(Solent 2 S.1306 G-AHIT Severn Rochester, Scrapped Belfast 1956)

G AHIT SEVERN (Seen at anchor at Vaal Dam, South Africa c1946 – taken by Mr Allen Street who was a B.O.A.C engineer.)

7 November 1950
BOAC replaced its Southampton to Johannesburg Solent flying boat services with a thrice-weekly Hermes service from London to Johannesburg via Tripoli, Kano, Brazzaville and Livingstone. BOAC then withdrew all Solents, which had been the airline’s last flying boats. Imperial Airways and BOAC had maintained continuous flying boat operations since 1924.

Visit the Heritage-collection

More New Recruits for BOAC

With the advent of the post war era, during 1945-1946 there were more significant changes ahead coupled with the rapid expansions!
A new cohort of younger men who had been recruited & prepared at Poole as Stewards for BOAC within the later stages of WW2, was now ready for ops on Hythes and later the Sandringhams: Plymouth+ Bermuda Classes as newly converted from the Sunderland MkIIIs.

Also, on the BOAC Land-planes which were initially based at nearby Hurn (Bournemouth)… and in competition with the Flying Boats on the restored Kangaroo Route to Australia- until Heathrow was opened. However, this did not stifle recruitment & training of Stewardesses: When recruited trainees were oft used for dutees at Airways House or assigned to other sections until ready for such vacancies arising.

These were to be required not only for short haul services but also for the implementation of  transatlanc Routes… as well as for the Solent Classes modified after teething problems, which would now reinstate a Springbok Route by Flying Boats to South Africa (6,350 miles).
This was trialed from Poole on 2nd. December 1947 with G-AHIT Severn with Olive Marshall as the Stewardess: However, the passenger services were delayed un.l a/er BOAC had switched to Southampton in 1948. Though terminating at Lake Vaaldam, 68 miles from Johannesburg, the route took in tourist attraction stops, principally Victoria Falls,which proved to be very popular with passengers & aircrews alike!

Olive Marshall


“Museum History 1940-1950”. British Airways Museum. Retrieved 2009-07-10.

Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.