A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

Imperial Airways Empire Flying Boat 0370-0161   Imperial Airways G-AAGX HP42 Hannibal 0738-0010

Formed in 1924, Imperial Airways was Britain's first national airline. Their early pilots included these splendid gentlemen:


Edward Samson Alcock

from 1929

b. 2 Oct 1901 in Fylde, Lancashire

pilot on Cairo-Karachi route

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1934

In November 1931 he was pilot of 'Horsa', the first H.P. 42, on a leisurely trip to Heliopolis via Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Catania, Malta, Tripoli, Sirte and Marsah Mutra. "Ample time will be spent at each stopping place". The flight took seven days.

September 1934: "Captain Alcock is a younger brother of the late Sir John Alcock, who made the first Atlantic flight in 1919. After a period of service in the Royal Air Force, Capt. Alcock joined Imperial Airways in 1929, and has now flown a distance of more than 750,000 miles"

Promoted to Senior Master in October 1938

d. 1974 in Surrey

Imperial Airways HWC Alger

Howard Whitmore Cowell Alger

from 1928

b. 12 May 1901, Kidderminster

based Cairo

w armstrong

w armstrong 1934

in 1934

William Armstrong AFC

from 1924

b. Gateshead-on-Tyne 4 Feb 1897

RFC in WWI; pilot for Airco 1919-20

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935

Flt Lt Ernest Henry 'Tich' Attwood

Ernest Attwood in 1917

Flt-Lt in the RFC in 1917 - mentioned in despatches

Ernest Attwood in the Middle East before 1926

In Egypt after WWI

Ernest Attwood Imperial Airways

On duty with Imperial Airways in Southampton with a tall dark and mysterious woman

Ernest Attwood in May 1938

in May 1938

Chief Pilot, South African Division in 1932

b. Birmingham, 6 Mar 1899; joined the RFC in 1917, saw active sevice in Egypt and then became a training instructor at No 5 RAF Flying School in Sealand, Cheshire. He joined Imperial Airways in November 1926.

September 1932: "The Prince of Wales will leave London this morning in the Imperial Airways liner Heracles for Copenhagen, where he is to open the British Exhibition. Two halts will be made en route—one at Amsterdam and the other at Hamburg. The complete journey is expected to take six and a half hours. Captain E. H. Attwood, of Imperial Airways, will be the pilot, and two R.A.F. flying boats from Calshot will escort the Prince on the first stage of his journey across the Channel from Dover. "

He was killed in November 1938, when piloting Empire Flying Boat G-AETW 'Calpurnia' which hit bad weather, and crashed and sank in Lake Ramadi, 15 miles short of the Imperial Airways base at Habbaniyah. Four of the crew of six were killed; there were no passengers.

Calpurnia was carrying mail at the time. "Many mailbags burst in the crash, and hundreds of letters are floating on the surface of the shallow lake in which the flying boat lies submerged." The letters were scooped up where possible, marked "Received in Damaged Condition ex Flying Boat Calpurnia" and sent on:

Calpurnia Mail

Ernest's grandson (who also kindly sent me the photos) tells me that, although he never met his grandfather, "I knew his wife well, my grandmother, who was a nurse in The Great War and died in 1963. I was told that he did not consider himself to be in the 'real war' but that his brother, who was in the trenches, was the brave one!"

Imperial Airways G-AAGX HP42 Hannibal at Karachi 5 Dec 1934 0738-0007


 Imperial Airways FJ Bailey

Flt Lt Francis Joseph Bailey

from 1924

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. 9 Sep 1897 in London

Flight Sub-Lt in the RNAS in WWI, then with British Marine Air Navigation Co

Also held 2nd class navigators licence

ronald ballantine

Ronald George Ballantine

b. Plymouth on August 2 1913 and educated at Plymouth College. He studied Art in Plymouth and Paris but, like so many of his generation, his life changed after a five-shilling flight with Alan Cobham's Flying Circus (q.v.)

He learned to fly privately, and by the time he was 21 he had obtained his commercial flying, navigation and wireless licences, enabling him to join Imperial Airways.

Initially Ballantine flew as a second officer in the open cockpit of a three-engine Argosy on the Croydon-Brussels-Cologne route; the 20 passengers were able to lounge in wicker chairs.

He then moved on to the stately four-engine HP 42 biplane airliner. With an almost complete lack of navigation aids, locating Croydon airport in poor weather depended on finding the twin towers of Crystal Palace, then setting a stopwatch and descending blind.


Ballantine next flew on the Imperial Airways Empire routes to Africa and Asia, before being appointed to his first command at the age of 23; he was based in Hong Kong, flying the de Havilland DH 86.

During this period he carried out an aerial survey of the route to Bangkok via Hanoi, across the relatively unknown territories of Siam and Indo-China, and he established a 16-hour record for the Rangoon-Calcutta return journey in the DH 86 Delphinus.

Ballantine earned his nickname, "The Colonel", after General Chiang Kai Shek offered him a colonelcy in his nationalist air force - a post which the Englishman prudently declined.

Ballantine was described by a colleague as "tall and debonair. . . quintessentially English, and a genial man of great modesty and charm". During the war, following a spirited party with his fellow pilots, he had crashed his car; he never drove again.

d. Dec 2003

franklyn barnard

Franklyn Leslie Barnard

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

Winner of the first King's Cup in 1922. "an exceptional pilot - careful, skilful, and daring" and "his ability as an engineer was fully equal to his skill as a pilot".

b. 1896; his father, Owen Barnard, was a stockbroker's clerk (and not related to Charles Barnard's father).

AFC in WWI; chief pilot for Instone (later) Imperial Airways. OBE in 1927.

Killed in July 1927 while testing propellers for the Bristol Badminton which he had entered for the King's Cup Race, which crashed at Filton after the engine seized. Major Beaumont, appearing for Imperial Airways at the inquest, said the company felt it had "lost one of the world's magnificent airmen".



It is with profound regret that we have to record the death, as the result of a flying accident on Thursday, July 28, of Capt. F. L. Barnard.

Capt. Barnard—one of our mostexperienced and popular pilots—was carrying out a test flight on the Bristol " Badminton " ("Jupiter VI ") biplane, which had been entered for the King's Cup Air Race, at Filton aerodrome, when, according to eyewitnesses, the engine suddenly stopped and the machine crashed to the ground just outside the 'drome from a height of about 200 ft. When a number of people who had been watching the flight arrived in the field where the machine had crashed, the latter was found completely wrecked, with the engine embedded in the ground, and the unfortunate pilot lying in the cockpit beyond human aid.

From evidence at the inquest, which was held on July 29, it appears that when Capt. Barnard's engine failed, he put the machine into normal gliding angle and attempted to land. While manoeuvring to do so, the machine lost flying speed and stalled from about 80 ft. Capt. Barnard had already made three other test flights on the machine, trying out different airscrews.

Capt. Barnard's loss to the aviation world is a great one indeed, for he was an exceptional pilot, careful, skilful, and daring—but daring only when flying alone or testing. He served in the Air Force during the war, and was awarded the Air Force Cross. Following the Armistice he was pilot to No. 24 Communication Squadron, when he carried many distinguished personages to and from the Continent. He then became associated with Instone Air Lines, and later, when Imperial Airways was formed, was their chief pilot.

His skill as a pilot was such that he was entrusted with many important aerial missions—the most conspicuous of which was the piloting of the Imperial Airways D.H. "Hercules" air liner, carrying Sir Samuel Hoare, Lady Maud Hoare and party from London to Cairo on the inaugural flight of the Egypt-India service. He also, it will be remembered, took part in previous King's Cup races, being the winner in1922 and 1925, and flying last year the Bristol " Badminton "in its original form.

Capt. Barnard leaves a widow and young son, to whom, in common with his many, many friends, we offer our deepest sympathy.


King's Cup in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926

imperial airways timetable

 via Lance Fishman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Donald Clifford Tyndall Bennett CB CBE DSO RAF

flag australia b. 14 September 1910 in Queensland

Promoted to Senior Master in October 1938

'Pathfinder' Bennett for his work with Bomber Command during WWII. As you probably know, the Pathfinder Force consisted of people who knew how to navigate properly, and marked the targets for the bombers.

Post-war, he and his wife bought a couple of transport aircraft, formed AirFlight Ltd, and joined the Berlin airlift in 1948 to fly dehydrated potatoes to the 2 million population.

CEO of British South American Airways until forced to resign over an interview he gave in 1948.

"A personally difficult and naturally aloof man, he earned a great deal of respect from his crews but little affection."

Wrote his autobiography in 1958, called, of course, 'Pathfinder'.

Died 15th September 1986, aged 76

MacRobertson Race in 1934

g h bowes


Flt-Lt George Henry Bowes

28 June 1941: "GOOLE OFFICER MISSING. FORMER IMPERIAL AIRWAYS PILOT Flight-Lieut. G. H. Bowes, youngest son of Mrs and the late Mr G. H. Bowes, of Carter-street, Goole, and a former Imperial Airways pilot, is officially reported missing.

Flight-Lieut. Bowes attended Goole St. John's National School and Hull Technical College as a boy. He joined the R.A.F. in 1930, and served in Egypt during the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, rising to the rank of sergeant pilot. Later he was a test pilot. In 1936 he entered the service of Imperial Airways, and the following year he was First officer and navigator on the flying boat Caledonia, which made the first experimental transatlantic flight between Foynes (Ireland) and Botwood (Newfoundland).

He crossed the Atlantic 10 times, and also piloted 'planes on the Near and Far East services. On the outbreak of war Flight-Lieut Bowes rejoined the R.A.F.

During the German invasion of Norway he was wounded in the knee and bombed out of hospital, but was safely evacuated to Scotland. While in hospital there he became engaged to Miss Joan Walker of Greenock, and was married last November. Flight-Lieutenant Bowes has a nephew, Sergeant-Pilot Bowes, of Fourth-avenue, Goole, who also joined the R.A.F. before the war, and is a prisoner in Germany."

Capt John W Burgess

June 1939: "Aotearoa, first of the long-range flying boats for the Tasman Air Service, made her maiden passenger flight yesterday. She flew from Southampton to Brighton and back, covering 170 miles in exactly one hour. Piloted by Captain John W Burgess, an Imperial Airways pilot who is himself a New Zealander, she carried 15 representatives of New Zealand and Australia."

Imperial Airways G-AAGX HP 42 Hannibal 0914-0072


rhinie casparenthus

Capt Rhinhold Ferdinand Caspareuthus

from 1929

 b. Paarl, S Sfrica, 9 Sep 1899

based in Cape Town

Promoted to Senior Master in October 1938

FLt Lt William Neville Cumming DFC

from 1930

 b. Edinburgh 22 Sep 1899

flew in N Ontario 1926-7; 1926-30 on the trans-prairie night mail;

RAeC Certificate No 22856 in 1947, by which time he was a Company Director and lived in Epsom, Surrey.


frederick dismore

As an Air Mechanic in 1913

f dismore


f dismore 1934

in 1934


Frederick Dismore

from 1924

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. East Ham 26 May 1893

pilot for Handley Page Transport Ltd 1921-24

May 1926: "161 MILES PER HOUR. Captain F. Dismore. an Imperial Airways pilot, flew a specially chartered Vickers Napier express from Croydon Aerodrome to Brighton yesterday in the record time of 13 minutes, an average speed of 161 miles an hour."

April 1933: "MASONIC FLYING CLUB HOLD FIRST MEETING AT BROOKLANDS.  Members of the new Masonic Flying Club held their first official meeting at Brooklands to-day. The club is composed of Masons from all over the country. The idea occurred to a group of pilots at Croydon who are Freemasons. Capt. Dismore, a well-known Imperial Airways pilot, flew several of the members over to Brooklands from Croydon in an Imperial Airways machine, making two trips for the purpose, and others travelled by road. There were about a hundred present in all.

A miniature air pageant was staged for their benefit, and the Masons were greatly interested in a demonstration of new fire-resisting paint, and in the Lowe-Wylde powered glider. The club proposes to acquire headquarters in the neighbourhood of Brooklands, where arrangements w ill be made for them to receive flying instruction."

donald drew in 1917

in 1917

adelaide and drew 1929

with Adelaide Cleaver in 1929

Donald Herbert Drew AFC


 b. London 23 Sep 1899

'Aeroplane and Seaplane pilot'

2 July 1930: "AIR PILOT DIVORCED. JUDGE'S COMMENTS ON CO-RESPONDENT. A decree nisi, with costs and custody of the child, was granted in the Divorce Court yesterday to Mrs Arabella Beatrice Angela Drew, who gave her address at the Stafford Hotel, St James's Place, London. She had petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage to Captain Donald Herbert Drew, of the Aerodrome Hotel, Croydon, on the ground of his alleged adultery with Mrs Kathleen Brookie Digby, who offered to write her address, but said she had no permanent home.

Captain Drew, an Imperial Airways pilot, was in charge of the aeroplane from which Captain Loewenstein, the Belgian financier, disappeared over the Channel.

The suit was defended, and Captain Drew and Mrs Digby gave evidence denying the allegation.

Mr Justice Hill, giving judgment, said that there was evidence that Mrs Digby entertained flying officers at the house and that they went there for tea or cocktails. It was obvious from the evidence that Mrs Digby was a woman who was quite capable of committing adultery with Captain Drew or, indeed, he thought, with anybody else."

He married again, a year later:


Miss Betty Eley, the musical comedy actress, who played the part of Lady Mary in " The Vagabond King " at the Winter Garden Theatre, London, has become engaged to Captain Donald Drew, the noted air pilot. Miss Norah Blaney, who was also one of the principals in " The Vagabond King " arranged a tea party in an airplane about four years ago, and Captain Drew piloted the machine over London while the party was in progress. Miss Eley was one of the guests, and she and Captain Drew became friends. About 15 months ago Miss Eley went out to Australia, where she appeared in "Hold Everything," and "Love Lies." She returned to England about six months ago. Miss Eley said to-day: "We shall not be married for some time, as my fiancé will be away for three months." 

d. 1936: "Capt. Donald Drew, for some years an Imperial Airways pilot, died in London today after a long illness at the age of 36.

Capt. Drew was piloting Capt. Lowenstein's private plane when the Belgian millionaire fell from it into the Channel on July 4. 1928. When Capt. Lowenstein offered him a position as a pilot he would not take it until Imperial Airways agreed to lend him to the 'Lowenstein Navy', as the financier's air fleet was called."

Wierdly,  Lowenstein's biographer, a Mr Norris, in 1987 "concluded that Lowenstein had been thrown from the aircraft by Donald Drew, the pilot, at the behest of Madeleine Lowenstein, the motive being to gain control of Lowenstein's fortune. He suggested that the aircraft's rear door was completely removed while in the air and a replacement fitted on the beach at St. Pol."

Imperial Airways G-AAXC HP42 Heracles at Croydon 20 Mar 1935 0751-0145



Capt L A Egglesfield

January 1939: "Captain L. A. Egglesfield, Imperial Airways 'million miles' pilot, has been appointed Deputy Director of Civil Aviation in India, and will take up his appointment next month."

Capt Frank Charles Elliot-Wilson

 b. King William's Town, S Africa 19 Dec 1897

pilot on the South African section of the London-Cape Town route

Eugene Esmonde

in 1930; an RAF Officer at Tangmere

Lt-Cmdr Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde

b. 1 Mar 1909 in Thurgoland, Yorkshire.

Killed in WWII; after leaving Imperial Airways in 1939, he won a DSO and then a posthumous VC in 1942 for leading the first attack on the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the cruiser Prince Eugen. All of the six Swordfish torpedo bombers were shot down, and only five crew members rescued.


See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Esmonde

Capt John James? ('Paddy') Flynn

August 1930, Flight: "The most interesting news item at Croydon this week centres round Mr J. J. Flynn. He is one of the most modest of good fellows and whilst others strut into the glare of publicity he retires, knowing that it is the doing of a job which matters, not the talking about it. It is six months since he joined Imperial Airways and after the usual probationary period as second pilot and a spell on inland services he "passed out" on Argosys  last Wednesday. The following morning he took out the 8 a.m. service to Paris and did the trip in 96 min., an extraordinarily good time for this type of machine. We understand that it is two years since Capt. Willcockson did the journey in 105 min., the next best time.

'Paddy' Flynn has had an adventurous career and many have made themselves into newspaper heroes by achieving much less. His first appearance at Croydon was as a joyride pilot for Surrey Flying Services in 1924. But it seems that that was only because the shouting and fighting in his native land had died down. For after his war service with R.F.C. and R.A.F.  in France, he returned to Ireland in 1920 as second in command of the Free State Air Force with the rank of Commandant. He left Surrey Flying Services when N.F.S. started up last year, but saw more chances with the Desoutter Aircraft Co., whose first test pilot he was. Here he did some very good work in all weathers—the more adverse the conditions the more cheerful he becomes. That firm parted with him regretfully when Imperial Airways called early in the spring. His flying time is over five thousand hours, and who has carried something like thirty-one thousand passengers"


10 May 1939 "The pilot who was killed, with a woman passenger, in a collision between two aeroplanes at Horne, near Horley, Surrrey on Monday [8 May], was identified yesterday as Captain J. J. Flynn, of South Croydon, who was formerly an Imperial Airways pilot. He was flying a liner which crashed in France in 1930 and lost a leg as a result of the accident. Miss Aurora Tasselli, the dead girl, was 19 and lived in Rayners Lane."


from the Irish Press: "Paddy was a native of Doocastle, Balllymote, Co. Sligo, and played a big part in fighting against the Black and Tans in that area.

Aged 44, he helped to form the the Irish Free State Air Force and was for a time Commandant in the force at Baldonnel. Later he resigned and went to England, where he became an Imperial Airways pilot.

It was he who piloted the air liner 'City of Washington' [G-EBIX] which crashed in France in 1930. Four people were killed and Captain Flynn hurt his spine and also had his left leg amputated. For three years he was in and out of hospitals and had 19 operations.

'The loss of his leg did not keep him from flying', a friend of Captain Flynn's told an Irish Press representative yesterday, 'and he showed the authorities that he was as good a flyer with one leg as the average pilot is with two. He renewed his licence and was, I think, the only one-legged flyer in England.

'He was a man of great daring and courage, and never let bad luck daunt him.'

Capt Flynn was in the British Flying Corps during the Great War. His brother, Mr Dan Flynn, of Palmertson, Dublin, is secretary of the Fianna Fail Cumann there, and is also secretary of D Company, Old I.R.A."


In 1936 Paddy was a director of a company called Atlas Air Services, and then in 1937 formed his own flying club:

"PADDY FLYNN FLYING CLUB LTD. Private company, registered July. Capital, £1,000 in 1,000 shares of £1. Objects: To carry on the business of instructors in aviation, aerial navigation, aerial and ground signalling, dealers in and importers and exporters of aircraft and aircraft engines, etc. The directors are  John J. Flynn, air pilot, Merrock S. C. Hyams, air pilot, Muriel Montgomery. "


Miss Tasselli was his pupil. Flying an aircraft from the Redhill Flying Club, they collided with Hawker Hart K5800 flown by Sgt Stuart Smith.

"Miss Tasselli was keen on her new hobby of flying. Her father, who was born in Italy, has a tailor's business in Manchester. Mrs C. Tasselli, her mother, an Englishwoman, told a reporter to-day:— 'She had only been up in the air four times. She joined the Civil Guard a few weeks ago after waiting to do so for several months, I never wanted her to go in the air because I think it is a man's job, but she was a rather venturesome and self-willed young lady and would not listen to my advice.'

'Flight' said "it was with very genuine regret that a large number of his friends at Croydon heard of the sad death of poor Paddy Flynn, who was as game a sportsman and as likeable a fellow as ever flew."

Frederick Victor Walter Foy

from October 1929

 b. Wilburton 10 Jul 1900

based Heliopolis, Egypt

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935

Promoted to Senior Master in October 1938

john gittins in 1928

in 1928

John Moore Gittins

from 1929

 b. Sutton, Surrey 11 Mar 1906

In 1932, lived at 26 St John's Grove, West Croydon, Surrey

mini - w gr hinchliffe

in 1917

in 1927

Capt Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. 10, or 11 Jun 1893, or 1894..

'Hinch', the one-eyed pilot who disappeared with Elsie Mackay in 1928 trying to cross the Atlantic from east to west.

WWI fighter pilot (7 victories, the last of which cost him his left eye); he then became a well-known pilot for Daimler Air Express, which formed part of Imperial Airways in April 1924.

On 18 December 1924 he flew G-EBBX, a D.H.34  single-engine airliner, from Croydon to Amsterdam but, after setting off on the return journey, the engine oil pressure started fluctuating alarmingly and he turned back; the engine was overhauled, and he tried again, with the same result. Again, the engine was overhauled and tested thoroughly and they finally got back to Croydon on Christmas Eve, although the engine was still running rather roughly.

The next person to fly the aeroplane was David Stewart; the aeroplane took off from Croydon later the same day and crashed within a few minutes, killing him and his 7 passengers. It was the first fatal crash suffered by Imperial Airways, and it led to the first Public Enquiry into a civil aircraft accident in the UK.

Hinch carried on as one of Imperial Airways' senior pilots; two years later, for example, he flew Geoffrey and Mrs de Havilland, plus another man and four other women, to India, to inaugurate Imperial Airways' Egypt-India Empire service. He came 4th in the King's Cup in July 1927.

Then in August 1927 he was asked by wealthy American businessman Charles A Levine to try an east-west trans-Atlantic flight in the Bellanca monoplane NX237 'Miss Columbia'.

  Clarence Chamberlin had set the world long-distance record flying from New York to (near) Berlin in this aeroplane, with Levine as passenger; indeed, they had missed being the very first 'long' trans-Atlantic flight by only a few days.

However, this idea was abandoned after Leslie Hamilton, Lt-Col Minchin and Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim disappeared in their Fokker FVIIa G-EBTQ when they tried the same thing [q.v.]. Instead, they decided to try to break the long-distance record by flying to India, but only got as far as Vienna when oil pressure fluctuation (again!) and bad weather forced them to land.

There is some footage of the preparations at Cranwell for this flight, (and of the Fokker 'St Raphael' in which Hamilton, Minchin and Princess L-W lost their lives) here.

So (Hinch having already agreed a month's leave from Imperial Airways) they then took a leisurely flight round Italy, including an audience with the Pope on 3 October; the Pope gave Mr Levine the apostolic benediction, "blessing his future enterprises". The next day, however, intending to drop a present for Signor Mussolini's new baby boy, they had to make a forced landing in a vineyard, doing serious damage to the aeroplane but luckily not themselves.

The Bellanca was repaired but later destroyed in a hangar fire; another one, painted to look like it, is now in the Virginia Aviation Museum: see http://www.vam.smv.org/pdfs/VAMHistoricAircraft.pdf

King's Cup in 1927

September 1925: "AIR PILOT'S RECORDS. COVERED HALF A MILLION MILES. Two world's records for length of time spent in the air and distance flown were created by Mr W. R. Hinchcliffe, the Imperial Airways pilot, who, when he arrived at the London Air Station, piloting a Napier D.H. express from Amsterdam, on Saturday completed 6000 hours' flying.

Mr Hinchcliffe has been flying continually for more than nine years, and, taking an average speed for the numerous different types of airplanes he has flown, has covered more than half a million miles by air. In flying this distance he has spent the equivalent of 250 entire days, or more than eight months, in the air."

October 1926: "AEROPLANE BLOWN BACKWARDS CAUGHT BY STRONG WIND AND CARRIED FOR MILE. Captain W. G. R Hiinchliffe, the Imperial Airways pilot, had the unique experience of travelling backwards through the air yesterday while testing one of the big Rolls-Royce air liners at Croydon Aerodrome. Ascending to a height of 2000 feet, he encountered a head wind so strong that his machine was blown steadily backwards for a distance of over a mile."

Imperial Airways HJ Horsey

Capt Herbert John 'Horse' Horsey

from 1925

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. Cheshunt, Herts 26 Nov 1899

RNAS and RAF in WWI, then joined Supermarine, followed by British Marine Co. as a flying-boat captain on the route from Southampton to Guernsey. When BMC became part of the newly-formed Imperial Airways in 1924, he was one of their founder-pilots.

In December 1926, he reported seeing a 'Mock Sun': "While approaching Ostend at a height of a thousand feet, shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday Captain H. H. Horsey, Imperial Airways pilot, flying a Handley Page Napier air liner from Cologne to London, had the unusual experience seeing two suns in the sky.

The two suns were exact replicas, even to the colouring of the clouds around them. Captain Horsey imagined that was "seeing things," but was reassured when his engineer, who was seated beside him, said that he also could see this phenomenon.

The Air Ministry meteorological expert at Croydon Aerodrome, after receiving a report of the pilot's experience, declared the occurrence to be a very rare phenomenon known to meteorologists as a 'mock sun.'"

(Ahem), apparently this expert was referring to a 'parhelion'; "Parhelia occur when the sun or moon shines through a thin cirrus cloud composed of hexagonal ice crystals... (they) most commonly appear during the winter in the middle latitudes."

Here's what they must have seen:


In June 1927, he created a new record for big passenger aeroplanes, by flying from London to Cologne in one hundred and sixty minutes, at an average speed of 130 miles an hour.

Address in 1932: 138 King's Hall Rd, Beckenham, Kent

A flight commander in the ATA in WWII, but died 6th January 1941 after he hit cables and crashed on 2nd January,  2.5 miles NW of Wroughton ferrying a Curtiss Mohawk.

G.P. Olley wrote in his obituary: "An atmosphere of gloom settled over the war-time base of British Overseas Airways Corporation when the tragic news came throught that Captain H. J. Horsey ('Horse' to his friends, and that meant every one) had died suddenly from the injuries he had received in an accident some days before."

Gordon reported that, a few days before, "poor old 'Horse' was concerned that he had broken his clean record - up to then, he had never had a major crash, or harmed a hair of the head of a single passenger."

Herbert is buried in Hatfield Heath, Essex.

Imperial Airways G-ABFC Short Kent Satyrus 0738-0004


o jones

OP Jones


Oscar Philip Jones

from 1924

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. Beckenham, Kent 15 Oct 1898

RFC in WWI; with Instone Air Line before 1924

January 1935: "AIR LINER PILOT IN MOTOR SMASH. Captain O. P. Jones, the well-known Imperial Airways pilot, was yesterday involved in a motor smash at Coulsdon, Surrey. Ten minutes later he was circling low over the scene of the accident in a Paris-bound liner. It was in Burton Road, Coulsdon, that Captain Jones' car came into collision with another, both vehicles being wrecked. Apart from scratches no one was hurt."

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935


17 May 1935: "PILOTS TRAGIC FLIGHT Knowing Widowed Mother Was Dead. With the knowledge that his widowed mother had met with a tragic death, Captain O. P. Jones, a well-known Imperial Airways pilot, had to complete a flight in the course of his duties before he could travel to Hove to identify her body.

His mother, Mrs. Florence Effle Jones (80), had been found dead in the sitting-room of her flat with the gas tap turned full on. The police, who at once telephoned to Imperial Airways, got into touch with Captain Jones, who learned the news just before he had to undertake the flight.

The police are stated to have found a note in which the dead woman said that loneliness and depression had been too much for her. Captain Jones was the first pilot in the world to cover 1,000.000 miles in the air. That means that he has spent about 10,000 hours in the air or more than a year's continuous flying. He has been apilot with imperial Airways for more than 11 years. He has often piloted royal passengers, including the Prince of Wales, and recently the Duke and Duchess of Kent."

May 1935: "FATAL DEPRESSION. MOTHER'S LAST LETTER TO CHILDREN Mrs. Florence Jones (60), mother of Captain O. P. Jones, an Imperial Airways pilot, was found dead in a gas-filled room at her home at Cambridge Road, Hove, yesterday, and at the inquest at Hove to-day a verdict of "Suicide while of Unsound Mind" was recorded.

In a letter to her son and daughter she wrote: "Loneliness and depression and money troubles have become too much for me. Love to all of you." Captain Jones said that his mother had had fits of depression since the death of his father in 1914. She had no need to worry over money, as she had a small income."

Lionel Leleu

Lionel Louis Leleu

from 1926

 b. London 29 Jun 1897

pilot with Berkshire Aviation Tours until 1926

Lived at 67 Wavertree Rd, Streatham Hill, London in 1932

Killed in the crash of the AW Argosy II G-AACI 'City of Liverpool' in Belgium on 28th March 1933.

In April 1933, "Mrs Leleu, widow of Captain Leleu the Imperial Airways pilot, who lost his life in the disaster to the "City of Liverpool" last month, gave birth to a son yesterday at her home at Purley. Both mother and child are doing well."

"The late Capt. Leleu at one time held a commission in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry"

 Carlos Gerald Lumsden

from 1931

 b. Norwich 16 Dec 1903

based in Kisumu, Kenya

robert mcintosh

Robert H McIntosh

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

11 September 1926: "AIRMAN'S DASH TO LONDON. JUST IN TIME FOR TRIAL AFTER FORCED LANDING NEAR PYRENEES. Captain R. H. Macintosh, an Imperial Airways pilot, who is flying a D.H. Napier air special in Captain Alfred Lowenstein's private air fleet at Biarritz, had a remarkable series of adventures while making a dash back to London in order to attend the Old Bailey as witness.

Captain Lowenstein asked him to go from Biarritz to Lerida to locate a landing ground there, where the whole air fleet could alight, but he could find nothing suitable and finally running out of petrol, had to alight near Barcelona for further supplies. As the time for his appearance the old Bailey was now getting near, Captain Macintosh decided to fly back to Biarritz in straight line right over the Pyrenees in order to catch a train for London.

Having attained a height of 8,000 feet, and while still climbing to cross the mountains, he was suddenly enveloped in a terrific thunderstorm and was trapped between clouds and mountains. In desperation he climbed to height of 12,000 feet and headed northward through the storm. Once again he ran short of petrol, and risking everything dived down through the clouds, luckily alighting in a small field which suddenly loomed ahead.

He discovered he was at Lartes-de-Riviere about five miles north of the Pyrenees, and, after pegging down his machine and leaving it in charge of his mechanic, rushed to the station to get a train to Touloise to catch the Paris express. At the station a further difficulty arose, they would only accept French money and Captain Macintosh had only English. Going back to small hotel he met there a Mrs Edridge and her two daughters who asked him if they could help him in any way, and who, by a strange coincidence, turned out to be residents in Croydon who had recognised the Imperial Airways pilot's uniform, which is a familiar sight in that town. . .

This meeting smoothed the last of Captain Macintosh's difficulties and travelling night and day he arrived at the Old Bailey in time, after travelling 750 miles by air and nearly 700 by rail and boat in two days without sleep, only to find that his evidence would not be needed."

Feb 1927: "FLOWN 500,000 MILES. Captain Mcintosh's Record. Captain R. H. Mcintosh, the Imperial Airways pilot, on Wednesday completed eight years of continuous flying between London and Paris. He has carried approximately 8,000 passengers between the two cities, and, at 32 years of age, must be one of the most travelled men of his age, for, in addition to flying over half million miles, he also spent four years in the mercantile marine visiting almost every part of the globe.

Captain Mclntosh was one of the youngest recipients of the Royal Humane Society's medal and certificate, which he gained for saving life at sea when he was only 16½ years old."

9 Mar 1927: "NEW AIR RECORD. LONDON TO BERLIN IN 4¾ HOURS. Captain R. H. Mcintosh, an Imperial Airways pilot, on Thursday created a new air record by flying non-stop from London to Berlin in 4¾ hours. The average speed for the 620 miles flight was 130 miles per hour.

Captain Mcintosh is one of the veteran pilots now flying the Handley Page-Napier and Argosy air liners of the Imperial Airways between London and the Continent, and has just completed eight years' continuous flying between London and Paris. He left London at 8.5 a.m. on Thursday on a special flight to Berlin, where he arrived 12.50 p.m."

8 Jul 1927: "ENGLAND—NEW YORK FLIGHT. PILOT'S ARRANGEMENTS MADE. R. H. Macintosh, the Imperial Airways pilot, announced yesterday that he had completed arrangements for an attempt to fly non-stop from England to New York within the next few weeks.

He will fly a Fokker monoplane, driven by a 500 h.p. Bristol Jupiter engine carrying petrol for a non-stop flight of 4400 miles, and will be accompanied by a navigator.

Capt. Macintosh was originally associated with Lieut-Col. F. F. Minchin, another Imperial Airways pilot, who, however has now joined Mr Leslie Hamilton in a projected attempt to fly non-stop to Ottawa, Canada."

November 1927: "NON-STOP TO INDIA. Capt. Mcintosh Out to Beat Record. Capt. R. H. Mcintosh, the Imperial Airways pilot, has completed arrangements to start on an attempt to fly non-stop from England to India early next week on a Fokker-Jupiter monoplane.

If successful he will break the world's non-stop long distance flight record of 3,905 miles set up by Chamberlin and Levine.

Capt. Mcintosh intends to start his flight from Uphaven on Tuesday or Wednesday, when there will be a full moon to assist him. With him will be Mr Herbert Hinkler the test pilot who created a world's long distance record for light 'planes recently by flying non-stop from London to Riga in an Avro-Avian of 30 h.p.

The airmen will follow the route taken by Flight-Lieut. Carr, who, piloting a big Hawker Rolls-Royce bombing 'plane, flew non-stop from England to the Persian Gulf last May."

... "Should they accomplish this, they intend make another non-stop flight from India either to Singapore or the Dutch East Indies, finally reaching Port Darwin, in North Australia, by a third non-stop flight. The total distance is just over 10,000 miles, and should be accomplished in about 110 hours' flying."


April 1928: "NEW AERIAL RECORD. Capt. R. H. Mcintosh created a record yesterday by flying from Berlin to London, a distance of 600 miles, in four and a half hours. The flight was made in a Fokker-Jupiter aeroplane. The machine used was the same in which Captain McIntosh and Mr Bert Hinkler made their unsuccessfull attempt to fly non-stop to India last year."

RH McIntosh postwar 0014 0011

At the 1948 Gatwick Air Display, in an Airwork Viking [RaeC]


Frederick Minchin

in 1913

Col. Frederick Frank Reilly Minchin

b. Madras, India, 16 Jun 1890; a very early flier (RAeC certificate No 419) in Feb 1913, when his address was given as County Tipperary.

June 1926: "Colonel F. F. Minchin, an Imperial Airways pilot, and Mr Mayer, of the Bristol Aviation Company, will leave Croydon at dawn today in a Bristol Bloodhound aeroplane, fitted with 40 h.p. Jupiter air-cooled engines, upon an attempt to fly from London to Cairo in two days."

August 1926: "EXPRESS AIRMAN. Visits Five Towns in Four Countries in a Day. Lieut. F. F. Minchin, the Imperial Airways pilot, made a remarkable Continental flight yesterday, visiting five cities in four countries.

He left London at 8.30 a.m. on a Napier-Vulcan Air liner, carrying passengers, called Lympne, near Folkestone, at Brussels, to pick up and set down passengers, and arrived at Cologne at 12.15 p.m. Leaving Cologne an hour later, he flew to Amsterdam, and, after calling at Ostend and again at Lympne, arrived back in London at 8.45 p.m."

October 1926: "FLYING CIRCUS. BELGIAN MILLIONAIRE'S AIR FLEET TO VISIT ENGLAND. The whole of the private air fleet owned by Capt. Alfred Lowenstein, the Belgian millionaire financier, will visit Britain for the first time next week.

Capt. Lowenstein is transferring his headquarters from Biarritz to his English estate, near Melton Mowbray, for the hunting season next week. His "Flying Circus," as his private air fleet is known in air circles, now consists of an eight-seater Napier Fokker, a three-engined Fokker, a Martinsyde F4, and a Napier Viking Amphibian flying boat, is bringing his guests to England, and be stationed on his Leicestershire estate for rapid communication with the Continent.

Lieut.-Col. F. F. Minchin, the Imperial Airways Pilot, is in charge of Capt. Lowenstein's air fleet, with Mr Leslie Hamilton, another famous British pilot, his second in command." (c.f. Donald Drew, above)

Fred was killed, with Leslie Hamilton and Princess Anne Lowenstein-Wertheim, when trying to cross the Atlantic from East to West in 1927 . For a video of them and the aeroplane, see the middle bit here.

mollard tn

Roger Pierre Mollard

b. St Germain-en-Laye, France, and educated at Worksop College, Nottinghamshire.

RAF from 1921, serving in the UK and India, then joined the European division of Imperial in 1929, based in Heliopolis.

He was the pilot when Shorts S.23 Empire Flying boat G-ADUZ 'Cygnus' crashed and sank on the 5th December 1937, as he was attempting to take-off in rough weather at Brindisi. Two people were killed - one a passenger, the other a member of the crew - and another 11 injured. Apparently, both wings were "torn out of their sockets" by the crash.

To make things even worse, one of the injured was Sir John Salmond, a Director of British Airways... who didn't seem best pleased... Sir John was transferred to the Anglo-American nursing home in Rome; when questioned, he "refused to discuss the incident. He looked pale, his face was bruised, and he had a gash over his right temple."

Eventually, the inquiry established that "the aircraft attempted to take off with the wrong flap settings. This caused the aircraft to start porpoising, leading to loss of control. The 1st Officer (R Mountain, who got the Royal Humane Society Silver Medal and the Stanhope Gold Medal for bravery) saved 3 passengers from the aft cabin which had only about half a metre of air space left."

It seems that the second pilot, on being given the word 'flaps' during the pre-take-off checks, set them in the fully-down instead of the take-off position.

Imperial Airways reviewed their take-off procedures, concluded that they were not to blame, (did anybody suggest saying 'flaps to take-off position', or something?) but, just in case, "sent a reminder to all concerned".

see also http://www.fad.co.za/Resources/aviation/mollard/index.php

gordon olley

 Gordon Percy Olley MM

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. Harleston, Norfolk 29 Apr 1893

based Croydon

September 1925: "Mr G. P. Olly, another Imperial Airways pilot, has spent 5500 hours in the air, and has flown the English Channel no fewer than 1500 times."

March 1926: "DYING SON'S SOS. FATHER'S FLIGHT PLAN FAILS. Captain G. P. Olley, an Imperial Airways pilot, on arriving at Croydon Aerodrome yesterday from Southampton, related the story of a father's efforts to comply with a wireless broadcast SOS which was relayed across Europe. The SOS was sent out from a French station, asking Mr Mauger to go at once to his son, who was dangerously ill at Marseilles. It was relayed by London, and picked up in Jersey, where friends of Mr. Mauger gave him the news. He at once telephoned Imperial Airways, and hired a fast Napier D.H. express to meet him at Southampton and fly to his son at Marseilles. Rough weather in the Channel delayed his arrival at Southampton until the following evening, when he heard that his son was dead."


March 1927: "Captain J. P. Olley, an Imperial Airways pilot, who began to fly in 1915, has carried his 10,000th passenger."

August 1927: "AIR LINER'S SPEED RECORD Mr. G. P. Olley, an Imperial Airways pilot, arrived at Croydon aerodrome in an 8-seater air liner at 5.39 p.m. yesterday, having flown from Southampton Water in 26 minutes. This is a new record for the 70 miles journey, and average speed of the Vickers-Napier machine was over 161 miles hour. The aeroplane, which is'in regular use on Continental routes, left Hamble at 5.13 p.m."

August 1928: "Captain G P Olley, an Imperial Airways pilot, created a new record by flying non-stop from London to Belfast in 4 and a half hours. His machine had been chartered to take special pistons for a motor-car running in the Tourist Trophy race. He did not leave London until after 5 o'clock, the last part of the flight across the sea, and his landing at Belfast at 9:50, being accomplished in darkness".

Jan 1932: "EARL OF INCHCAPE'S ILLNESS. Son to Make 3000-Mile Air Dash to his Bedside. A 3000-mile air dash from Cairo to the bedside of the Earl of Inchcape, who is seriously ill in London, will be commenced at dawn to-day by Viscount Glenapp the earl's son and heir.

Captain G. P. Olley, the Imperial Airways pilot, has arrived in Cairo with an air liner which had been chartered from Imperial Airways, having flown from London via Italy, Malta, and the north coast of Africa in order to bring Lord Glenapp to London.

Lord Glenapp, who was travelling by P. and O. liner from India, as the result of a wireless message to the liner, was to leave it when it berthed last night at Port Said and proceed by train to Cairo. He hopes arrive in London on Monday evening."

Gordon left Imperial Airways in 1934 and started his own air charter company, called Olley Air Service Ltd.


Imperial Airways G-ABPI Later VT-AEF AW Atlanta 0738-0003


Capt Lionel Frank Hastings Orr

b. 1910 in Dublin; Short Service Commission then Flt-Lt in the RAF (40 Sqn at Upper Heyford) in 1929-31, transferred to the Reserve List (Class C) in May 1934. He joined Imperial in mid-1935 and "quickly proved himself a civil pilot of just the right calibre."

He was killed, together with Australian Stanley Miles Fergusson, and the two wireless operators, when Vickers Vellox G-ABKY crashed into the back gardens of houses in Hillside Gardens, Wallington, shortly after it had taken off from Croydon Airport on a 'technical' flight at 2 a.m. on August 10, 1936.

His home address was given as Craig-na-Baa, Blackrock, Dublin; he had a wife, Sheelagh, and a daughter Cherry, who "have been living at Worthing."

"Capt Fergusson, who was about 32, had "flown a great deal in America". 'Fergie' had recently gained the First Class Air Navigators Certificate, and was "looking forward to flying on the trans-Atlantic service".

The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death. 'Flight' said "The unhappy accident to Imperial Airways' Velox(sic) has cast a gloom over the airport, for both Orr and Fergusson were universally popular."

h h perry in 1915

in 1915

h h perry in 1922

in 1922

 Herbert Howard Perry

from 1927

 b. Birmingham 3 Jul 1892

RFC in WWI; cross-channel pilot for Handley Page Transport 1920-22; test pilot for ADC Transport 1922-27.

Feb 1928: "A FLYING RECORD. Captain H. Parry, an Imperial Airways pilot, piloted a seven-ton Handley-Page Napier air liner, with a full load of passengers and freight, from London to Brussels on Saturday in 85 minutes flying time, a record for this type of machine."

Address in 1932: 'Sinaia', Cosdach Ave, Wallington, Surrey

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935

george powell

mini - g powell

In 1921

George Beacall Powell


 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

Dick Terry kindly tells me that George Beacall Powell was one of the original 16 pilots for Imperial Airways, and that he was b. 20th April 1899 in Loppington. Sadly, the rest of his story is quite a short one:

"In July 1916 George Powell was a science undergraduate at Keble College Oxford, but he left the University the following year and on 11June joined the RFC as a Cadet.

On 29 July 1917 he was promoted to 2nd Lt on probation on the General List. In October, after further training he was appointed Flying Officer. In November he attended the Armament Experimental Station Orfordness for bombing & weapons training.

In February 1918 Powell contracted jaundice and it was more than six months before he was allowed to resume flying – but only under close medical supervision. He was eventually declared fit for Home Service flying duties on 15 November 1918.

In January the following year Powell was awarded the Air Force Cross

In February 1919 he was assigned to No 1 Communications Squadron where he remained until September when he was transferred to the unemployed list. He joined Instone Air Line soon after.

In 1923 Powell had to withdraw from the Kings Cup Air Race when his DH 34 could not be spared from its official duties on the London Continental air service.

Powell moved to Imperial Airways when it was formed by the amalgamation of Instone Air Line with three other companies in April 1924.

He died a year later on 19th April in a motoring accident at Mitcham Common. The coroner decided that Powell had been driving negligently and blamed him entirely for the accident – the other driver was cleared of all blame. Shockingly these details were recorded on his death certificate.

His body was taken back to Croydon and then flown, in a D.H. 34, to Shrewsbury Aerodrome. The Times dated 27 April 1925 recorded the event as the first time in the history of aviation that an aeroplane had been used as a hearse. The funeral and interment took place in Stanton, Captain Powell’s home town."

King's Cup in 1923

Griffith James Powell

from 1930

 b. Cardiff 11 Aug 1907

based Heliopolis, employed on European routes.

Imperial Airways G-ADHL Shorts S23 Empire Canopus 0914-0034


Flt Lt Archer Robert Prendergast

from 1931

pilot on North African Division

b. Durban, S Africa 4 Jan 1900

based Khartoum

Mr Thomas John Rees

October 1939: "PILOT'S DIVORCE. WIFE WHO WAS 'IN LOVE WITH ANOTHER MAN' In the Divorce Court to-day Mr. Justice Bucknill granted a decree nisi to Mr. Thomas John Rees, formerly an Imperial Airways pilot and now an officer in the R.A.F., who gave his address as Kelston Lodge, Repton.

Mr. Rees alleged misconduct by his wife, Kathleen Rees, and the suit was undefended.

The marriage took place in 1935 at Devonport. Early in 1938, according to the petitioner's case, Mrs. Rees said that she was love with another man, and they separated. Mr. Rees later found that his wife had stayed with a man at a London Hotel in June, 1938. Costs were given against the co-respondent, Leslie Whittome."

Dick Reid

Richard Charles Stuart 'Dick' Reid

Flying-boat captain.

b. April 4, 1912 in Potchefstroom, South Africa.


Reid flew the C-Class flying boats that were introduced in 1936 along a route from Southampton to South Africa, via the Mediterranean, Egypt and East Africa.

During WWII he carried senior officers around the Mediterrranean and Egypt, and in 1943 he was involved in a dramatic rescue of survivors from a torpedoed merchant ship off Mozambique.

He died on December 4, 2006, aged 94

Athelstan Rendall

in 1935

Imperial Airways Athelstan Rendallr in 1954 0378-0168

(r) with Bill Pegg and DP Davies in 1954. They were test-flying the Bristol Britannia

Athelstan Sigfrid Mellersh Rendall

b. January 3 1914 at Chagford, Devon, and educated at Gresham's School and Leeds University, where he gained a BSc.

He became an assistant ground engineer with the Herts and Essex Aero Club for two years, during which time he gained his pilot's licence. At the time (1935) his address was 'Brooklands Poultry Farm, Broxbourne, Herts', and the following year he joined Imperial Airways as a first officer.

After a period flying the HP 42 Rendall was posted to the de Havilland DH 86 service between Khartoum and West Africa. During this period he was a very junior co-pilot, acting as engineer, radio operator and steward all in one. Despite his multiple responsibilities, he claimed that his only piloting activity was to work the wing flaps with a hand pump, hence his nickname of "Flaps''. He also undertook charter work in West Africa for the Nigerian government.

Rendall was very keen on boating, and for some years he managed a friend's 60-foot motor yacht based in the Mediterranean. He later built and sailed his own boat.

With six children, including two sets of twins, he converted the family car, a pre-war Lea Francis, for holidays.

In 1955 the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators awarded him a Master Pilot Certificate for "long service and high achievement'', and in 1959 he became a Liveryman of the Guild. He was appointed OBE in 1964.

"Flaps'' Rendall died on July 18 2006.

Imperial Airways Harry Robertson

Harry S Robertson

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

Imperial Airways AL Robinson

Mr Arthur Leonard Robinson

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

September 1925: "A new air record was created Friday, when Mr. A. L. Robinson, an Imperial Airways pilot, flew a Napier D.H. Express carrying six passengers from Londonto  Amsterdam, a distance by air of 275 miles, in 110 minutes. His average speed was 150 miles per hour."

His was a rather chequered career; apparently there was a rumour that he insisted on being paid in cash because the taxman was after him. This is from the Western Daily Press, 2 May 1934:

"Arthur Leonard Robinson (38), a wartime flying officer, stated to have been formerly employed as a pilot by Imperial Airways, was sentenced at London Session, yesterday, to six months' hard labour for obtaining credit by fraud from a London restaurant"

During WW2 he flew with the ATA, and later as a test pilot for Rolls Royce at Hucknall.

d. in 1950:

"ROBINSON Arthur Leonard of 21 Marshall-drive Bramcote Nottingham died 30 September 1950 Administration Liverpool 17 November to Irene Mabel Robinson widow. Effects £2,478 5s 8d." (which sounds quite a lot to me; I wonder how he got it?)

walter rogers in 1917

in 1917

w rogers 1934

in 1934

Walter Rogers

from 1924

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. London 31 May 1895

with Handley Page Transport Co 1920-24

Feb 1928: "Capt W Rogers, an Imperial Airways pilot, while testing an air liner, saw smoke and flames coming from the roof of a house near Croydon. He kept flying around the building until he had attracted attention to the house."

Lived at 'Le Bourget', Cosdach Avenue, Wallington, Surrey in 1932

 F/O Geoffrey Rose

 b. Bedford 27 Dec 1897

Address in 1932: 1, Apsley Heath, Woburn Sands, Beds

Imperial Airways VT-AEG AW Atlanta 0738-0009


Jack Sydney Sheppard

from 1930

b. Ballybrophy, Ireland 4 Dec 1900

Recruited by Charles Kingsford Smith as a pilot for Australian National Airways 1929-30

November 1935: "'PLANE OVERSHOOTS AERODROME Imperial Airways Pilot Injured. Rangoon, Saturday.

The right wing of an Imperial Airways 'plane was damaged at Rangoon to-day when the machine overshot the aerodrome when landing.

The pilot, Chief Pilot Mr J. S. Sheppard, was slightly injured, but the two passengers are said to be uninjured. The machine was an eastbound one.

It is understood that Captain Sheppard is one of the company's best-known pilots. A native of Ballybrophy, Ireland, he is 35 years of age and served in the R.A.F. from 1918-29. He was a member of the North Russian Relief Expedition in 1919. For a year he was a pilot with Australian National Airways. He is now pilot to the Imperial Airways on their Cairo-Khartoum service and stationed at Heliopolis, Egypt. In October, Captain Sheppard piloted the Imperial Airways liner 'Atlanta' when making a record day's flight of 1777 miles from Dodoma, Tanganyika, to Johannesburg."

Promoted to Senior Master in October 1938

Jack flew the last civilian flight out of Singapore in 1942, piloting an Imperial Airways Short Empire Flying Boat.

based Heliopolis

His son-in-law tells me that "Born in Kildare in 1900, Jack was a real 'rags to riches' story. From a poor Irish farm, he left school at 14 to become an engine mechanic. He joined the RFC as a mechanic and transferred to the RAF in 1918, qualifying as a PFO in time to just miss the end of WW1.

He flew as a Captain with the Expeditionary Force in Russia, rejoined the RAF having gone down a rank to retain a position. He regained his Captain / PFO position and was a pilot of DH3 biplanes out of Netheravon in 1923. He decided to move to civil aviation in 1929 and moved to Australia for 12 months (where he met Kingsford-Smith and others).

He became a Captain in Imperial Airways in 1930. Starting in Croydon, he moved to lead a 'silver age' lifestyle in Egypt in the 1930's, lived at Heliopolis, drove an open MG sports car, and became good friends with other pilots (including Rhinie Caspareuthus). 
He became Senior Captain within 2 - 3 years, and became well known for airmail (London to Durban) records. He soon had 4 or 5 regular runs.
He married a South African lady in 1941 in Durban and planned to leave Imperial Airways in 1945. Jack retired to Ireland in 1945 where he became a farmer and horse owner / trainer. He finally retired to Durban in 1969 and died there in 1982."

 John Spafford

from 1928

 b. Mar 1902

Address in 1932: 'Braeside', The Chase, Stafford Rd, Wallington, Surrey

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1934

Peggy Salaman and Gordon Store

Captain Gordon Store, MVO, OBE

 b. Kimberley, South Africa, on January 28, 1906.

In 1931 Gordon was co-pilot and navigator on the 19-year-old Peggy Salaman's record-breaking flight to South Africa in a De Havilland Puss Moth. They set off on Oct 30, 1931 from Lympne in Kent and five days, six hours and 40 minutes later they landed at the Cape, knocking more than a day off the record.

Young Gordon was educated at Kimberley Boys High School, at Mill Hill and Imperial College, London. He learned to fly at the De Havilland school and in 1926 was commissioned into the Reserve of Air Force Officers. After his flight with Peggy Salaman in 1931, Store remained in South Africa as a director of Aero Services, operating from a grass airfield at Wynburg.

Three years after setting this record Gordon Store joined Imperial Airways, serving on the airline's African and Empire routes before beginning a long association with the Atlantic in 1939, when he commanded one of the three crews which operated the first regular transatlantic services.

After the war Store was recruited by Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett of "Pathfinder" fame as operations manager of British South American Airways, which merged with BOAC in 1949. Store became a Douglas Stratocruiser captain.

d. October 4, aged 87.

 Rex Oliver Oxley Taylor

from 1930

 b. London 21 May 1905

intially on cross-channel then Cairo-Khartoum service

based Heliopolis

 Flt Lt George Irving Thomson DFC

from 1928

 b. Assam, Egypt 25 Oct 1891

lent to New Guinea Goldfields Ltd 1929-30

Address in 1932: 'Beechwood', Hawthorn Rd, Wallington, Surrey

 Frederick Dudley Travers DFC Croix de Guerre

from 1926

 b. York 15 Feb 1897

pilot on the Cairo-Karachi Air Mail Service 1926-29

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1934

 Flt Lt Patrick Graeme? Tweedie

from 1930

 b. Edinburgh 1902

based Cairo

leslie walters

leslie walters

Leslie Allan Walters

from 1924

 One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. London 30 Sep 1898

119, Foxley Lane, Purley in 1932

The first in the UK to be awarded the Master Pilot's Certificate, in 1934.

Imperial Airways G-AAGX HP42 Hannibal 0738-0001  Imperial Airways G-AAGX HP42 Hannibal at Karachi 5 Dec 1934 0738-0005


Capt Warner

2 Jan 1928: "BAGDAD AIR LINER. FORCED LANDING IN DESERT SHORT OF PETROL Capt. Warner, an Imperial Airways pilot, who had been flying all night, at a point 50 miles south of the usual track, found the missing air liner 'City of Teharan' yesterday morning.

The liner was surrounded by Arabs, who were most friendly, offering the air passengers water, and undertaking to do anything else in their power to assist. Four persons were on board, apparently all well. The reason for the forced landing was that the craft ran out petrol. Sufficient was transferred from Capt. Warner's machine to enable the stranded liner reach the Rutba post, while the passengers and mails were conveyed in Capt. Warner's machine to Bagdad, none the worse for their adventure.

The wireless equipment of the stranded liner was working perfectly, but its messages were not picked up due to jamming caused by the multiplicity of messages between Bagdad and other stations on the desert route and the machines engaged in the search."


samuel wheeler in 1917

in 1917

Samuel Joseph Wheeler

from 1927

 b. Ascot 27 Mar 1898

flight engineer with Imperial Airways 1924-27, pilot on Cairo-Delhi route 1927-30


Capt Ernest Robert Bristow White


from Flight, August 1941: "Capt. White joined the R.A.F. in 1921 as Boy Mechanic and left the service in December, 1930, with the rank of Sergeant Pilot. He joined Imperial Airways the following year, and in 1933 he was seconded as pilot to the Iraq Petroleum Company, which at that time were laying a 1,200 mile long oil pipe line from Haifa, in Palestine, to Kirkuk, Iraq.

He was transferred to the European Division of Imperial Airways in 1935, and operated the London-Budapest route. It may be remembered that in 1936 Capt. White established a record by flying the 2,970 miles from London to Brindisi, via Marseilles, and back to London in 18 hours.

On the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 he piloted pressmen from Alexandria to Penang, one of the longest charter flights on record. In the same year Capt. White represented Imperial Airways in Berlin at the international conference on ice formation, a subject on which he was an authority.

He was seconded to Atfero in the spring of this year and had flown something like one million miles. On the first Atlantic flight in 1940 he acted as navigator. 

He was amongst those killed when Liberator AM261 crashed into Goat Fell mountain on Isle of Arran after take-off from Heathfield Ayr on the 10 Aug 1941 (22 killed - 5 crew and 17 travelling as passengers)

Imperial Airways AS Wilcockson

Capt Arthur S Wilcockson

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

RFC in WWI; flew the Folkestone - Cologne Army Mail in 1918-19.

Handley Page Test Pilot 1920-24.

October 1926: "FLYING OVER A STORM Capt A. S. Wilcockson, an Imperial Airways pilot, who flew from London to Amsterdam and back yesterday, reported on landing at Croydon that there is a severe storm all along the coast, and that he had observed several vessels, principally fishing boats, driven ashore on the Belgian and Dutch sands. On his return journey he counted eight vessels in distress on the shore."

Jan 1928: "AIR LINER KILLS TWO ROOKS. BIRDS MISJUDGE DISTANCE. While flying a Handley-Page liner over Kent yesterday Captain A. S. Wilcockson, an Imperial Airways pilot, flew into a flock of rooks and killed two of them. He was at a height of 500 feet, and saw the rooks approaching him at the same level. They came steadily on, and made no attempt to avoid the air liner until within fifty feet. They then divided into two flocks to pass the machine.

One bird in each flock misjudged the distance, and they were caught by the machine and killed. The air liner was undamaged."

 Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935

Feb 1938: "PICK-A-BACK 'PLANE UP FOR TEST Atlantic Pilot Sees How It's Done. The Mayo composite aircraft made a second successful separation test flight at Rochester yesterday. Captain Lankaster Parker, chief test pilot of Short Brothers, who was in the control cabin of the lower component, had as passenger Captain A. S. Wilcockson, Imperial Airways Atlantic pilot."

 August 1940: "U.S. Bombers To Fly To Britain. The bombers will take off from Canada, and the flights will be supervised by Capt. A. S. Wilcockson, the famous Imperial Airways pilot, whose services have been lent to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He arrived in Canada yesterday, along with Capt. D. C. T. Bennett, a veteran Imperial Airways pilot, and Wing Commander Griffith Powell, a former Imperial Airways Transatlantic pilot. Capt. Wilcockson, who served in the Flying Corps during the last war, made a number of survey flights across the Atlantic in 1937. In 1928 he made a record commercial liner flight, from London to Paris in eighty minutes."

Imperial Airways VT-AEG AW Atlanta at Karachi 5 Dec 1934 0738-0002


Capt Wilson

Jan 1939: "BRITISH 'PLANE AS TARGET Imperial Airways Pilot's Signal. HONG KONG, Tuesday. Imperial Airways machine 'Delia' was fired upon west of Waichow Island, in the Gulf of Tonking, according to a signal picked up here today from Captain Wilson, the 'plane's pilot.

The machine, which was apparently undamaged, later arrived and departed again from Hanoi on schedule. Two British passengers were on board. Their names are given as the Hon. Mark Watson and Mr A. G. Tully. Apparently the 'plane had come from Hong Kong. W

Waichow Island is halfway across the Gulf of Tongking, between the Hainan Peninsula and French Indo-China. It is alleged that the firing was done by Japanese warships anchored near Waichow Island."


c f wolley

C F Wolley Dod

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

Sir Alan Cobham had some harsh words to say, when he sold his well-travelled 'Youth of Britain' aircraft to Imperial Airways; "I arrived at Salisbury [Rhodesia] on January 7 1930, and handed the aircraft over to Wolley Dod. I found him to be an unbelievably tiresome man. He spoke to me as though I were a pupil pilot of no experience at all; he went over the aircraft in detail, and managed to find something wrong with every aspect of it - the fuel system, the propeller, the rigging, the lot. I controlled myself with difficulty. I was fortunate indeed to have escaped being teamed up with such a fuss-pot".

Wolley Dod promptly crashed the aircraft at Broken Hill, much to Sir Alan's fury; "I had carried some 40,000 passengers in this perfectly good aircraft, making perhaps 5,000 landings. Then Big Brother took it over, and had to go and break it straight away."


HC Deb 16 March 1937 vol 321 c1858 1858
 Mr. Perkins

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he can make any statement with regard to the disappearance of the Imperial Airways liner "Jupiter" last night?

§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Sir Philip Sassoon) I regret to have to inform the House that Imperial Airways liner G-ACVZ, which left Croydon for Cologne at half-past nine last night, failed to arrive, and her wreckage was found later burnt out about 25 miles this side of Cologne. The three occupants of the machine, Captain C. B. Holmes, pilot; Mr. C. E. Langman, wireless operator; and Mr. C. F. Wolley Dod, Imperial Airways European Manager, were dead. No mails were on board. The cause of the accident is not yet determined. As far as we can ascertain there were rain and sleet moving eastward at the time over Belgium, but not general ice conditions, and the pilot was heard at 10.58 p.m. to inform Brussels that he was flying in good visibility.

Mr Albert E Woodbridge

RFC in WWI - he was responsible for Baron von Richthofen's head wound in 1917.

richthofen with head wound

After WWI he left the RAF, but rejoined and was drafted 'out East'. With Imperial Airways, he spent about six months piloting the cross-Channel service, then transferred to the Cairo- Karachi section.

Lived in Westcliffe-on-Sea

Died September 1929: "Three people were killed and two passengers burned when an Imperial Airways air mail liner crashed in flames while attempting to land last night at Jask Airdrome, in Persia, on the route to India from Croydon.

The dead are Mr. A. E. Woodbridge, the pilot; a passenger, Mr. G. Bell; and a mechanic, Mr. J. Court, says British United Press. The airplane and the mail were destroyed. Two members of the crew of the machine, Mr. H. Bourne, wireless operator, and Mr. H. C. Amor, flight engineer, were burnt, but not seriously, and are progressing favourably.

From reports reaching Karachi it appears that the air liner was making a landing by the light of flares set on the tips of the wings when the disaster occurred. Suddenly the wings were seen to burst into flames, and the flames spread rapidly, rendering the escape of the occupants of the machine impossible. The injured pilot of the air liner was rushed to a house two miles from the airdrome, but he died there soon after arrival.

When the news was received at Karachi, Capt. Attwood, pilot of the air mail liner which leaves there for England to-morrow, set out in his machine with a doctor and nursing orderlies to bring the injured pilot to Karachi, but returned when wireless news received reporting the death of the pilot of the burned air liner.

FAMOUS PILOT. Mr. A. E. Woodbridge was a very distinguished air-fighter during the war. He brought down the famous German, Baron Richthofen, in June, 1917."

Actually, 2nd Lt Woodbridge had managed to wound von Richthofen in the head. When the Red Baron returned to duty, he was still unfit to fly - his head wound had not healed - and this is thought to have been a contributory factor when he was shot down nine months later by an Australian gunner.

b youell

Alan Bruce Hamilton Youell

One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways in 1924

b. 10 Feb 1900 in Portsea Island, Hants.

RAeC certificate 4909 (1917).

Awarded Master Pilot's Certificate

March 1926: "Like the Swallow.—Captain B. Yulle, the Imperial Airways pilot, set a record on Thursday when he flew from London to Amsterdam, a distance of 267 miles, in 100 minutes.

"October 13, 1947 – A helicopter flies in Switzerland for the first time. It is the Bell 47B G-AKCX of the Irvin-Bell Helicopters Sales presented near the Allmend in Zürich-Wollishofen by the British pilot Alan Bruce Hamilton 'Jimmy' Youell." With Imperial Airways pre-war and Railway Air Services post-war.

d. 19 April 1961 'in or near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia'

King's Cup in 1930
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