England-South Africa Flights

  • -England - South Africa Flights

    Flights to and from South Africa


    The "All-British" air route between Cairo and the Cape was first opened for traffic in 1920. They could do this because, thanks to Cecil Rhodes and his fellow empire-builders, the map was coloured pink all the way, [denoting, of course, that they were part of the British Empire]

    Some of the 44 aerodromes established for the 1920 'all-red' Route (with present-day country names], click to enlarge

    The route had been first surveyed in 1918, when 3 military parties were instructed to explore and, as far as possible, prepare the route. They worked with the local authorities and cut many of the aerodromes out of the dense jungle, felling thousands of trees  - and relocating tens of thousands of tons of soil - in the process.

    This is what they achieved:

      Aerodrome Distance (miles)
      Heliopolis -
      Helouan 18
      Wasta 40
      Samamut 76
      Assiut 84
      Kara 102
      Luxor 44
      Edfu 55
      Assouan 60
      El Ajaqui 66
      Toshki Gharb 71
      Wadi Haifa 54
      Station 6 82
      Station 10 80
      Shereik 70
      Atbara 76
      Shendi 74
      Khartoum 6
      Jebelein 208
      Eliri 221
      Duk Farwill 198
      Mongalla 159
      Nimule 110
      Jinja 232
      Kisumu 113
      Shirati 89
      Mwanza 124
      Shinyanza 79
      Tabora 104
      Zimba 207
      Abercorn 79
      N’dola 336
      Broken Hill 103
      Livingstone 290
      Bulawayo 238
      Palapwe 182
      Pretoria 258
      Johannesburg 64
      Blomfontein 230
      Victoria, West 243
      Beaufort, West 72
      Touws River 158
      Cape Town 142



    Pretty soon, people were queueing up to use this new route.

    Here are the successful flights, and some notable brave attempts:

  • -Flight - ESA 1920-01 Cockerell



    Capt Stanley Cockerell and Capt Frank Crossley Griffiths Broome (pilots), Dr Chalmers Mitchell (Secretary of the Zoological Society) and two mechanics in a Vickers Vimy Commercial [K-107, G-EAAV].

    On February 27 the starboard engine failed just as the machine had reached flying speed in taking-off from Tabora, Tanganyika. The aeroplane crashed,  settled on an anthill and almost turned over, the undercarriage being forced through the lower wing. Capt. Cockerell's wrist was sprained and Mr. Corby's leg was bruised, but otherwise the occupants of the machine escaped injury.

    The framework and cabin of the wrecked Vimy were taken over by the Tabora Sporting Club "for use as a pavilion", but the engines were sent back to England.



  • -Flight - ESA 1920-02 Brackley


    Maj Herbert George Brackley and Lt Frederick Tymms in a Handley Page 0/400 (D4624, G-EAMC)

    This machine, which left Assuan on February 25, made a forced landing at El Shereik, Sudan, about two-thirds of the way to Khartoum. The machine was damaged beyond repair, but fortunately no one was hurt.


    Air Commodore H. G. Brackley C.B.E., D.S.O., D.S.C., F.R.G.S., A.F.R.Ae.S., b. 4 Oct 1894, later Air Superintendent of Imperial Airways, was drowned while sea-bathing near Rio de Janeiro in the autumn of 1948. He was chief executive of British South American Airways at the time.


    Sir Frederick Tymms, MC, was a well-known navigator and civil servant who joined the RFC in 1917 and subsequently worked for the Air Ministry as Superintendent of Civil Aviation in the Middle East and India. 




  • -Flight - ESA 1920-02 Brand


    Flt-Lt Christopher Joseph Quintin Brand and Lt-Col Pierre van Ryneveld, in:

    1) a Vickers FB.27 Vimy 'G-UABA, The Silver Queen', which they crashed in Korosko, Egypt on the 11th February;

    2) another borrowed Vimy 'F8615, The Silver Queen II', and finally (when they damaged that);

    3) a borrowed RAF Airco D.H.9 (H5648, 'Voor-trekker' ('Pioneer')).

    Left Brooklands 4 Feb 1920, landed Cape Town 4pm 20 March.

    45 days. First journey by air from Cairo to the Cape.


    Silver Queen I


  • -Flight - ESA 1925-11 Cobham


    The London-Capetown-London Imperial Airways Survey Flight

    Alan C Cobham, with Arthur B. Elliott as engineer and  B. W. G. Emmott as cinematographer in a D.H. 50J.

    Set out from Croydon on November 16, reached Cape Town on the evening of February 17, and returned to London 20 Mar 1926



  • -Flight - ESA 1926 RAF



    The First RAF Cape Flight

    Wing Commander C. W. H. Pulford (commanding the flight), with Flt-Lt P.H. Mackworth, Flt-Lt E.J. Linton Hope, F/O W. L.Payne, Flight-Lieut. L.E.M. Gillman (navigator), Flying Officer A.A. Jones (technical), Sgt Hartley (fitter), and Sgt Gardener (rigger).

    "They have carried out a flight which is unique in many ways and useful in many ways, and they have done credit to the Royal Air Force and to the British Empire.... there has been no other instance on record of a formation of four aeroplanes flying over 14,000 miles, across two continents, from the northern temperate zone to the southern  temperate zone and back without change of personnel, of aircraft, or of engines."


    Conway Waller Heath Pulford, O.B.E., A.F.C., Croix de Guerre, was born in India on January 26, 1892, and joined the Navy as a midshipman in January 1910. He transferred to the R.N.A.S. as a  Flight Lieutenant and then to the RAF in August 1, 1919 as a Squadron Leader. Later promoted to Air Vice Marshal.

    He was killed in WWII; 10 Mar 1942 when he and his naval counterpart, Rear Admiral Spooner, were amongst the last to leave Indonesia when the Japanese overran it. Their motor boat was hit and forced to run aground on an uninhabited, malaria-infested island called Chibia. The survivors managed to hold out for two months before being forced to  surrender to the Japanese, but Pulford and Spooner had both died of  exhaustion and malaria.


  • -Flight - ESA 1927 Cobham


    The Sir Charles Wakefield African survey expedition

    Sir Alan Cobham in the Short S.5 Singapore flying-boat N-179 G-EBUP.

    Started from Rochester on November 17. The flying-boat landed on Lake Victoria on February 5; it was the first flying boat to do so.

    They completed the outward journey from England to Cape Town on March 30.

    The return journey up the West African Coast was started on April 3.



  • -Flight - ESA 1927-04 RAF


    The Second RAF Cape Flight

    The Cairo-Cape flight ended on April 21, when the R.A.F. machines, under the command of Air-Commodore C. R. Samson, arrived at Cape Town about noon, 22 days after leaving Cairo.


    C. R. Samson C.M.G., D.S.O. (and Bar), A.F.C., was a picturesque figure, who captured the popular imagination, "chiefly because of his wholehearted love of fighting and adventure."

    He published an account of this flight in his book called (as you might rather expect), "A Flight from Cairo to Capetown and Back".

    d. Feb 1931, aged 47

     c r samson


  • -Flight - ESA 1927-09 Bentley


    Flt-Lt Richard 'Dick' Read Bentley, S.A.A.F in D.H. Moth 60X G-EBSO 'Dorys'

    'Dick' was a South African Air Force instructor at Roberts Heights, the headquarters of the S.A.A.F.; he was an adopted South African, born in England. He had also spent about three years in Canada.

    Lady Bailey christened the Moth at Stag Lane with the name of 'Dorys', after his then-fiancee. The movie is here, although they seem to think the aeroplane was called the 'Johannesburg Star'...

    The aeroplane was a standard production model, the only change being an extra fuel tank instead of the passenger's seat.

    He was awarded the Britannia Trophy for the most meritorious performance of the year.

    First solo England-Cape Town flight.

    Left Stag Lane 10:30 am September 1. Arrived 2:20pm September 28.

    He then became the first pilot to fly to Cape Town from England and back in a light aeroplane; the return flight was his "admirable method of spending a honeymoon".

    Left Cape Town March 3, arrived Croydon (with his new wife, Dorys) on May 12.

    He then became instructor to the Liverpool and District Aero Club from June to September.

    lady bailey and dorys

    Lady Bailey christens Dorys, with Dick in the background


  • -Flight - ESA 1928-02 Heath



    First solo light plane flight from Cape Town to England

    Lady Heath in an Avro Avian III

    Reached Cape Town (by sea) December 6, 1927

    She also enlisted the help of Dick Bentley to fly over the Sudan.

    Left Pretoria on February 25, reached Croydon May 17.

    The aeroplane was later sold to Amelia Earhart, and taken to America.



  • -Flight - ESA 1928-03 Bailey



    Lady Bailey in a couple of DH Moths

    She only took two small suit-cases with her when she took off, in March 1928. In Cairo, her plane was locked away by order of the Governor-General of the Sudan to prevent her from continuing alone, so she contacted Dick Bentley (who had flown to the Cape a few weeks before) to escort her in his own aeroplane over the "dangerous area of the southern Sudan". She then crashed in Tanganyika, writing off her aeroplane (she said it was her fault), but her husband Abe made arrangements for a replacement Moth to be delivered from Pretoria and she continued, despite having 'flu. Abe was there to meet her when she arrived at the end of April.

    The return journey was made via the western 'French' route - the Belgian Congo, Angola and the French Congo. She finally arrived back at Croydon on 16 January, 1929, 10 months after she left. It was "undoubtedly one of the finest performances ever put up by a woman pilot."



  • -Flight - ESA 1928-05 Black


    An American attempt

    Van Lear Black,  (the publisher of the Baltimore Sun), in a Fokker tri-motor monoplane, left Croydon on May 14th and reached Khartoum on the 19th, but had engine trouble and abandoned the attempt.

  • -Flight - ESA 1928-07 Murdoch


    Record flight

    Lieut. Pat Murdoch, SAAF,  in an Avro Avian III G-EBVU

    Started from Croydon at 5 p.m. on July 29

    Time: 14 days.

    "We understand that before his departure Lieut. Murdock consulted Sir Alan Cobham regarding the flight."

    Took off  September 12 to make his way back, but crashed at Elizabethville, Belgian Congo, on October 18; he was uninjured, but wrote off the aeroplane.



  • -Flight - ESA 1928-09 Halse



    Capt Stanley Halse, accompanied by his wife, left Stag Lane on September 10 in a D.H. Gipsy Moth, was held up at Mongalla with a broken airscrew, and then made a forced landing at Atbara with engine trouble.


  • -Flight - ESA 1928-10 Hope


    London-Cape Town Flight

    Capt Wally Hope reached Khartum on October 1. He was delayed by a touch of sunstroke.



  • -Flight - ESA 1928-11 Carberry


    "Mr John Carberry left Croydon in his Fokker monoplane on November 18 for Cape Town. He was accompanied by a mechanic and hopes to make the flight in record time. It is the intention of Mr. Carberry to continue this flight to his estates in the Kenya Colony after reaching the Cape."

    "Lady Carbery, the wife of Lord Carbery, was killed whilst flying her D.H.Moth at Nairobi, Kenya Colony, on March 12. During the afternoon she had taken friends for flights, and in the evening Mr. Cowie accompanied her to take instruction. The machine was seen to lose flying speed,and before it crashed Lady Carbery jumped out, but was instantly killed. Mr. Cowie was also killed. Lord Carbery was a witness of the disaster."



  • -Flight - ESA 1929 RAF


    The 4th RAF Flight

    "For four successive years, four Fairey aircraft, each fitted with a Napier engine, have been selected for the service flight from Cairo to Cape Town and back. No mechanical trouble has been experienced on these flights."



  • -Flight - ESA 1929-11 Tuckett


    Roy Tuckett, a member of the Port Elizabeth Light Aeroplane Club.

    D.H. 60G Gipsy Moth G-AARW

    Left Croydon 9 November, 1929.

    Met with a mishap at Aboukir when the machine was wrecked after being accidentally started. Mr. Tuckett himself was laid out for some time, but was apparently not permanently incapacitated.

    Later, crashed while taking off at Toroso, Kenya.

      roy_tuckett2.jpg roy_tuckett4.jpg roy_tuckett3.jpg
  • -Flight - ESA 1929-12 Fairey


    The Long-Distance Flight Disaster

    Sqn-Ldr Arthur Gordon Jones-Williams, Flt-Lt N H Jenkins in the first Fairey Long-Distance Monoplane

    This attempt on the world long-distance record took off on 16 December 1929 but crashed south of Tunis, destroying the aircraft and killing the crew.

  • -Flight - ESA 1930-04 Bedford


    The Duchess of Bedford's record flight

    The (64-year-old) Duchess of Bedford, Capt. Charles D. Barnard (pilot)  and Mr. R. Little in her Fokker monoplane G-EBTS 'The Spider'.

    Left Lympne on April 10, reached Cape Town on April 19. 10 days.

    G-EBTS.jpg barnard_and_little.jpg

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