Imperial Airways Pilot

  • Esmonde, Eugene Kingsmill

      Lt-Cmdr Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde VC, DSO

     Eugene Esmonde 1930; an RAF Officer at Tangmere



    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.



  • Fielden, Earl Bateman

     Capt. Earl Bateman 'Safety First' Fielden

     EB Safety First Feilden  via Phillip Jones


    b. 14 Oct 1899, Shipley, Yorks

    May 1938: "Cdr. E. B. Fielden, of British Airways, has now flown over 100,000 passengers without so much as bruising the very tenderest of them. A lot of his flying was done in the early joy-ride days, operating from small fields, and when chief pilot to Sir Alan Cobham's circus he once took up 768 people in a day. "

    Just shows you can't believe all you read: August 25, 1933, "TWO MEN TRAPPED WHEN 'PUANE CRASHES. Pilot Jumps Clear In Time. Three airmen had remarkable escapes when an aeroplane crashed in arriving from Kidderminster for the Scunthorpe (Lincolnshire) hospital air pageant (BHAP) at Ashby yesterday. They were: Captain E. B. Fielden. of the Royal Club, London, the pilot; Mr Clifford Jones, of Blackwood; and Mr Frederick La Croix, Finchley, London. They were taken to Scunthorpe Hospital, but Captain Fielden was not detained.

    The aeroplane was about to land when it got into difficulties and crashed into a field of sugar beet near the ground where the pageant was held.  In striking the ground the 'plane toppled over but Captain Fielden managed to jump out. Mr Jones and La Croix were trapped in the cabin, but were soon rescued by Captain Fielden and officials who rushed from the pageant ground. On inquiry at the hospital early this morning it was stated that neither of the men who were detained appeared to be very seriously injured.

    Captain Fielden had a narrow escape in September, 1931. when an air liner, of which was the pilot, crashed in flames near Moortown Golf Course in the east Riding of Yorkshire. "

    He later 'transferred' to the British Hospitals Air Pageant, (a rival organisation which Alan Cobham regarded as rather a scam), together with Charles W. A. Scott, the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce, Pauline Gower. Dorothy Spicer, Capt. R. H. (All-weather) Mclntosh, Capt. Phillips, Capt. Rollason, Flt-Lt. J. B. W. Pugh. Flight-Lieut. A. G. Hill and Col. FitzMaurice, who was the first to fly the Atlantic from east to west.

    Later a Wing Commander in WWII; DFC in 1944 for having been responsible for the movements of loaded transports during the Wingate airborne invasion of Burma.

    His son, Aircraftman 2nd Class Stanley Earl Spensley Fielden (RAFVR) was killed 8 Mar 1943, age 18.

    d. Feb 1985 in Exeter


  • Flynn, John J

      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."


  • Foy, Frederick Victor Walter

    Frederick Victor Walter Foy



    Imperial Airways 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


  • Gittins, John Moore

      John Moore Gittins

     john_gittins_in_1928.jpg 1928


     Imperial Airways from 1929

     b. Sutton, Surrey 11 Mar 1906

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


  • Hattersley, Arthur Patrick Kilvington

      Flt-Lt Arthur Patrick Kilvington Hattersley

        Daily News (London) - Friday 20 November 1936


    RAF from Feb 1918

    "RECORD FLIGHT FROM FRANCE A record flight from Lille (France) London was made last night by British Continental Airways when an air liner their regular dally service completed the 160 miles' Journey In one hour. The machine was piloted by Chief Pilot Captain A. P. K. Hattersley and carried passengers and luggage. Captain Hattersley reported visibility to quite exceptional, and said that the evening light the coast England could be clearly seen before leaving the French side." Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 May 1936

    d. 19 Nov 1936 in British Airways (ex-KLM) Fokker F12 G-AEOT, which crashed near Gatwick Airport - "The pilot, Flt Lt A.P.K. Hattersley, was very experienced and had about 5,000 hours logged - he had, however, only done 2 hours in a Fokker F12 prior to the accident."

    "Captain Arthur Patrick Kilvington Hattersley was 36 years old and had been flying since the age of 17. He was a flight lieutenant in the R.A.F. during the war. In 1923 he joined the South African Air Force and returned to England in 1926, becoming an R.A.F. instructor. Hattersley became one of the chief pilots of British Continental Airways, which later merged into British Airways. "


  • Hinchliffe, Walter George Raymond

      Mr Walter George Raymond 'Hinch' Hinchliffe


       in 1927

    b. 10, or 11 Jun 1893, or 1894

    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. 

    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."

    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. 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, was in the Virginia Aviation Museum.

    'Hinch' disappeared with Elsie Mackay in 1928 trying to cross the Atlantic from east to west.

    Elsie's parents, Lord and Lady Inchcape, generously put Elsie's £521,101 13s 4d in trust for the nation for about 50 years, after which time they hoped it "should be used to reduce the National Debt". They also gave Capt Hinchliffe's widow Emilie (sometimes known as Eileen) £10,000, his estate being a rather more modest £32.


  • Horsey, Herbert John

      Capt Herbert John 'Horse' Horsey




    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.


  • Jones, Oscar Philip

      Oscar Philip Jones




    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."


  • Leleu, Lionel Louis

    Lionel Louis Leleu


      b. London 29 Jun 1897

    pilot with Berkshire Aviation Tours until 1926, then Imperial Airways

    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"


  • Lumsden, Carlos Gerald

      Carlos Gerald Lumsden



    Imperial Airways from 1931

    b. Norwich 16 Dec 1903

    based in Kisumu, Kenya


  • McIntosh,  Robert H

      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]


  • Minchin, Frederick Frank Reilly

      Col. Frederick Frank Reilly Minchin


     Frederick Minchin  1913


    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." (see also Donald Drew)


    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, Roger Pierre

      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


  • Olley, Gordon Percy

      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.


  • Orr, Lionel Frank Hastings

      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."


  • Perry, Herbert Howard

      Capt Herbert Howard Perry

      1915, when a Sergeant in the RFC, aged 23

      1922, aged 30


    h h perry in 1922   1922

    b. Birmingham 3 Jul 1892

    RFC in WWI; cross-channel pilot for Handley Page Transport 1920-22; test pilot for ADC Transport 1922-27. Joined Imperial Airways in 1927


    Feb 1928: "A FLYING RECORD. Captain H. Perry, 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

    A member of the Court of the Guild of Airline Pilots and Navigators in the 30s; awarded Master Pilot's Certificate in 1935


  • Powell, George Beacall

       Mr George Beacall Powell

      1921, aged 22

     george powell

    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 11 June 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."


  • Powell, Griffith James

      Griffith James Powell




    b. Cardiff 11 Aug 1907

    Imperial Airways from 1930

    based Heliopolis, employed on European routes.


  • Prendergast, Archer Robert

      Flt Lt Archer Robert Prendergast




    Imperial Airways from 1931: pilot on North African Division

    b. Durban, S Africa 4 Jan 1900

    based Khartoum


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