Victor C Smith

  1936, aged 23

  2000, aged 86


Made several flights through Africa in record-breaking attempts, but his "pluck ... exceeded his luck".

For example; in 1932, aged 19, he took off from Cape Town in a DH Moth, to try to break the record to London. He missed breaking the record by a few days, having been delayed by a 'run-in' with some fierce members of the Toureg tribe in the Sahara. He got out a cup of water and a packet of liver salts and drank the foaming liquid; such a man, they thought, must have supernatural powers, so they let him go.

Reaching London eventually, he then swapped the Moth for a Comper Swift and tried to fly back, but suffered engine failure; this time he had to walk 80 km through the Sahara. You'd think that would be it, but no: he found another aeroplane and continued south, only to run out of fuel just short of Cape Town.

In all, he made 21 forced landings during his flying career, all without serious injury. He wrote a book of his experiences, called 'Open Cockpit over Africa'.

In 1936, "Victor Smith was the most enthusiastic person at Portsmouth, and was obviously deeply in love with his Sparrowhawk". Aaaah.

Became a flying instructor after the race, then in WWII flew Beaufighters in Yugoslavia.


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