This is a fascinating account of the age of Empire flying boats, whose story began in July 1936 with a reassuringly trouble-free test flight on Kent’s River Medway. Within ten years, however, this last word in luxury was to become redundant, spurned by the post-war age.
The story is a dramatic and human one. It tells of slow, meandering flights across the Empire, swooping down on sun-warmed stretches of water for luncheon and tea. But it also describes misadventure and disaster, with flying boats crashing with unnerving regularity. The characters involved in the Empire’s story demonstrate its breadth, they include: Winston Churchill; Terence Rattigan (the playwright); Sir John Reith (who chaired both the BBC and Imperial Airways); Don Bennett (the wartime Pathfinder); and the doomed Duke of Kent.
The Empire’s magnificent military sibling, the Sunderland, is also featured and the book illuminates some less well known areas of the war, for example, the Norwegian campaign of 1940 and Australia’s ‘Pearl Harbour’.
Extensively researched – drawing on personal letters and diaries, government papers, contemporary newspapers, and archive material from Imperial Airways and its successors – this book reveals all about the Empire flying boat and the people who designed, flew and travelled in them.