The Empire boats were designed in 1934 to implement the Empire Air Mail Scheme, carrying unsurcharged letter mail throughout the British Empire and Dominions between the terminals at Southampton, Durban and Sydney - later continuing to Auckland, New Zealand. Some of the payload was available for small numbers of passengers and freight.
The boats were operated by Imperial Airways Limited (IAL), QANTAS Empire Airways (QEA) and Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) and later, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).
The IAL and QEA Empire flying boats ran the Empire air Mail Scheme & Programme for two years and ten months, ending with the outbreak of World War II in 1939. With Pan American Airways, the IAL 'boats pioneered the Atlantic crossing and one was employed on the Bermuda-New York service. Two 'boats were armed and impressed into the Royal Air Force to become casualties of the Norwegian campaign. Imperial Airways Limited (IAL) changed to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).
In 1940 the Empire boats started flying what was called Horseshoe Route, an inverted horseshoe on the map, from Durban, through the Middle East and across India, to Sydney and return. Diversions took two of the boats to Crete to evacuate 469 British military personnel. The Horseshoe Route ended when Singapore was captured. The QEA 'boats on the Australian side of the became involved actively involved in the hostilities. Some QEA 'boats were armed as were the two TEAL boats that maintained the link between Sydney and Auckland throughout the war, doubling as reconnaissance bombers as required. Two BOAC 'boats were converted to military status for service with the Royal Air Force.
Their achievements were amazing: one made 442 crossings of the Tasman Sea and one was flown out of a small river in the Belgian Congo in 1940. Others maintained schedules on the North Atlantic, between Britain and Africa, the dangerous Mediterranean route from Gibraltar to Malta and Cairo. Most of these beautiful boats were retired in 1947.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.