We started the new season by welcoming Terry Hare-Walker who presented his material on South African Airmails. He started with some covers from the 1911 Coronation Flight here in England, but explained the South African connection as follows: the covers were addressed to South Africa, and one of the pilots, Evelyn Driver, was a South African who returned home to make the first flights there in December 1911. Terry had commemorative postcards from these flights to various destinations.
In 1918 a series of flights were made to raise funds in the aftermath of the Great War. Commemorative postcards were sold at 6d each, with twelve different flights being made. Then we saw a more unusual piece of air mail: in 1919, in celebration of peace, you could send a message by carrier pigeon which was then forwarded to its destination in the regular post. Terry had an example of such a letter, including the rubber band that had attached it to the pigeon.
We then moved on to the experimental flights that set out the routes within South Africa as well as beyond to the rest of the Empire. One example was a flight from Cape Town to Durban to carry the mail from the Union Castle steamers and reduce the delivery time. In 1925 Alan Cobham flew from the UK to South Africa, and was challenged to a race on the way back by a ship of the Union Castle line. The plane won, but we didn’t hear by how much. By 1929 Union Airways had started and was running regular air mail services within South Africa while Imperial Airways was connecting South Africa to the rest of the empire. We saw first flight covers from a number of these routes, including South Africa to Australia in 1934.
One of Terry’s scarcer covers was from 1936 when Amy Mollison (Amy Johnson) flew to South Africa. We then moved on to the 1938 Schlesinger Air Race and heard how 14 crews set off to race from Portsmouth to Johannesburg but only one arrived. As well as mail from these various flights Terry also had contemporary newspaper articles which tracked the race. We finished up with a BOAC cover which led us up to the Second Word War and the end of the empire.
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 1st October at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when members from Rugby philatelic society will talk about North Macedonia and Belgian Congo. We would also like to extend an invitation to the Banbury Festival of Stamps on Sunday 10th November at BGN School where there will be stamp dealers, refreshments and the Midlands Philatelic Federation Convention being held jointly with the Thames Valley Philatelic Federation. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.