Monday, 20 August 2007

Seaplanes and flying boats

In April this year there was a report that AirSea Lines were hoping to bring back seaplane services to Southampton in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. At one time the Southampton area had a number of seaplane services. I had forgotten about this until I read over the weekend in the Guardian that the first commercial seaplane service for over 50 years had started, from Glasgow to west coast towns and islands in Scotland.

I was on one of those last flights from Southampton which, according to one site, continued until 3 November 1950. My mother took my sister and myself out to Africa to join our father while he was working there.

Her account:

The Sunderland never flew at night so it was, by comparison with today’s flights, a very leisurely trip, taking four days to arrive on Lake Nyasa [now Lake Malawi]. As we took off and gathered speed on Southampton Water the body of the plane seemed to descend into the waves which lashed against the windows, quite frightening I could see, to the tiny figure in the enormous seat beside me.

Photo from Southampton Flying Boat Services site

My mother was quite an intrepid traveller. After the four days of travel, she arrived with us at Monkey Bay to find that my father was no longer there. He had been posted elsewhere and the only hotel was closed, so off she set with one six month old baby and a toddler to find him, using a variety of cars and planes, from Monkey Bay to Fort Johnston (now Mangochi) to Zomba to Mzimba to Karonga.

I'm labeling this with "memories" but actually, I don't remember any of it!


  1. I remember seeing a Sunderland Flying Boat - an RAF version - in mothballs in about 1955. I was able to clamber all over it and sit in the gunners turret although the gun was long gone. It seemed enormous to me and it was a great thrill to explore it. I can only imagine what it must have been like to fly as a passenger over long distances.

  2. Wow - what a wonderful 'almost' memory.. loved reading it..

    take care and happy monday :)

  3. I've since had a chat with my mother, and this is very similar to how it was. So, yes, it must have been very spacious and hard to believe it was once a bomber. I, unfortunately, really don't remember, except possibly the waves going past the window.


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