Airlines at War (Hardback)
British Civil Aviation 1939 - 1944
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The brave efforts of the pilots and crew of the RAF during the Second World War are well-known but there was another body of aviators that played a significant role in the conflict – the men and women of the civilian airlines.
The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was formed shortly after the outbreak of war in November 1939 by the amalgamation of Imperial Airways and British Airways. During the war BOAC operated as directed by the Secretary of State for Air, initially as the transport service for the RAF and with no requirement to act commercially. The inaugural BOAC had eighty-two aircraft, a large proportion of which were seaplanes and flying boats. With 54,000 miles of air routes over many parts of the world, ranging from the Arctic to South Africa, from the Atlantic coast of America to the eastern coast of India, the aircraft of the BOAC kept wartime Britain connected with its colonies and the free world, often under enemy fire. Over these routes, carrying mail, cargo and personnel, the men and machines of BOAC flew in the region of 19,000,000 miles a year.
There can rarely have been a moment, throughout the war, when aircraft of the British merchant air service were not flying somewhere along the routes, despite losses from enemy action. This book explores much of their war history between 1939 and 1944 (the year that marked the 25th anniversary of British commercial aviation), something of their lives and their achievements in linking up the battlefronts – at times cut off from any direct land or sea contacts with the Home Front – and in transporting supplies through the new, dangerous and often uncharted regions of the air. With the ‘Speedbird’ symbol or the Union Flag emblazoned on its aircraft the BOAC really did fly the flag for Britain throughout the wartime world.
"Quite simply, this book is enthralling; I enjoyed every page of it."Ulster Aviation Society
Indeed the evocative and sometimes lyrical tone of the text grips the reader’s interest. This is no dry official tome and is both exciting and inspiring.Ulster Airmail, January 2021
This narrative is an eye-opener and is very much worth the read.Air Power History
All photos and maps are in black and white as per the original book although a magnificent colour photo of camouflaged Boeing Clipper G-AGCA Berwick appears on the cover, speeding across water as it approaches ‘the step’ with its bowman standing up in the bow hatch ahead of the cockpit! There is plenty of material for flying boat fans within the book.Catalina Society
Originally publishedAero Society May 2018
in 1946 by the Ministry of
Information under the title
Merchant Airmen: the Air
Minstry account of British
Civil Aviation, 1939-1944,
a welcome new edition of
this detailed review of the
international air transport
operations across Europe,
Africa, Australia, the Far East
and the Atlantic Ocean of
Imperial Airways and British
Overseas Airways Corporation
(BOAC) during WW2.