British Airways Archives Released To Celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

On January 31, 1952, British Airways’ predecessor, BOAC, flew Her Royal Highness, the Princess Elizabeth to East Africa on the first stage of a Commonwealth tour. Just one week later she was flown back on a BOAC Argonaut as Queen Elizabeth II following the death of her father His Majesty King George VI.

British Airways is celebrating the Queen’s long reign by releasing photos and details of that flight from its Speedbird Heritage Centre.

They include the image of Her Majesty arriving back in London on February 7, 1952 and a telegram received on the flight home from the Queen Mother to her daughter.

Incredibly, the museum still has the copy of that message, which read:

To: Her Majesty The Queen
All my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Buckingham Palace

The message was received over the radio, written directly into the Captain’s log-book and then copied out by hand onto a BOAC signal form, before being presented to Her Majesty.

The BOAC Argonaut aircraft that carried the Queen home touched down at London Airport at 4.30pm precisely on February 7, 1952. Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, political leaders and other high officers of State met the flight.

Captain Ronald Ballantine flew the 2,270 miles from Entebbe to El Adem in Libya and after a brief 58 minutes refuel on the ground there, Captain Michael Parker finished the 1,860 miles to London.

The airline still has a copy of the original flight path plan, which is topped with the image of a crown to depict the flight the Queen returned to the UK on.

And the Captain’s original log-book remains in the British Airways Speedbird Heritage Centre which notes that Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth was on board on January 31 and yet the aircraft that returned was carrying the new Queen.


February 3, 2012 011/AA/12

Notes to editors:

  • For more about the history of British Airways, visit
  • The tour was due to take in East Africa, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand.
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