Explore our past: 1940 - 1949



1 April: BOAC officially took over the operations of Imperial Airways and British Airways Limited. The Secretary of State required BOAC to place the whole undertaking at his disposal.

May: The C Class Flying boats Caribou and Cabot were bombed and destroyed in Norway. BOAC Ensigns flew food to France for British troops cut off by German forces.

August: BOAC began a weekly 'Horseshoe' route from Durban to Sydney via Cairo and Karachi due to the direct route over Europe being cut. In October, the C Class Flying boat services linked Poole and Lagos in West Africa as part of the route across Central Africa to Durban.


February: BOAC started its special air service from Leuchars to Stockholm, the 'ball-bearing run', using Lockheed 14 aircraft. From February 1943 unarmed Mosquito aircraft were used.

24 September:BOAC’s first operation of the North Atlantic Return Ferry service took place on this day. The service, flown to the requirements of the RAF, used Consolidated Liberators. The first flight was made by Captain O.P. Jones. On 7 September 1944 BOAC completed its 1,000th crossing of the North Atlantic Return Ferry.

16 October: BOAC assumed responsibility for the general administration of the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ATA finally ceased to function as a ferry organisation on 30 November 1945 after delivering 308,567 aircraft of 147 types since 1940.

October: BOAC re-opened the UK to Cairo route via Lisbon, Gibraltar and Malta with C Class and Catalina flying boats.

December: BOAC commenced irregular services across the North Atlantic with Boeing 314 flying boats G-AGBZ Bristol, G-AGCA Berwick and G-AGCB Bangor. These were continued throughout the war.


16 - 17 January: Mr Winston Churchill MP made the first transatlantic flight by a British prime minister. He flew in a BOAC Boeing 314 flying boat G-AGCA Berwick under Captain J C Kelly Rogers, from Bermuda to Plymouth.

February: Singapore fell to the Japanese and BOAC’s route to Singapore and Australia was terminated at Calcutta. The G Class flying boats G-AFCI Golden Hind and G-AFCK Golden Horn were introduced on West African services.

October: BOAC made its first experimental flight from Prestwick to Ramenskoye (near Moscow) with a Liberator, taking 13 hours 9 minutes for the flight.

Lord Brabazon of Tara chaired a committee to make recommendations for post-war development of civil aircraft. Among the recommendations were specifications for the Bristol Brabazon, the Vickers Viscount, the De Havilland Comet 1 and the De Havilland Dove.


February: BOAC began a service over enemy held Norway between Leuchars and Stockholm with de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers bringing back cargo of vital ball bearings.

March: BOAC introduced Short S25 Sunderland III flying boats on the UK to West Africa route. The route was withdrawn on 25 October when the Sunderlands opened a UK-Cairo-Karachi service. Because of its operation through military areas, aircraft and crews were given military status.

May: Lord Knollys became Chairman of BOAC.

July: BOAC began a new Cairo-Wadi Halfa-Khartoum weekly service, with Lodestars. BOAC also introduced a five times per fortnight service by Ensigns between Cairo and Takoradi.

August: BOAC’s UK to Gibraltar service resumed, which was operated twice weekly with DC-3 aircraft. The BOAC UK to Moscow service via North Africa and Iran began flying, using converted Liberator bombers. During the first six months of the year BOAC made about 270 flights in the Western Desert. During the year it also introduced Douglas DC3 aircraft into service between the UK and Lisbon and Gibraltar and in North Africa.


20 May: The first BOAC service commenced from Lyneham to Cairo, via Rabat and Tripoli, operated by Avro York G-AGJA Mildenhall.

June: BOAC rerouted its Cairo-Lydda-Habbaniyeh-Teheran Lodestar services to fly via Damascus and Baghdad to meet the Syrian government’s requirement for a Damascus-Baghdad connection.

September: BOAC completed the 1,000th crossing of the North Atlantic Return Ferry Service.

21 September: No 110 Wing, RAF Transport Command, began daily UK to Paris, Brussels and Lyons services. Subsequently, the Lyons service was extended to Marseilles and Naples and new services were begun to Athens, Prague, Warsaw, Copenhagen and Oslo.

November: Douglas DC3 aircraft were introduced on the Leuchars to Stockholm route upon which the Mosquitos were withdrawn.


April: BOAC Lancastrian G-AGLF made a Hurn to Auckland proving flight in a time of 60 hours. The first BOAC survey flight to South America was completed by Lancastrian aircraft G-AGMG Nicosia. A thrice-weekly Bermuda to Baltimore service by Boeing 314 aircraft was started and a Lancastrian service to Australia was also inaugurated.

1 November: The new Labour government announced plans for post-war air services which would be provided by three state corporations: BOAC to continue to operate routes to the Empire, Far East and North America, British European Airways (BEA) to operate services to Europe and domestically within the United Kingdom and British South American Airways (BSAA) to operate new services to South American and Caribbean destinations.

10 November: A joint BOAC and South African Airways Springbok service was inaugurated, using Avro York G-AGNT Mandalay. The route was Hurn-Castel Benito-Cairo-Khartoum-Nairobi-Johannesburg.


January: Wartime restrictions on flying ended.

1 February: BOAC Hythe flying boat G-AGJM Hythe made a 35,313 mile route survey from Poole to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

15 March: British South American Airways began a regular service from London to Buenos Aires via Lisbon, Bathurst, Natal, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo using Avro Lancastrians.

12 May: The first post-war UK to Australia flying boat service operated jointly by BOAC and Qantas with Hythe flying boats commenced, taking five and a quarter days.

28 May: BOAC operated its first departure from London Airport instead of Hurn on 28 May. The flight, by Lancastrian G-AGLS Nelson, to Sydney, took  63 hours.

31 May: Heathrow officially opened as the new London Airport to replace the old Croydon grass airfield. BSAA operated the first international departure from there on 1 January when Avro Lancastrian 'Star Light', a converted Lancaster bomber, carrying 13 staff passengers, left on a proving flight to Buenos Aires.

1 July: BOAC opened London-Shannon-Gander-New York flights by Lockheed Constellations, the first British civilian flights on the North Atlantic. The first flight was operated by G-AHEJ Bristol II (Captain O.P. Jones). A new era was heralded with new pressurised aircraft such as the Canadair Argonaut, Handley Page Hermes and Boeing Stratocruiser, that could fly over the weather.

1 August: British European Airways Corporation (BEA) took over the services operated by the British European Airways Division of BOAC operating shorthaul routes from Northolt. BEA operated the unpressurised Douglas DC-3 and the Vickers Viking, developing a large flying programme that for several years made Northolt one of the busiest airports in the world.
BOAC began services to Hong Kong with Hythe flying boats (Dragon service) and return fares were introduced on all BOAC routes.

September: The first scheduled BEA Viking 1A service from London to Copenhagen operated on 1 September (G-AHOP Valerie). On 2 September BSAA began fortnightly London-Azores-Bermuda-Jamaica-Caracas. The first flight was by a Lancastrian G-AGWL Star Guide (Captain Gordon Store). On 30 September the G Class flying boat G-AFCI Golden Hind began the first commercial service between Poole and Cairo.


12 March: The Durban to Calcutta Horseshoe route was closed and the C Class flying boats were withdrawn from service.

15 April: The first commercial BOAC operation to Canada commenced with a weekly Constellation service between London and Montreal, via Prestwick and Gander. This was BOAC’s first commercial operation to Canada. The first three services operated via Shannon and the first via Prestwick was on 6 May.

2 May: BOAC introduced Plymouth class Sandringham flying boats into service on the Poole-Bahrain-Karachi route.

1 July: Sir Harold Hartley was appointed Chairman of BOAC.

1 July: A twice-weekly London to Karachi service commenced using Handley Page Halton aircraft, replacing the charter service operated by Skyways.

14 July: BOAC began UK to Ceylon services, via Tripoli, Cairo, Basra and Karachi using Handley Page Halton aircraft.

1 August: The UK, Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to form British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines.

10 August: The first all-freight scheduled service, London-Brussels-Prague on a daily frequency, commenced along with a weekly London to Tehran Douglas DC3 service.

September: A Trans-Sahara London to Lagos service commenced.

December: The first all-cargo flight from London to Sydney commenced, operated by a Lancastrian aircraft.

Late 1947:BSAA introduced the Avro Tudor, its first pressurised aircraft.


January: The last BOAC Boeing 314 flying boat was withdrawn from service and Darrell’s Island marine base at Bermuda was closed. The final flight was by G-AGBZ Bristol.

February: The London to Nairobi service, operated by Avro York aircraft, commenced.

19 March: BOAC’s Plymouth flying boats extended Britain to Hong Kong service to Iwakuni, Japan and to Tokyo in November.

31 March: The BOAC flying boat base transferred from Poole to Southampton Water.

11 April: The weekly London to Johannesburg cargo service by Lancastrian aircraft commenced.

4 May: BOAC introduced Short Solent flying boats on UK to Johannesburg service. The route was Southampton-Augusta-Cairo-Luxor-Khartoum-Port Bell-Victoria Falls-Vaaldam. The first flight was operated by G-AHIT Severn.

31 May: BEA opened Dorland Hall and Kensington Air Station.

27 July: The Berlin Airlift started. BEA co-ordinated the civil airlines’ operations. BSAA aircraft also took part. The airlift finally finished on 15 August 1949.

October: BOAC provided air ferries between India and Pakistan after the partition of India, carrying some 43,500 civilians.

December: The weekly London to Sydney service by Lockheed Constellation aircraft commenced. The first flight was by G-ALAL Banbury (Captain G.R.Buxton).


January: BSAA suffered the loss of a Tudor aircraft. Following the loss of a second in January 1949, the aircraft type was grounded.

15 February: The last of the Hythe flying boat services took place. By the end of their service, BOAC Sunderland and Hythe flying boats flew 25,111,246 miles and carried 79,793 passengers.

March: The first Canadair Argonaut airliner was delivered to BOAC.

14 March: Lord Douglas of Kirtleside was appointed as Chairman of BEA in succession to Mr G. d’Erlanger.

29 May: A £10 night excursion fare to Paris was introduced.

1 July: Sir Miles Thomas succeeded Sir Harold Hartley as BOAC’s Chairman.

30 July:  BSAA was merged with BOAC.

23 August: The first all–land plane service by Canadair Argonauts on the London to Hong Kong route, via Rome, Cairo, Basra, Karachi, Calcutta, Rangoon and Bangkok took place. The first flight was operated by an Arcturus, registration G-ALHJ.

7 December: BOAC operated its first London to New York Stratocruiser service (G-ALSA Cathay). The first flight was operated by G-ALSA Cathay, and the flight travelled via Prestwick with a scheduled flying time of 19 hours 45 minutes.