View Full Version : Vikings to West Africa

6th Feb 2010, 08:35
In 1952 I travelled from the UK to the Gold Coast in a carrycot aboard a Viking. Does anyone have any information on the route and airline? I think the flight started at Blackbushe, went via Gibraltar, somewhere in the Sahara and Kano.

6th Feb 2010, 09:26
That sounds like the Airwork/Hunting Clan service which was operated with Vikings although it did not start until I think 1954. The route was also different. Airwork went Blackbushe - Bordeaux (later Biarritz) - Tangier - Agadir - Villa Cisneros - Dakar -Bathurst - Freetown - Robertsfield/Abdijan - Takoradi and Accra. Hunting Clan started at Bovingdon. However there were flights through Gib. Many of the Gold Coast flights for most airlines followed the coastal route (as above) although I think and I may be wrong, KLM, Sabena and BOAC may have had flights at some point that routed through Kano to Lagos and then terminated at Accra. When I grew up in Kano in the 1950s and early 60s most flights that went through were either on their way to Lagos or Cameroon and quite a few went directly South after refuelling eg William Dempster, South African Airways, US military flights to the Congo and South Africa.
Airwork did have a contract to carry personnel for the Ghana Chamber of Mines but I do not know the route or dates unfortunately.

6th Feb 2010, 10:04
This is interesting.Do you know if this was a civilian or MOD charter?
In Google/Flightglobal there is reference to Crewsair Vikings on this route in 1952.

The route is given as Blackbushe/Bordeaux/Gibraltar/Gao/Kano/Lagos/Accra for trooping flights.

6th Feb 2010, 20:56
Coo, that's an interesting post. I have extremely very scant memories of it but we returned from Cyprus in August 1954 by air. Before Pop finally lost his marbles just before he died a couple of years ago I ascertained that it was in a Viking and we flew into Blackbushe. I guess that it must have been the same outfit. I was told that the highlight of the flight was when I looked out of a window as we droned along and shouted "birds!"

7th Feb 2010, 09:32
Thanks for the input. We were flying out to join my father in Accra and he was in the army so it could have been a military charter.

I think the second overnight stopover may have been somewhere in Algeria and if you draw a straight line from Gibraltar to Kano that would make sense. What would have been the range of a Viking? Would it have been able to do Gib to Kano in 2 hops?

Obviously this aircraft was not pressurised and only flew during the day. So there must have been overnight facilities at the airport.

I think my mother remembered most the combination of 18-month old in carrycot, noise and heat. We did all our other trips courtesy of Elder Demster!

7th Feb 2010, 14:59
The overnight stops are given as Gibraltar and Kano.
Gao is in what is now Mali,not too far from the legendary Timbuktu.
The mind boggles at what a refuelling stop there must have been like in 1952.
Crewsair apparently packed up before the end of that year and presumably someone else took over.

Gao must have been an important transit point when aircraft range was shorter.It seems to have been used by Sabena between Brussels and the Congo.
H.G.Brackley of Imperial Airways visited Gao in May 1939 while surveying alternative routes to East and South Africa.

7th Feb 2010, 19:22
I think you might find some more additional information hat you are looking for in a 48 page book called ´´Vickers Viking´´ priced at 9.95 and available from the Aviation Hobby Shop who would be only to happy to help you.

7th Feb 2010, 19:41
I recall when we used to fly back on leave from Kano by BOAC we used to stop at Tripoli in Libya. I think that might have been Argonauts because my Junior Jet Club Log book shows the Stratocruiser and Britannias went through Rome and I recall Barcelona on another trip when I was 9. We came back on Elder Dempsters "Aureol" when we left Nigeria.

Apologies for the slight thread drift, it's always nice to wallow in a bit of nostalgia for an area and time that does not come up very often!!

It sounds like Crewsair though as they gained a lucrative contract in April 1952 to fly servicemen and their families from the UK to West Africa. The contract covered 80 flights over a period of 12 months and the first Viking departed on 20 April 1952 with usually 1/2 flights a week thereafter. The flights staged through Gibraltar and after gaining the contract Crewsair moved from Southend to Blackbushe. (This is from Anthony Merton Jones British Independent Airlines since 1946)

A very interesting thread.

7th Feb 2010, 21:09
An interedting topic and I thought I would just add that as a Boy going on the family holiday to the west country I can remember we were held up by a level crossing gate on the A30 at Blackbushe. Cannot remember the aircraft but I do remember the shock as what seemed a huge aircraft roared past us taking off on Blackbushe's southerly runway which crossed the main A30 road

7th Feb 2010, 21:41
This thread is quite spooky !!!! Below is a photo of an oil painting I bought at auction last week ! I have posted this on another forum, where it has so far had some interest, not only for its content, but also lots of interest in the artist ??? I hope you can read the name ? and relate this name to a very well known book ???? This all has a very weak link to this thread ????



26th Feb 2010, 00:22
Only joined PPRuNe today, and already I'm making my first post...obviously I've come to the right place!

As a lad, I lived with my family just outside Accra, not far from the airport, from 1953 to 1964 (and subsequently in Nigeria).

I recall the Hunting Clan/Airwork 'Safari' services very well. My aunt used the service when she came from the UK to visit in early December 1956. My father and I met her at the airport in the early evening, and I recall hanging on the white picket fence that separated the car park from the apron, watching the Hunting Clan Viking putter up, swing round and park right in front of us. (The aircraft was G-AGRW, in case you're wondering! Although I'd only just learned to write, I already kept a log---not to mention drawing-books of crudely drawn Argonauts and DC-6s.:8)

On the side-topic of BOAC Stratocruisers on the West Africa run: These operated between the UK and Ghana and Nigeria from May 1957 for slightly over two years. Strats also appeared on WAAC services under wet-lease, with titles and emblem, in 1957-58, then flew similarly for the newly-formed Ghana Airways from July 1958 until the end of August the following year. (In October 1958, Nigerian Airways replaced WAAC on Nigeria UK services.)

Whereas Argonauts always staged through Tripoli and Kano (and usually also Rome), the Strats did indeed eliminate the Tripoli stop. A few WAAC flights visited both Lagos and Accra on the same service. Some Ghana Airways flights routed through Barcelona, while other BOAC services stopped at Algiers instead, or went by way of both Barcelona and Kano. The standard BOAC route, however, was Accra-Kano-Rome-London. Nigerian services normally took the same route, from Lagos instead.

Tripoli re-entered the schedule some time after Britannia 102s came on line.

Magically, our house was situated almost exactly where aircraft would turn from downwind to base leg on the way in to Accra airport. How could I have become anything other than a committed airliner enthusiast??

27th Feb 2010, 02:43
Welcome Duns-Scotus, Did you ever meet William Boyd (the author) in Accra?
I believe he lived in or near Accra when you were there - I presume he would have just been a young lad and I recall he wrote an interesting article for one of the Sunday newspapers about the BOAC flights out to Accra some years back?

27th Feb 2010, 14:35
William Boyd is the son of the late Dr Sandy Boyd, who was the medical officer at Achimota University. My parents knew Sandy and Evelyn Boyd very well. My father played golf with Sandy Boyd on the nine-hole course at Achimota, and I vaguely remember William when he was an 'ankle biter' of about eight and I was an aloof fifteen year old!

Everyone seems to have deserted Ghana in favour of Nigeria around the same time in 1961. My parents did their last four years in Lagos, and Sandy Boyd became the medical officer of the university at Ibadan (I think). I came home on the inaugural flight of the VC10 from Lagos, 2nd May 1964: G-ARVI, Captain Atkinson, Lagos - Kano - Frankfurt - LHR. I have the souvenir VC10 silk tie and the certificate - showing the aircraft in the wrong, old, livery - signed by Captain Atkinson.


This is me about to board an Argonaut - registration sadly unknown - in the heat of the afternoon at Accra in August 1956. The homeward flight took off around 16:00 and routed, as always, via Kano and Tripoli. Having sat for several hours in the baking sunshine, the cabin interior was somewhat warm until we had climbed up to cruising altitude!

27th Feb 2010, 17:28
I travelled from Northolt to Gibraltar in '52 in a BEA Viking. We stopped at Bordeaux and every one deplaned for lunch. Not sure why but it seemed very nice in comparison to in flight service.
Ended up in Tangiers for the night due to the crosswind at Gib being beyond limits.

27th Feb 2010, 18:17
Norwich, not so weak a link as you might think. The founders of BKS, Messrs. Barnaby, Keegan and Stevens actually started BKS with a DC-3 inherited from Crewsair, they apparently got it in lieu of shares in the company when it started to founder. Hence BKS can trace it origins back to Crewsair in 1952 and indeed they bought their Southend engineering base from Crewsair also.

I don't know if Arthur (who I knew well) flew in command of the Viking, my copy of his book is not available to me until next week, but if the Captain in his painting is as bald as he looks at first sight then he probably did!

27th Feb 2010, 19:13
Nice painting there Norwich:ok: 'JN' (c/n 289) joined BKS from BEA 10/12/54 named 'JimMollison' flogged to Continental 03/12/57. Data as given:confused:

10th Mar 2010, 15:08
Well, well, well!! Small world...

It happens that I knew Willie Boyd pretty well. Indeed, every once in a while I'm still in touch with him, believe it or not. We were in the same class at primary school. And, just as with Georgeablelovehowindia (who obviously has just as big a fondness for Argonauts as I have!) in the next post, his dad, Sandy Boyd, was my doctor too. My own dad was a lecturer at the university. I well recall how Sandy Boyd spent every afternoon in life, it seemed, on the golf course in Achimota. Now I know who he was playing with!

My folks persisted with Ghana a little longer than most, but in late 1964 moved to Lagos (and into the VC10 era). At least I had a chance to try out the Ghana Airways CV-990A service...

It looks as though you're a bit older than I am, but perhaps we knew each other, too? Maybe all three of us do. (The kilt in the Argonaut picture leads me to believe that like me and W.B., at least one of you is another member of the West African Scots mafia...) What a fortunate upbringing we all had. Living in such an ideal location so near to the airport seems to have affected all of us in a decidedly pro-aviation way. For my part, I write about it here and there. BTW, feel free to contact me offline.

I'll leave it there for now, lest I be accused of hijacking a thread that's supposed to be about the Viking...which, to my eternal sorrow, I never flew on. I used to love seeing those old Hunting-Clan Yorks, too, back in the early days.

15th Mar 2010, 17:08
One thing of note was the vast expanse of apron at Accra. It was laid during WWII ... "We had come a long way - from Natal to Ascension Island, to Accra on the Gold Coast, and thence to Kano in Nigeria" ... Ernest K Gann Fate Is The Hunter. My late father often joked that the construction crew laid down square metres instead of square feet. There was absolutely no need to extend it, even with the arrival of the big jets.

My last flight from Accra was on an Alitalia DC-8-40, and it was a good long walk out to the aircraft for an evening departure to Rome Fiumicino, and onwards to the UK by Alitalia Caravelle.

Duns-Scotus, you have a personal message!


21st Mar 2010, 19:55
The Airwork/Hunting Clan Viking Colonial Coach coastal service was introduced (but later than 1952 I think) as a low cost alternative to BOAC's more expensive trans-Sahara route whic was operated by Yorks 1949/50, then Hermes 50-52 and Argonauts from 1954 until the temporary pre Britannia arrival of the surplus North Atlantic Stratocruisers which were a response to criticism of the Argonauts being old , noisy and unsatisfactory and only operated because of BOAC's colonial cabotage monopoly Accra and Lagos-London .The basic BOAC routing from the Yorks onward was London-Tripoli-Kano-Lagos but from the Argonaut days onward other European points were added and Accra and Lagos progressively split. The Viking coastal services were in due course replaced by Viscounts (and BUA) and later One-Eleven 200s, the latter even retaining an en route nightstop. Eventually the coastal route was replaced by a Nigeria and Ghana Airways services as far as Dakar, and BUA abandoned the intermediate points except for Freetown which they flew with a Britannia.
The Colonial Coach concept to West, East and Central Africa was very progressive for its time and a pioneer of low cost long haul. Apart from this scheduled service, other Viking services were operated by UK independents for MoD and the colonial governments and these took the more direct Sahara routes described as they were not interested in intermediate business.

22nd Mar 2010, 15:49
The West African Coastal continued on BAC1-11 500's into the BCAL era.
Load Planning it could be interesting, but for I-11 crews probably more 'interesting' than most of the routes they flew. My only other memory was of an Aircraft being stuck down route and no one removed the cargo, which included, I believe shrimps. Not something you would want to get close to after sitting in the sun for a day or two.

22nd Mar 2010, 18:49
The once a week BUA/B.Cal One-Eleven route was one of the last "nightstopping" routes from the UK. Left London on Tuesday to Lisbon and Las Palmas, stopped the night there, continued on Wednesday to Bathurst, Freetown and Accra. Returned the same way on Thursday and Friday. Obviously handled by a single crew throughout. It changed over from a Viscount in February 1965.

23rd Mar 2010, 07:57
I have a picture of a BUA VC 10 and 1-11 both together on the apron at Freetown in the mid 1960s taken by my father when he worked there. I used it as a picture over on the "Which Aerodrome" thread

23rd Mar 2010, 16:26
Duns-Scotus - there is a lovely photograph of RW in Hunting Clan livery landing at Bovingdon (Hunting's London base) in the early fifties on Page 27 of Halford-MacLEOD's Britain's Airlines 1951-64.
I knew RW in its final flying days with Autair. Based in Berlin it carried flowers to that city each weekday from Amsterdam. I once got a ride on a Viking airtest but I can't remember whether it was RW or G-AHPB - exciting stuff stooging around East Anglia on one engine.
RW's final flight was from Luton to Soesterburg (Holland) where together with PB it went into the catering business. RW still survives today, nicely restored and displayed outside a MacDonalds Restaraunt at Schwechat Austria. How the mighty are fallen, but better than being reduced to scrap.
Google in Viking G-AGRW for several interesting websites including EBay!

21st Aug 2010, 10:47
In 1955 my father and mother whisked my sister (6months) and myself (3yrs) off to the Gold Coast where my father had been appointed as a technician in the physics department of Legon University. This meant air travel and that has left a huge impression on me ever since.

We lived in a university bungalow in Achimota and I went to a nursery run by Miss Pittam who still wore a pith helmet. After I graduated I went to the Achimota Infant School with William Boyd as one of my classmates. His dad Sandy was the university doctor and once lanced a nasty abcess behind my ear. William published a "Protobiography" in 2005 one of the chapters of which was devoted to his Gold Coast childhood. When I read it I realised that for 3 years or so we lived virtually the same lifestyle. I wrote to him via his publisher Penguin and sent a photo of us sitting outside our bungalow at my fourth birthday party. He replied with a very kind letter. His father, who featured in his "A good man in Africa", died relatively young in Nigeria from a fever but his mother was still alive and well.

One of the most evocative parts of his "Protobiography" was his description of travelling to and from the UK and the aircraft on which we flew. On Sundays a regular haunt was the Lisbon Hotel next to Accra Airport where I would drink Coca Cola and watch the aircraft come and go. My father is an inveterate airspotter so there were two of us putting pressure on to go there. There were the regular BOAC Argonauts and Stratocruisers and, possibly Hunting Clan Vikings with their red tail planes although my father doesnt recall them. I also seem to remember Avro Yorks but this may not be so. There were DeHavilland Herons and we used to wait in our garden during the short tropical evenings for the "6 o'clock Heron" to fly over on its way to Nswam. Now and again there were Constellations and military aircraft like a Lockheed Neptune and a Vickers Valiant. Every week I would go to the BOAC desk in the terminal to collect a timetable - not something which could be done today.

When annual leave came we actually went onto a plane!! To start with they were Argonauts flying via Kano, Tripoli, Rome to London. Later they were Stratocruisers with a downstairs bar where I was taught by a steward to throw peanuts up and then catch them in my mouth. The long trans Sahara leg was at low altitude so you could see dunes and abandoned outposts. Occasionally there was severe turbulence and I have a vague memory of a stewardess nearer the ceiling than the floor next to my seat. My father stays she spilt champagne in his lap as she levitated. The aircraft were usually reliable but on one occasion engine problems necessitated a return to Accra after jettisoning fuel and an oil leak once required an engine to be feathered. Even when we were on leave we would visit London Airport to stand on the roof of the Queen's Building for hours spotting aircraft. My father, now 85 with failing eyesight, lives near Brize Norton and he can still identify all the aircraft using it just by their sound. Once it gets you it never lets go!!

24th Aug 2010, 13:26
My dad has just sent me a couple of photos taken at Accra in 1957.

http://i957.photobucket.com/albums/ae55/Frogmorephoto/Accra%20airport/Valiant%20Neptune/ACCRAAIRPORTLOCKHEEDNEPTUNEMR1305MARCH4TH1957a.jpg?t=1282656 236

The little guy in the foreground is me !!


7th Sep 2010, 08:53
I was just being anorakish - if that's a word - when I came upon this thread on Google regarding Vikings to West Africa. Too many memories came back so, sorry, but I just had to add my two-penneth.

In about 1954 I flew with my mother to Accra on a Hunting Clan Viking. It took about two days and the stop-over was Tangiers. Can't remember there being any other stop-over, but it was a journey of lots of little hops round the west coast of Africa. At times the turbulence was such that I can still hear the immense rustling of sick-bags! - Sorry if you're reading this while having breakfast or similar.

Other memories:

Well, I too would visit Accra airport to watch the planes come and go while drinking coke or fanta over the road at the Lisbon Hotel, behind the car park, where only a white picket fence kept onlookers from the tarmac.
Favourite was the Air Liban DC 7C; I think I just liked the 'Christmas tree' on the tail.

And yes, I too went to Achimota school, probably from about '54 to '57 when I returned to the UK to boarding school. I would have been approx. two years older than William Boyd, although we sometimes shared lifts together as I lived at Mile Seven on the Accra-Aburi road and William might have lived at Legon at that time, again memory fails me. Sandy was also our doc. and of course played golf with my dad. I think they won a pairs cup together at some point. Although whether at the Accra course or Achimota I can't remember.

Also a frequent flyer on the 'lollipop specials' first with Argonauts and then Strats. and Britannias finishing with 707s. Didn't fly VC10s until being posted to Kuwait with my job in 1979, probably one of the last scheduled flights. In the early days they would route across Europe via Rome or Frankfurt to Tripoli and then Kano, sometimes Lagos, and then Accra.
Does anyone remember the old Arab with the camels at Kano airport who would periodically blow a huge horn?

I was last in Ghana in Jan. '67 for the Xmas holidays and my father eventually left in '69. He worked for a construction company, George Watson and Co. and was involved in building many parts of the university at Legon and other projects. Like a lot of the men the golf club was the cornerstone of the community, and the clubhouse was humming every evening until the men were persuaded home by the wives and families. Lots of Star and Club beer involved of course!

Lots of happy memories and good to know there's still a few young 'Gold Coasters' kicking around out there. And all this because of a few old plane nuts too!

7th Sep 2010, 11:09
And all this because of a few old plane nuts too!

PHJ, welcome to PPRuNe. Sorry to be one of those "old plane nuts" :) , but a few comments and updates, which is sort of what we do here.

In about 1954 I flew with my mother to Accra on a Hunting Clan Viking. It took about two days and the stop-over was Tangiers. Can't remember there being any other stop-over, but it was a journey of lots of little hops round the west coast of Africa.

Here's the timetable for the route by Viking, in 1957; three very full days to get to Accra, overnighting at Tangier and Bathurst. Do you remember those hotels shown ?


Favourite was the Air Liban DC 7C; I think I just liked the 'Christmas tree' on the tail.

Air Liban never had DC-7Cs, lucky them; they did have DC6s (so they were spared the DC7s tempramental engines); here's their West African timetable from 1961, for example, showing they operated a circular route from Beirut through Casablanca and right round to Lagos, then back direct, passing through Accra anticlockwise on Friday evening and clockwise on Sunday morning.


7th Sep 2010, 12:54
Thanks WHBM, that clears up a few cloudy bits.

I remember Tangiers very well but not Bathurst. We were flying with a friend of my mother and her daughter who was a youngster like me. My mother had gone along the corridor to her friend's room to check if they were ready for dinner. As she'd been gone a long time I decided to venture down the corridor and hurry them all up. Along the corridor came a group of arab women in full regalia, niqabs and all. I took fright, chased along the corridor, hammered on their door and rushed in, tripping on the carpet and cutting my lip badly on the bed. All I could mumble between sobs was that there were 'bandits' coming along the hall.

As for the DC 6, well it's a long time ago and I shall allow myself one slip-up.

10th Oct 2013, 02:43
Some time since the posts about Vikings from Blackbush to Kano in West Africa but I just read my mothers letter written after flying on an Airwork Viking named " Empire Trader" to Kano in 1952 . I traveled with her and can remember landing twice in the desert to refuel. The letter says the first stop was a Foreign Legion stip and the second was Goa. I recall the sand , the 2WW steel surface which formed all the hard standing - airstrip and pathways - made for a rough landing . Hot as hell, shade in a "huge hanger" , no seating but cold drinks. Mum recalls an "RAF Bomber" as the only thing in sight. I wonder if there were contingency plans!

14th Oct 2013, 12:40
Norwich - How I envy you with that painting. it was painted by Arthur Whitlock who was a BKS pilot and an excellent artist. He went on to write his autobiography called "Behind the Cockpit Door" an excellent read if you can obtain a copy all the illustrations are line drawings. Great read!!!

14th Oct 2013, 13:04
For the sake of search-engines I think the refuelling point would have been Gao in Mali?...which other desert stop would have been used?

12th May 2014, 12:36
My father was Chief Pilot and Training Captain with Airwork - The route in his log book was - Blackbushe - Bovingdon -Bordeaux - Gib - Oran - Adulef - GAO - Kaduna - Lagos -Accra. There was another route - Blackbushe - Nice - Luqa - El Adem - Wadi Halfa - Seidna - Khartoum - Geneina - Kano. Don't know if that rings a bell.

29th Dec 2017, 23:30
As a child in the very early 1950s I travelled to Lagos Nigeria from Southern England and back more than once . I remember CruiseAir and Hunting Clan , we travelled in Vikings , Yorks and finally a Hermes . I remember Blackbushe and Stansted in England , at Stansted the last time I was working there 20 years ago the green Nissan hut was still there on the airfield , this was our departure terminal . I remember Gib and Kano but there must have been other staging posts that I don't recall can anybody help .

7th May 2018, 22:24
In the early to mid fifties as another child of what was then the British Empire, the highlight of the year was the annual flight, as an unaccompanied minor, from London Blackbush/Northalt to Bathurst on the Hunting Clan/Airwork Viking via Biarritz, Lisbon, Tangier, Agidir, Villa Ciceneros and Dakar. There was an overnight in Tangier at the Hotel Miramar which I remember was just across the road from the beach. I was really well looked after by the aircrew and fondly remember as a twelve year old, being taken around the Kasbah in Tangier by a very attractive Rhodesian hostie I also remember that BOAC used to run holiday Argonaut “specials” to Nigeria and Kenya to transport the summer holiday kids to their parents. Another way of getting to West Africa and Bathurst In particular was to take the the first leg of the South American trip flown in those days by KLM, PANAM or BOAC from London to Dakar ( which was the final refueling stop before the South Atlantic hop). From Dakar we would catch the WAAC Bristol Wayfarer shuttle which did the Bathurst, Freetown and Lagos run. The memorable part of that flight was that the aircraft was so noisy that the crew issued cotton wool to the passengers to stuff in our ears!