View Full Version : BOAC London to Nairobi - what route?

9th Apr 2012, 08:21
It may be that I don't have enough information for anyone to help - but here goes!

In the mid 1950's (probably about 1955) my family and I flew out to Nairobi from the UK. My sister and I are having a friendly debate about the route and the aircraft (she thinks it was a DC3 which I am adamant that it wasn't!) . From various postings, both on this forum and other websites, it would seem likely that the plane would have been an Argonaut but our memories of the route don't tie in with information available from the web.

The following is cut from "BOAC and BEA (British European Airways) network from Winter 1954/55, taken from Official Airline Guide Worldwide Edition Nov 1954" (see W54: BOAC / BEA Network :: Routesonline (http://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/118842/w54-boac-bea-network/))
5 weekly London Rome Cairo Khartoum Entebbe Nairobi vv
And yet we both agree that we had a meal stop in France and an overnight stop in Cairo which is not indicated on the schedule above. Can anyone clarify this? Did the BOAC flight to Nairobi ever stop in France and did it overnight in Cairo?

Many thanks!

9th Apr 2012, 11:10
A couple of years earlier (1953) BOAC staged through Cairo as the following from the June 1953 Timetable shows, but via France is new to me.


9th Apr 2012, 14:11

Wonder if your sister's "DC3" was in fact a Vickers Viking? The airline would then have been Airwork or possibly Hunting Clan.

Route in 1952 was London (Blackbushe) - Nice - Malta (night stop) - El Adem (sometimes Mursa Matru) - Khartoum (night stop) - Juba - Entebbe - Nairobi.


9th Apr 2012, 17:22

You are right!

The trip did take us three days.

My sister (who was five and has the clearer memory of the trip) remembers a meal in Nice (I do remember that there was talk of frogs' legs for supper). She also remembers the hotel in Malta. We both remember the overnight in Khartoum - ceiling fans and the fez hats worn by the hotel staff!

The other thing we both agree on was that the cabin configuration was four seats together - two forward-facing, two rear-facing and a table between them. We bought ivory (probably bone) animals from traders on the steps of the hotel and raced them across the table at take-off. Cabin must have been unpressurized because we flew low enough to make out features on the ground. Very unpleasant turbulence over Uganda - most passengers (including me) were sick!

I had a toy gun confiscated at Entebbe in case it was misused following the Mau Mau troubles - very early forerunner of present day security checks!

Many thanks for helping out. I guess that I have to concede that the Viking looks like a DC3 with tail wheel and twin engines - so my sister wins!

9th Apr 2012, 18:31
We flew London > Nairobi in 1952. Given this was on BOAC, would we have flown on an Argonaut or Hermes?

9th Apr 2012, 19:03
BOAC never stopped anywhere in France, and by the mid-1950s had given up overnight stopping on African flights (apart from unplanned technical hiccups, of course).

I would tend to believe that you went on the "secondary" routing operated by Airwork and Hunting-Clan on the "Safari" route, who stopped in Nice and still did overnight stopping, and were still using Vickers Vikings, which to the uninitiated who knew what a DC3 was like may have looked similar. They also had minimal on-board catering and relied more on ground meals at the frequent fuel stops.

You can find some example timetables of both operators here. Note that the exact routing changed from year to year, and indeed season, so you need to be lucky with the right one.

Airline Timetable Images - List of Complete Timetables (http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/complete/complete.htm#Europe)

We flew London > Nairobi in 1952. Given this was on BOAC, would we have flown on an Argonaut or Hermes? A Hermes. The East African BOAC service changed over to Argonauts from 1 October 1953, in a general fleet switch-round caused by the Comet 1 coming on-stream. The Hermes was just about the biggest crock BOAC ever bought* and they were very glad to sell them off prematurely to independent operators, apparently for little more than scrap value after just a few years service.

* : There, now that's been said, stand by for a good discussion of any other close contenders for this accolade !

9th Apr 2012, 22:19
A relative of mine flew BOAC to Nairobi around then and definitely had a night stop in Khartoum. I was always told it was an Argonaut but I can't be specific on the date.

9th Apr 2012, 23:17
Some references in the Flight global Archive to the East Africa Services by Airwork
1956 | 0458 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1956/1956%20-%200458.html?search=colonial) coach

and there was a corresponding Hunting Clan effort to West Africa
1954 | 2291 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1954/1954%20-%202291.html)

10th Apr 2012, 05:51
...... the East Africa Services by Airwork......and there was a corresponding Hunting Clan effort to West Africa
Actually both these services were operated by both operators, very much as a joint operation, with precisely alternate flights run by each operator, on both routes. Return tickets were fully interchangeable. It is surprising that it took them so long to actually merge together, as British United, in 1960.

A relative of mine flew BOAC to Nairobi around then and definitely had a night stop in Khartoum. I was always told it was an Argonaut but I can't be specific on the date.
Sounds like they had an unplanned technical snag to deal with. Such events were by no means unknown - there was no prospect of planning 4 hour turnrounds back at Heathrow when so many return flights came back in a day or more late.

2nd Jun 2012, 01:14
We, my Mum, little sister and I went out to Nairobi in early 1954, to join my Dad who went out in the previous October to join the East African (in those days Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika) Police, to help out with the Mau Mau crisis. We returned in late October 1955, after his 2 year Contract was up.
I can't remember much about the outbound flight, but I've always been pretty sure that we (only) stopped at Cairo and Rome on the way back. I can't remember any other stops, but of course I could be wrong.
I do remember still the noise of several twin tailed aircraft (which I think were Venoms) that we watched taking off while we waited for our aircraft to refuel. I've always had two things in my memory about these flights, one was the name `Argonaught of the Queens Flight' and the image of all the windows at the front of the aircraft. It's only tonight that I've got around to trying to identify the make and model of the aircraft, but as soon as I started to look at photos of the BOAC fleet of the era I saw that the image I remembered was that of a Stratocruiser. Could this have been the aircraft of the first trip, did they fly that route?
Oh yes, one more thing, the salt and pepper container that came with the in-flight meals. This was a cardboard tube, about 1/2" diameter x 2" long, with a cap on each end (and a divider in the middle!)

4th Jun 2012, 06:11
Stratocruisers were not used to East Africa.

If the titles said Argonaut, that's what type it was. The Canadair C-4 North Star, known to BOAC as the Argonaut, was the normal type operating to East Africa at the time. They were BOAC's stalwart type in the 1950s as various other aircraft types didn't work out for a range of reasons.

Canadair North Star - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadair_North_Star)

4th Jun 2012, 15:57
A little bit later but we flew from the UK to Kenya in November 1956 courtesy of a Britavia Hermes, G-ALDX. The route was Blackbushe, Malta, Wadi Halfa, Entebbe, RAF Eastleigh.

The return was also on a Britavia Hermes, this time G-ALDH, and the route was, Embakasi, Khartoum, Benghazi, Blackbushe.

I was only 6 on the way oput but remember it very well, including being sick on the final leg into Eastleigh.....


7th Jun 2012, 15:31
I went out to Nairobi with my Mum and sister in '49 or '50 by flying boat. I've always understood that we landed on Lake Naivasha, but loking at the BOAC timetable of 1 Mar '49 this does not seem to have been possible. Did the flying boats land in Kenya? Among the few memories I have are the nice warmth in Egypt, and the cornflakes with full cream milk that I had on arrival at our farm -milk like this must not have been available in the UK at that time!!

7th Jun 2012, 19:54
Yes,BOAC Solent flying boats did serve Lake Naivasha for Nairobi.
It looks as though the service lasted less than 18 months in 1949-50.

8th Jun 2012, 09:19
I remember flying back to the UK with my parents on the Argonaut from Entebbe, circa mid-fifties. At Khartoum, the crew were doing the last engine checks before rolling (reving the sh1t out of each one in turn) and discovered something wasn't right, so back we trundled to the terminal and had another day in Khartoum. The rest of the trip was completed without incident.

8th Jun 2012, 14:14
I've just retrieved from the cellar two rather faded but ornate BOAC/SAA certificates issued to those held to have 'Shot the Biggest Line in the World' which I found at a car-boot.

Presumed south-bound:

Time: 11.16 GMT.
Date: 14.2.49.
Aircraft: R.M.A. 'Melrose' (Avro York G-AGNY).
Captain: Faded away (probably in more ways than one!)

Presumed north-bound:

Time: 05.12 GMT.
Date: 24.2.49.
Aircraft: 'Severn' (Short Solent 2 G-AHIT).
Captain: J.G. Pa...?

Somebody might know who the Solent Skipper was.