British Overseas Airways Corporation: 1940-50 and its Legacy

14 October 2013

Royal Aeronautical Society


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This lecture will cover the first ten years of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) up to 1950 when Civil Aviation in the UK was about to dispense with the age of Flying Boats and was shortly to move into the Jet Age with the Comet 1.

The lecture will briefly trace the development of air travel in 1919 and the formation of Imperial Airways in 1924, its development as an airline to the Commonwealth, the problems with Government directives and the industrial unrest which would lead after a parliamentary enquiry to the merger with British Airways to form BOAC.

Conceived under the clouds of war and actually coming into being just before the fall of France in 1940, BOAC was subjected to an inauspicious start; it was almost strangled at birth by emergency Government legislation, the course of the war when France was overrun and Italy became involved, the demands initially to take on projects such as aircraft, engine and propeller repair for the Royal Air Force (RAF) followed by the demands of the newly formed RAF Transport Command in 1943 all led to the resignation of four of the five members of the BOAC Board.

Following this upheaval, the airline flew in calmer waters under the new Chairman, Lord Knollys, until reality set in after the war when the UK, devoid of foreign exchange and Government policy obliged the national airline to fly outdated and inefficient aircraft. Gradually the economy improved and by 1949 BOAC started to receive the first of 22 Argonauts and 10 Stratocruisers thus enabling the phased retirement of obsolete equipment. Finally, the legacy and influence on airlines in many other countries will be discussed.

This lecture is kindly sponsored by:

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Speaker Details

Dacre Watson

Captain Dacre Watson FRAeS was born and brought up in Chile where from an early age he was fascinated by airlines and their histories. He was accepted in to the College of Air Training, Hamble, in January 1963 graduating two years later to join British European Airways (BEA) where he flew Vanguards, Viscounts and Tridents and, after the merger, B737, B747 Classics and the B747-400. After retirement from British Airways he flew for Singapore Airlines for a further five years before retiring again.

Dacre was on the Editorial Board of the “Log”, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) journal, for some 20 years and has written numerous articles on airline history and is the author of “Red Sea Caravan” the history of Aden Airways.

He is currently working on the history of BOAC Associated Companies and is a Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators where he is an Assistant on the Court.


Royal Aeronautical Society