Flying Boats of the Empire

16 May 2013

Royal Aeronautical Society Headquarters



This lecture was given by Richard Knott, a highly acclaimed author and researcher on 20th century history who discussed the turbulent history of the 42 Empire Flying Boats built by Short Brothers.

Watch this Historical Group lecture below:


None of the Flying Boats exist now; the first was launched in 1936 and all but one was gone by 1947. Richard’s talk, based on his recently published book of the same name, tells the story of these great flying boats. In the pre-war years, flying Imperial Airways in an Empire was travel as it should be; slow enough to savour the experience, an easy rhythm to the day, with languid descents for lunch, tea and dinner. There was however, a darker side; by May 1940, less than four years since the first launch on the River Medway, 11 Empires had been lost in a series of mishaps.

Richard’s lecture will consider why the halcyon days of the flying boat were so short lived. Part of the story will touch on some figures from the past with flying boat connections: Churchill; the playwright, Terence Rattigan; Sir John Reith (who chaired both the BBC and Imperial Airways); Don Bennett (the wartime Pathfinder); and the doomed Duke of Kent.

All RAeS Lectures are free to attend and we welcome both Members and Non Members. To RSVP, please click the Register button under Key Details and log in to your profile or create a user account. Alternatively, send your name and contact details to to reserve your place.

Speaker Details

Richard Knott, Historian & Author

Richard Knott is the author of ‘Flying Boats of the Empire’ which was published by Robert Hale in 2011. His previous book titled ‘Black Night for Bomber Command’ was published in 2007 by Pen & Sword. This book is an investigation into the events surrounding Black Thursday - 16 December 1943, when 43 aircraft crashed returning from a raid on Berlin.

Richard has also published texts on cricket, poetry and education, but now concentrates on twentieth century history. He has a degree from King’s College London University and has been an actor, teacher and education advisor.



Royal Aeronautical Society Headquarters