Tag Archives: Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

14–18 November 1932: Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)
Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)

14–18 November 1932: Amy Johnson, CBE, (Mrs. James A Mollison) flew her new de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, c/n 2247, registration G-ACAB, from Lympne Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, a distance of approximately 6,300 miles (10,140 kilometers) in a total elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 54 minutes. This broke the previous record which had been set by her husband, Jim Mollison, by 10 hours, 28 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

FLIGHT, November 24, 1932

MRS. MOLLISON’S FINE FLIGHT

Beats her Husband’s Cape Record by 10½ Hours

THERE are few, we think, who will not admit that Mrs. J.A. Mollison (Miss Amy Johnson) has accomplished a really remarkable feat in her latest flight—from England to Cape Town in 4 days 6 hr. 54 min., thus beating her husband’s previous record for the same journey of 4 days 17 hr. 22 min. by 10 hr. 28 min.

Not only is the flight a magnificent achievement as far as the time taken is concerned, but as a feat of endurance, pluck, good piloting and navigation, it must be placed foremost in the list of great flights.

Throughout the flight Mrs. Mollison had had only 5 hours’ sleep!

As reported in last week’s issue of FLIGHT, Mrs. Mollison set out from Lympne, in her D.H. “Puss Moth” (“Gipsy Major”), Desert Cloud, at 6.37 a.m. on November 14, and at 7.30 p.m. arrived at Oran, on the North African coast, 1,100 miles distant. She made an hour’s stop to refuel en route at Barcelona, and after a halt of 4 hours at Oran she started off on a night flight across the Sahara Desert towards Gao and Niamey.

At this stage some anxiety was felt owing to the absence of news concerning her progress for over 24 hours. Then came the news that she had landed safely at Gao (some 1,300 miles from Oran) at noon, November 15—having thus successfully accomplished a most difficult flight across the desert, without landmarks, at night. After a short stop for refuelling Mrs. Mollison left for Duala, but after flying for about an hour she noticed that her tanks were almost empty. She at once returned to Gao and found that they had put in only 10 galls. instead of 42 galls.!

After this irritating delay she proceeded once more, arriving safely at Duala in the evening, and continuing, after a short halt, towards Loanda. On this stage, during the night, the oil circulation caused her some trouble, and so she landed the next morning at Benguela (Port. W. Africa) to set matters aright.

Fortunately, the trouble was not serious—probably a portion of the Sahara in the filters—and she was able to proceed after a delay of some 9 hours. A halt to refuel was made at Mossamedes in the evening of November 17 and then came another night flight on the final stage of her journey.

Meanwhile, news of her start on the last hop reached Capetown, and from midnight November 17–18, huge crowds made their way to the Municipal aerodrome—although Mrs. Mollison could not possibly arrive much before midday. There were, therefore, several thousand people on the aerodrome by the time she arrived.

Mrs. Mollison appeared somewhat unexpectedly, from inland, shortly after 3 p.m., and it was not until the machine was about to land that the crowd realised that it was the Desert Cloud. She landed at 3.31 p.m. (1.31 p.m. G.M.T), and immediately the cheering crown broke down the barriers and surrounded the machine. It was some time before she could get out of her machine, but eventually she was got into a car, and before driving away she waved to the crowd and said: “Thank you very much for your great welcome. I said I would come back, and I have done so. It is really too kind of you to give me such a welcome.”

Safely inside the aerodrome building, Mrs. Mollison spoke over the telephone to Mr. Mollison, after which she was taken to some friends, where she could obtain some well-earned sleep.

1st day     Lympne–Oran (1,100)

2nd  ”        Oran–Gao (1,400)

3rd   ”        Gao–Duala (1,150)

4th   ”        Duala–Mossamedes (1,350)

5th   ”        Mossamedes–Cape (1,300)

(Concluded on page 1141)

Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)

MRS. MOLLISON’S FINE FLIGHT

(Concluded from page 1133)

Needless to say, Mrs. Mollison has received numerous messages of congratulation, amongst which were the following: —From H.M. the King: “Please convey to Mrs. Mollison hearty congratulations on her splendid achievment. I trust that she is not too exhausted. —George, R.I.”

From Lord Londonderry, Secretary of State for Air: “On behalf of the Air Council I congratulate you most warmly on the successful completion of your magnificent flight.”

Messages were also sent by the Royal Aero Club and Royal Aeronautical Society, Lord Wakefield, etc.

Mr. A.E. Whitelaw, the Australian philanthropist—who gave Mr. Mollison £1,000 in recognition of his Australia flight—is presenting a cheque for £1,000 to Mrs. Mollison in recognition of her achievement.

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and AirshipsNo. 1248 (Vol. XXIV, No. 48.), 24 November 1932 at Pages 1133 and 1141.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., DH.80A Puss Moth was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin for a pilot and two passengers. It was constructed of a tubular steel frame covered with doped fabric. The airplane was 25 feet (7.620 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) and height of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). The Puss Moth had an empty weight of 1,265 pounds (574 kilograms) and gross weight of 2.050 pounds (930 kilograms).

G-ACAB was powered by a 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted, inline 4-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The engine weighed 306 pounds (138.8 kilograms).

The DH.80A had a cruise speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 108 miles per hour (174 kilometers per hour). The airplane had a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). The standard DH.80A had a range of 430 miles (692 kilometers), but The Desert Cloud had additional tanks which increased its range to over 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

De Havilland built 284 DH.80A Puss Moths between 1929 and 1933. Only eight are known to exist. G-ACAB, then owned by Utility Airways, Ltd., was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hooton Park, Cheshire, 8 July 1940.

Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)
Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 November 1935: Jean Gardner Batten

Jean Gardner Batten, CBE, OSC, 16 October 1936, photographed by Leo White. (Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library)
Jean Gardner Batten, CBE, 16 October 1936, photographed by Leo Lemuel White. (Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library)

11 November 1935: During a record-setting flight from England to Brazil, Jean Gardner Batten became the first woman to fly solo across the South Atlantic Ocean, flying her Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, from Dakar to Natal. Her elapsed time of 13¼ hours was the fastest for the Atlantic crossing up to that time.

On 7 May 1935, Jean Batten was honored with the distinction of Chevalier de la légion d’honneur at Paris, France. At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 21 November 1935, Getúlio Dornelles Varga, the President of the Republic of Brazil, conferred upon her its Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul (Order of the Southern Cross). The following year, Jean Gardner Batten of the Dominion of New Zealand was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in the King’s Birthday Honours List, 19 June 1936, for general services to aviation. Twice Batten was awarded the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club, and three times she won the Harmon Trophy of the International League of Aviators. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) awarded her its Gold Medal.

“This young woman, gifted with the finest of qualities, has made a great contribution, both through her daring and her patience, to the progress of aviation in the world. This year, she is worthy of receiving the Gold Medal, very few holders of which are still alive,” said George Valentin, Prince Bibescu, president and one of the founders of the FAI, when awarding Jean Batten the medal.

Jean Batten in the cockpit of her Percival Gull. (Unattributed)
Jean Batten in the cockpit of her Percival Gull. (National Library of New Zealand)

Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, c/n D55, was a a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, built primarily of wood and covered by doped fabric. It was flown by a single pilot and could carry two passengers.On 29 August 1935, the airplane was assigned Great Britain civil registration G-APDR (Certificate of Registartion 6242).

The airplane was 24 feet, 9 inches (7.544 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 2 inches (11.024 meters) and height of 7 feet, 4½ inches (2.248 meters). The D.3 had an empty weight of 1,170 pounds (530.7 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,050 pounds (929.9 kilograms).

The Gull Six was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 9.186 liter (560.57-cubic-inch-displacement) air-cooled de Havilland Gypsy Six I, an inverted inline six-cylinder engine which produced 184 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 205 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller via direct drive. The engine weighed 432 pounds (196 kilograms).

The Gull Six was capable of reaching 178 miles per hour (286.5 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 16,000 feet (4,876.8 meters) and range was 700 miles (1,126.5 kilometers).

On 17 July 1940, Batten’s Percival Gull was impressed into military service and assigned a military identification of AX866. The airplane was returned to the civil register in 1946. It is now on display at the Jean Batten International Terminal, Auckland Airport, New Zealand.

Jean Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, photographed 19 June 1954. (RuthAS)
Jean Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, photographed 19 June 1954. (RuthAS)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 November 1932: Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery)
Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery

14 November 1932: At 6:37 a.m., GMT, Mrs. James A. Mollison, better known to the world as Miss Amy Johnson, CBE, departed Lympne Aerodrome, London, England, for Cape Town, South Africa. She was flying her brand new de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, c/n 2247, registered G-ACAB, which she had named The Desert Cloud.

Contemporary news articles reported the event:

A Race to the Cape

     Two attempts to better Mr. Mollison’s 4 days 17 hr. 22 min. for a flight between London and Cape Town have been planned for this week. The first (which was due to start at midnight on Tuesday) by Mrs. Mollison (Miss Amy Johnson) and the second by M. Otto Thaning, the Danish Vice-Consul in Johannesburg, who recently flew from Africa to Denmark. Mrs. Mollison has sensibly stated that her flight is not a pioneer venture and she disclaims any intention of either teaching Imperial Airways their business or of claiming any special value for the flight. It is to be a sporting attempt to reach the Cape as reasonably quickly as a “Puss Moth” can, and a flight for fun or for sport is a perfectly legitimate air gambol. Her machine is a standard “Puss Moth” called Desert Cloud. It is fitted with the new “Gipsy Major” (or IIIA) engine. It also has the long range tanks which her husband used on his Cape flight earlier in the year. She will thus have a range of 2,000 miles or more. If she feels fit and untired she will be able to make hops of 1,500 miles or more and reach the Cape in very few landings. Naturally and wisely she has timed the flight to take advantage of the full moon period of the month. Her route will be the West Coast or Great Circle course of about 6,200 miles, as compared with the 7,000 mile Imperial route. It is practically the same route used by her husband and as the one which the Fairey (Napier) long range monoplane will use. Should she improve on her husband’s time it will of course be a stout effort, but any Cape flight which brings South Africa within a week of London is a good show. . . .

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1246 (Vol. XXIV, No. 46.), 10 November 1932 at Page 1055.

Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)
Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)

And from the Southern Hemisphere:

Amy Johnson Starts Capetown Flight

LONDON, November 14. — Mrs. Mollison (formerly Amy Johnson) left Lympne Aerodrome at 6:37 o’clock this morning in an attempt to break her husband’s London to Capetown flight record of 4 days, 17 hours, 22 minutes. She is flying a Puss Moth named “Desert Cloud”. It has extra fuel tanks permitting a range of 2000 miles. She will follow the same route that her husband pioneered on his flight along the east coast and including the crossing of the Sahara Desert.

— The Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Vol. XLV. — No. 13,553. Tuesday, 15 November 1932 at Page 1, Column 8.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., DH.80A Puss Moth was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin for a pilot and two passengers. It was constructed of a tubular steel frame covered with doped fabric. The airplane was 25 feet (7.620 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) and height of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). The Puss Moth had an empty weight of 1,265 pounds (574 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms). G-ACAB was powered by a 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy Major inverted, inline 4-cylinder engine which produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The DH.80A had a cruise speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 108 miles per hour (174 kilometers per hour). The airplane had a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). The standard DH.80A had a range of 430 miles (692 kilometers), but The Desert Cloud had additional tanks which increased its range to over 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

De Havilland built 284 DH.80A Puss Moths between 1929 and 1933. Only eight are known to exist. G-ACAB, then owned by Utility Airways, Ltd., was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hooton Park, Cheshire, 8 July 1940.

Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)
Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1930: Amy Johnson, CBE

Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH.60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.
Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH.60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.

24 May 1930: After a 19-day, 11,000 mile (17,700 kilometer), solo flight from Croyden Aerodrome, London, England, 26-year-old Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin, Australia in her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, named Jason. She received a £10,000  prize from the Daily Mail newspaper.

For her accomplishment she was made Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). She was also awarded the Harmon Trophy, “for the most outstanding international achievements in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Amy Johnson landing at Port Darwin, Australia. )Fox Photo/Getty Images)
Amy Johnson landing at Port Darwin, Australia. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)

Her Gipsy Moth is in the Science Museum, London, England.

Flying Tonight. Portrait of Amy Johnson, 1930. © Ruth Hollick, Melbourne.
Flying Tonight. Portrait of Amy Johnson, 1930. © Ruth Hollick, Melbourne.

Amy Johnson had set many flight records, both individually and with her husband, James Mollison, whom she had married in 1932. He proposed to her during an airplane flight, only eight hours after having met her

During World War II, Amy Johnson flew for the Royal Air Force as a First Officer of the Air Transport Auxiliary (equivalent to the RAF rank of Flight Lieutenant). Tragically, on 5 January 1941, while flying over London, she was challenged by an RAF fighter. Twice she gave the incorrect recognition code and she was then shot down. Her airplane crashed into the Thames, where she was seen struggling in the water. Lieutenant Commander Walter Fletcher of HMS Haslemere dived into the river to rescue her, but both died. This incident was kept secret and it was publicly reported that she had run out of fuel.

Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London. (nmsi.ac.uk 10216060.jpg)
Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London. (nmsi.ac.uk 10216060.jpg)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 January 1941: First Officer Amy Johnson, CBE

Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery)
Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery)

5 January 1941: Famed British aviator Amy Johnson, CBE, a First Officer* with the Air Transport Auxiliary, took off from RAF Squires Gate, Blackpool, in an Airspeed AS.10 Oxford Mk.II, V3540, enroute RAF Kidlington, Oxfordshire. The twin-engine airplane was commonly used as an aircrew flight trainer. For reasons not known, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Johnson bailed out of the Oxford and parachuted into the Thames Estuary. The airplane crashed into the river a short distance away and sank.

Airspeed AS.10 Oxford. (Royal Air Force)
Airspeed AS.10 Oxford. (Royal Air Force)

Amy Johnson’s parachute was seen by the crew of HMS Haslemere. They attempted to rescue her and in the process, the ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Walter Edmund Fletcher, Royal Navy, dove into the water. In the cold temperatures and rough water, Fletcher died. For his effort to rescue Johnson, he was awarded the Albert Medal, posthumously. Amy Johnson is presumed to have drowned. Her body was not recovered.

Miss Amy Johnson with a de Havilland DH-60 Gipsy Moth at Stag lane, 5 May 1930. Central press/Getty Images)
Miss Amy Johnson with a de Havilland DH-60G Gipsy Moth at Stag Lane, 5 May 1930. (Central Press/Getty Images)

Miss Amy Johnson earned the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Economics from The University of Sheffield where she also studied Latin and French. She explored several career fields, but her interest was aviation. Amy Johnson earned her pilot’s license in July 1929. While continuing to fly to build experience, she also studied aircraft mechanics,  and in December 1929 became the first woman to be licensed as a ground engineer by the Air Ministry. In 1930 she also earned a navigator’s certificate. She purchased a de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, which she named Jason, after her father’s business. In May 1930, she flew from London, England, to Darwin, Australia. She was awarded the Harmon Trophy and made Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In July 1931, she flew a de Havilland Puss Moth from London to Japan. In July 1932, she set a record for her flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa, breaking the record previously set by her husband Jim Mollison. She and Mollison made a transatlantic flight in 1933, and participated in the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race. Her last record flight was in May 1936, flying a Percival Gull-Six from London to South Africa. Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth, Jason, is on display at the Science Museum, London.

*First Officer was an Air Transport Auxiliary civilian rank, equivalent to Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force.

Amy Johnson CBE at Annapolis, Maryland, 3 May 1937. (Baltimore Sun)
Amy Johnson CBE at Annapolis, Maryland, 3 May 1937. (Baltimore Sun)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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