Photos, Video: British Airways Heritage Collection

August 31, 2016

[Written by Don Burgess]

British Airways has come a long ways after four small airlines merged to form Imperial Airways limited on March 31, 1924.

In the 92 years since then, one man has seen most of the changes the airline has made. Keith Hayward joined the company as a traffic apprentice in 1945 and has witnessed much of the history the airline has experienced, including the first flight from Heathrow Airport.

Mr. Hayward was a master storyteller as he spoke to Bernews about the history, including BA’s connection to Bermuda, like no one else could with humour and excitement. BA will be celebrating 80 years of service to Bermuda next year.

In 1936 Imperial Airways built an air station at Darrell’s Island for its flying boats. It was used as a refuelling point for its planes, and also later Pan American’s, for trans-Atlantic flights – mainly between the United States and the UK.

In the mid-30s Imperial Airways brought in a scheme where they took mail on the Empire routes without a surcharge. Bermuda benefited from this in 1937 as its mail started reaching the island faster from the UK as flying boats made their landing to the Darrell’s Island facility.

Perhaps the most famous person to fly from Bermuda in those early heady days was Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

At this time BA was known as British Overseas Airways Corporation after Imperial Airways had been forced to merge with British Airways Ltd by the UK Government in 1939.

After holding some meetings in the United States with US President Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill landed in Bermuda after his plane took off from Virginia. A warship was then expected to transport him the rest of the way to London.

But BOAC captain Kelly Rogers was asked by Churchill “Why can’t we carry on in the flying boat tomorrow” as it would take five days for the warship to make the return trip.

The captain knew he couldn’t say ‘no’ and it was now up to him and his crew to make that happen. They spent part of that night by working out the fuel figures to carry the legendary leader back home.

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Even with the fuel figures in hand, they had to hope for good weather and left Churchill’s personal valet to carry on via the warship back to England.

The Prime Minister wanted to broadcast that they were on their way but Captain Rogers told him they couldn’t because “I’m sorry sir, but your voice is so well-known that if the Luftwaffe picked this up in the mid-Atlantic, we’ve had it.”

It was just over 16 hours and the pressure was on the captain and crew was tremendous but they made it happen.

The British Airways Heritage collection has existed since the formation of British Airways. It was formed to preserve the records and artefacts of British Airways predecessor companies BOAC, BEA, BSAA and the pre-war Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd.

The collection comprises of an extensive document archive recording the formation, development and operations of the British Airways and its predecessor companies as well as memorabilia and artefacts.

Over 130 uniforms from the 1930s to the present day are preserved as well as a large collection of aircraft models and pictures.

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Category: Airport/Planes, All, History, Photos, Videos

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