Imperial Airways was formed in 1924 by the amalgamation of four smaller companies. The government thought that the main existing aircraft companies should be merged to create a company which would be strong enough to develop Britain's external air services. One of the smaller companies was British Marine Air Navigation Co. (owned jointly by Supermarine and Southern Railways) which had been operating flying-boat services to France from a base near the Supermarine factory in Woolston since 1919 (initially from the Royal Pier, but only for a short time). Imperial Airways continued and expanded these services. In December 1936 Imperial Airways began using Southampton as its terminal for its fleet of Short-built ‘Empire’ flying-boats. Each of these aircraft was capable of carrying 24 passengers and mails over 800 miles. The original service was to Egypt, but within two years it had expand to link Southampton with South Africa and Asia and Australia. The terminal was now situated at berth 101 in the Western Docks, but in 1938 a new terminal was opened at berth 108. In 1939 Imperial Airways became British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

Imperial Airways Poster

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Undated poster advertising the new Imperial Airways flying boat. It has a cut-away image describing the interior of the S23 Short Empire flying boat.

Imperial Airways Flying Boat Coriolanus

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Photograph, 1930s

Imperial Airways Poster

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Poster advertising Imperial Airways destinations, 1938

see also

Further reading:
Wings Over the Solent, by Peter Sedgley. (HS/pi)
Flying Boats of the Solent, by Norman Hull. (HS/pi)
Eagles Over Water, by Norman Hull. (HS/pi)


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