The Short Empire Flying Boats were amongst the most luxurious passenger aircraft of the pre-war era, and played a major part in the growth of the infant civil aviation industry. They were used to establish a whole series of long range air routes, eventually stretching from Britain, across the Mediterranean to India and from there across the south-west Pacific to Australia and New Zealand.
Most of the book covers the pre-war development and commercial service of the Empire Flying Boats. This is a fascinating topic, if not entirely related to our subject. The author has certainly produced a very details account of his topic, right down to many individual flights, especially when new routes were being investigated. In the early days of aviation this was a far more adventurous process than one might think, with the search for suitable landing areas taking Imperial Airways and its flying boats into almost unexplored waters, especially as the routes reached out towards Australia. The relatively small number of aircraft built means that Sims is able to look at each of them in some detail, especially those that either achieved something unusual or were lost or damaged in service.
We reach the Second World War at chapter 11, Imperial at War, which starts at page 239 and fills the next 80 pages. Some of the boats were taken over by the RAF, armed, and used with Coastal Command, but most remained in service as transport aircraft, carrying more passengers in more austere conditions. The British-based boats generally flew around Africa, but the Australian and New Zealand boats operated on the edge of the Japanese dominated areas of the Pacific, and especially in the dangerous early part of 1942 were frequently in contact with Japanese aircraft. This section is of most direct relevance to military history, although the earlier parts of the book help illustrate the aviation world in the days before the Second World War.
This is a very detailed book, with a great deal of useful information on these impressive flying boats, and takes the reader back into the early glamorous world of air travel, before that world was shattered by the outbreak of war.
1 - Setting the Scene
2 - The Raison d'Etre
3 - Change and Progress
4 - A Worthy Airline
5 - Alternative Developments
6 - Eastward and Southward
7 - Bermuda and the Atlantic Conquered
8 - To Australia and Beyond
9 - Reith
10 - Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL)
11 - Imperial at War
12 - The Far East and Australia
13 - New Zealand at War
14 - End of Empire
1 - The Imperial Airways/ BOAC S.23 Flying-Boats
2 - The QUANTAS Empire Airways S.23 Flying-Boats
3 - The Imperial Airways/ BOAC S>30 Flying-Boats
4 - The Tasman Empire Airways Limited Flying-Boats
5 - Short S.33 Empire Flying-Boats
6 - Short Composite S.20 Maia and S.21 Mercury
7 - Short S.26 'G-class' Flying-Boats
8 - Maps
Author: Phillip E. Sims
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2013 edition of 2000 original