I'm always amazed when I realise just how recently sailing ships were used for transport and trade. There is a page on the subject here on this website.
Canopus was the first Empire to be built and, unfortunately, the first to be scrapped. The picture above was taken in Durban shortly before Canopus flew back to the UK for the last time to be scrapped. Nicole typed up the following article on the subject from the Daily News:
FAREWELL TO CANOPUS
By The Daily News Correspondent
Early on Thursday morning, Durban people will hear the roar of four lusty aircraft engines from the direction of Congella. It will be Canopus, the oldest “C” Class flying boat of British Overseas Airways Corporation, saying good-bye to Durban Bay after an association of nine eventful years.
Canopus will be the first of the B.O.A.C. boats to leave Durban for good under the scheme by which the size of the fleet in Durban will be reduced by one each time an aircraft reaches its allotted number of flying hours. Most of the passengers will be B.O.A.C. contract staff, on transfer to stations in other parts of the world. The last boat in line will take off on the morning of December 31, and after that Durban will see these proud aircraft no more.
Rightly or wrongly, the flying-boat service from Calcutta to Durban – which is linked with the United Kingdom at Cairo – is going to stop, and Durban is going to be poorer by £600,000 a year, apart from the inconvenience of losing the service. If the Union Government intervened, it could probably save the flying boats, or at least prolong their use, but its reluctance to do so indicates that the matter affects the Union’s civil aviation policy in some way which has yet to become apparent.
The only official statement that I have been able to trace was by Mr. F.C. Sturrock, Minister of Transport, who in April of this year said in effect that flying boats were too slow and that landplanes were just as comfortable and were, of course, faster.
Mr Sturrock seemed to have forgotten that the “C” Class flying boats were built in 1936-1937 and would naturally be slower than the modern aircraft now being used on the Springbok (landplane) service. Later models of British flying boats, such as the Solent whose cruising speed is of the order of 190 m.p.h., could easily replace the “C” Class.
In any case, slow or not, it would seem that if there are 11,000 people in the United Kingdom who want to come to the Union by air, now would be the worst time to abolish one of the only two airlines connecting the two countries.
People who have traveled on both the Springbok Service and the flying boats will tell you that they prefer the flying boats, even though the journey lasts longer. Travelling conditions are far more pleasant; there is more room in the flying boats, the landing places are more interesting, and the journey is less tiring. Aircraft authorities in all parts of the world agree that the future of the big airliner lies in flying boats, especially when gas turbine engines start being produced commercially.
The “C” Class flying boats which one by one will disappear from the marine airport at Congella have a shining and honourable history – they were the most reliable, most successful, and best-liked airliners ever built. This year they completed 20,000,000 miles in the air.
Canopus, which in 1936 was the first flying boat to go into service with Imperial Airways, was followed by 42 sisters, all of whose names began with a “C”. Before the war they carried the main burden of the mail and passenger services on the chief Empire routes via India to Australia, and to South Africa.
With refueling in flight, the “C” Class boats pioneered a regular Atlantic service in 1939. Then the war came. Many of the boats were pressed into service with Coastal Command of the R.A.F. Fitted with gun turrets, armed with depth charges, and flown by R.A.F. crews, they sank many a marauding U-boat, guarded many a convoy. Several were lost. Cabot and Caribou in the Norwegian campaign; Cassiopeia, Corio, Circe, Corinna, Centaurus and Calypso in the Far east.
Meanwhile in Africa, the “C” Class boats that stayed in civilian paint were used to maintain the vital connections on the “horse-shoe route” from Calcutta across India, and then through Egypt down the East Coast to Durban. This route connected with another across Africa to Lagos, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, thus avoiding the battle area of the Mediterranean. Durban was the base for the African routes.
While the Battle of Britain was at its fiercest, modified “C” Class boats, Clare and Clyde, resumed Atlantic flights. When New Yorkers read 24-hours-old London newspapers describing raids of the previous day, they started to realize that, in spite of what Lord Haw-Haw said, Britain was doing all right.
The above transcript is from an undated newspaper cutting, however also on the page is the small section “This Day Fifty Years Ago” which indicates a date October 15, 1896. So I believe this article is dated October 15, 1946. I think that it is from The Daily News, Durban S.Africa. Nicole White.
Name of Newspaper unknown
B.O.A.C. Farewell Dinner And Dance
“They will carry with them our profound admiration and gratitude, and if every time they wander this way again they may be quite sure they are among friends.”
This tribute was paid last night by the Mayor of Durban, Mr. Rupert Ellis Brown, to the members of the British Overseas Airways Corporation on the occasion of their farewell dinner-dance at Athlone.
Flags representative of all the countries covered by Airways decorated the hall, and menus with the Zulu inscription “Sala Kahle . . . Inhlanhla Engle” (Good-bye . . . good luck in England) were souvenirs of the happy association which has existed for the past six years between Airways and their South African colleagues.
Members of the Family
Mr. George Baldwin, Regional Manager for Southern Africa, said: “Our affection for Durban goes much beyond citizenship because many of us who came here as guests in past years find ourselves leaving as members of the family.”
Among the 300 guests were the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs J. Ellis Brown, Mrs. G. Baldwin, Captain R. Mollard, Line Manager, and Mrs. Mollard, Mr. And Mrs. W.B.A. Ritchie, Major D. du Toit, D.F.C., and Mrs. du Toit, Mr. R.R. Allen, Line Engineer, recently awarded the B.E.M., and Mrs. Allen, Mr. Alec Barker, Captain and Mrs. F. Perkins and Captain N.R. Cook, D.S.C.
The entertainment committee were Miss E. Pascoe, Miss R. Hutcheson, Mr. F.W. Vickers, Mr. J. Grimmer, Mr. D. Harmer and Mr. W. Holt.