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The Above Links Take You To Additional Sites Relating To Tom Campbell Black's Family History


    EMAIL LINK                                                                                                            Link To Shuttleworth Collection

SITEMASTER/RESEARCHER: BRUCE McCULLOUGH, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND, Tom Campbell Black was the Grandson of my Great Uncle Thomas McCullough 1846-1926 of Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. Thomas McCullough was the son of James McCullough 1820-1910, of Tullynagee, County Down, Ireland, later of Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia.

I have become totally absorbed with the adventures and life of this most interesting and amazing man and I am proud to be related to him, thus resulting in my setting up of this basic site dedicated to his memory. I trust you enjoy your visit.

If you have any additional information/photos relating to the life/adventures of Tom Campbell Black I would be very pleased to hear from you.





LAST SITE UPDATE: 11 December 2015 [I have removed many links, they were either shut down or taken over]


PHOTOS ABOVE: Top left to right-[1] "Grosvenor House" as she is today, the plane in which Tom Black and Charles Scott won the 1934 London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race, currently preserved in the Shuttleworth Collection, England. [2] Tom Campbell Black [left] and C.W.A Scott. [3] The Mac Robertson Trophy of the 1934 London to Melbourne Air Race.
Right below: Grosvenor House, G-ACSS, No.34, at Mildenhall October 1934. [Click on link to Shuttleworth Collection]



FLIGHT, magazine, OCTOBER 25, 1934

FLIGHT. October 25, 1934. page 1109.

Makers of History

C.W.A. Scott and T. Campbell black- winners of the Worlds Greatest Race.

If Jules Verne, who at the end of the last century wrote "Round the World in Eighty Days." could have foreseen such an achievement as this... a journey half way round the world in under three days! Yet this is the magnificent achievement of Charles William Anderson Scott and Thomas [Tom] Campbell Black and the aeroplane entered for them in the England -Australia Race by Mr. A.O. Edwards - the De Havilland "Comet" with two Gypsy Six engines.

By their achievement in winning the Speed Race they secure Sir Macpherson Robertson's Trophy and cash prize of 10,000 Pounds. [7,500 Pounds in Australian currency].

Scott who has a wife and a little daughter, is only thirty years old, but three times before the Race he had beaten the record between England and Australia - twice in 1931 and once during the following year. He was educated at Westminster School and joined the R.A.F. in 1922. At one time he served with No. 32 Squadron and aquired a reputation as an aerobatic pilot. As a commercial pilot in Australia he frequently made long air taxi flights, perhaps the best known being a 4,000 mile trip across Central Australia.

Campbell Black served during the War in the R.N.A.S. and the R.A.F. During his career as a pilot in Africa he flew H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, who was on a big game hunt. He has flown between England and Nairobi thirteen times, and in 1932 he rescued Herr Ernest Udet, the German pilot, who was stranded on an island in the Upper Nile. Black is know personal pilot to Viscount Furness.


Above: Left- L-R Tom Campbell Black with his Maternal Grandmother Alice Harriet McCullough [nee Monk] his Maternal Grandfather Thomas McCullough and his Aunt Ellie McCullough. Photo taken in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. Circa 1925.
Above: Centre- Tom's mother Alice Jean McCullough born Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia in 1873 died Brighton, England in 1952.
Above: Right, Tom's parents, Hugh Milner Black and Alice Jean nee McCullough, listening to the Great Air Race results on their wireless, 1934. [Source Derek Morrison]

For history of the McCullough and Black families please click on the above links.
"More Information" "Link One" takes you to the site of James McCullough Maternal Great Grandfather of Tom Campbell Black. "Link Two" takes you to the site of Thomas McCullough Maternal Grandfather of Tom, and "Link Three" takes you to the site of Robert Black Paternal Grandfather of Tom.

 Thomas McCullough 1846-1926, son of James McCullough 1820-1910 and Elinor nee Moorhead, married Alice Harriet Monk in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, in 1869, their daughter Alice Jean McCullough born in Warrnambool in 1873, married Hugh Milner Black, son of Robert Black 1821-1905 and Sarah Ann nee Wallis of London, England, in Warrnambool in 1893. Their son Tom Campbell Black, born in December 1899 in Brighton, England, became a world famous Aviator when he and C.W.A. Scott won the London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race in 1934. The official name of the race was " The Mac Robertson Air Race", Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott won the "Speed Section" of the race in a phenomenal time of 71 hours, and won the First Place Prize of 10,000 Pounds and the MacRobertson Trophy. They also won the "Handicap Section" but the race rules didn't allow them to win the two sections.

       [CLICK SITE LINK De Havilland Photo collection]
Above Right: Tom Campbell Black, centre, talking to Charles W.A. Scott, standing on the wing of "Grosvenor House", prior to take off in the MacRobertson Air Race, 20th. October 1934


 The England-Australia Air Race of 1934 remains a unique event in aviation history. It halved the flying-time from Europe to the Far East, so paving the way for long-distance commercial aviation and making a powerful impact on strategic concepts. It spurred the development of a revolutionary British aircraft, the Comet DH88. It brought to world notice the great aircraft companies Douglas and Boeing, and provided a striking demonstration of the surging power and skill of American aeronautical engineering. It established the reputation of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It swept a group of flyers to a great pinnacle of fame; and encouraged others, who were to make their reputations later on. It brought together many great figures of the heroic, pioneer age of aviation: Amy Johnson, Jim Mollison, C. W. A. Scott, Tom Campbell Black, Ray Parer, Neville Stack, Roscoe Turner, Jan Moll, Koene Parmentier and others. And it brought that age to its close.
   At another level, it provided an international sporting event which has seldom been equalled. It gave colour, absorbing interest and gaiety to a world which was just recovering from a disastrous slump, and was soon to go slithering into an even more disastrous war. It became a great news story, gaining wider and more sustained coverage than events of far greater moment to the human race, such as the victory at El Alamein, the calamity at Pearl Harbor or the launching of the first sputnik. It was a story which lasted for almost two years, beginning in scepticism, developing in controversy and ending in triumph. Apart from Governments, companies, societies and bodies of all kinds, it involved thousands of individuals, stretching from America to Europeand from Europe to India and Australia; and, whether they werecompeting, organizing, officiating or merely watching, the race still remains for them a happy and affectionate memory. For this reason, apart from many others, it is worth recalling.
[Above: Excerpt from the book "The Great Air Race".]

Above: [Left] Air race winners Tom Campbell Black [on the right ] and Charles Scott riding in triumph in Melbourne, Australia.  [centre] Sir MacPherson Robertson with the winners trophy he donated and presented to Tom Black and Charles Scott.  [Right] The first Comet "Grosvenor House" being christened at Hatfield, Tom Black is standing with Scott directly below the name "GROSVENOR HOUSE" on the nose of the aircraft.
The magnificent response by all the leading airmen in the world, who have so generously come forward to make this event the greatest race in the history of aviation, is very gratifing to the Air Race authorities in Australia... The full growth of aviation must be world wide, and the international support that the race has evoked since its inception convinces me that such a contest must help to broaden the mutual basis for friendly exchange of services and understanding between nations, quite apart from its great value in quickening the airmindedness of their people..... I express the feeling of all Australians in wishing you a safe and speedy flight to Melbourne, where a warm and hearty welcome awaits you.**

It was estimated that in the early hours of the morning of Saturday 20th. October 1934, some 60,000 people assembled at Mildenhall to view the 6am. start of the great air race. By 6.43am. the last of the twenty contestants was taking to the air. Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott crossed the start line at 6.34am.[GMT]**
Black and scott arrived in Darwin at 11.08am [GMT.] on the 22nd. october 1934.
"The vast crowd that awaited them [it was before 3am. local time] which had been kept behind the fences suddenly leaped over them and raced toward the plane, completely taking police and officials by surprise. Shouting and cheering they surged around the machine, grabbed hold of the wings, and beat on the fuselage. For a while it looked as if the craft would be smashed to pieces, and when Scott and Black emerged from the cockpit the enthusiasm was so great that they were almost crushed" Newspapers carried the headlines "TO AUSTRALIA IN 2 DAYS, 4 HOURS, 38 MINUTES; AIRMEN SET UP AMAZING RECORD!"**
[The previous record set by C. T. P. Ulm with his Avro Mono-plane in October 1933 was 6 days, 17 hours, 45 minutes.]



Above: Left to Right. 1. Black and Scott's plane Grosvenor House being re-fuelled at Darwin. The following photos were taken at Charleville. 2. An exhausted Scott is helped to the Check Point at Charleville. 3. Time for something to eat and drink at Charleville, Tom left Scott on right. 4. Cockpit of Grosvenor House showing wheel to lower landing gear, on right. 5. Scott talking to officials. 6. Scott, left, and Black, centre, talking to official. 7. An exhausted Scott exiting Grosvenor House. 8. Mechanics working on one of Grosvenor House's engines. 9. An exhausted Scott with officials.  

Black and Scott landed at the last check point before the finish line, Charleville, at 10.40pm. [GMT] 8.40am local time, to a large cheering crowd.
Clambering wearily from the cockpit, and somehow keeping their eyes open wide enough to smile to the crowds, Scott and Black stumbled towards the control office and from there to the restaurant. With the KLM crew on their tails Black and scott were impatient to take off on the last stage to Melbourne, but the mechanics had to replace the two engine cylinder heads and were having oil pressure problems. Finally they were off but they had not gone far and Scott noticed the oil pressure was down on one of the engines, there was no alternative but to return to Charleville. Frantically the mechanics fought with the tired engines, tried to discover what the fault was, and put it right. Over an hour later the Comet was airborne again with the engines seemingly to have gained new life. Black and Scott gained new confidence and gradually their conviction grew that they would win. But there was still six hours flying time ahead of them, to begin with each pilot flew for half an hour at a time while the other smoked or slept, but this then proved impossible, so by mutual consent the periods were cut down to twenty minutes and then to ten. It was still a strain to keep awake, manipulate the controls and maintain course, but with this regular changing they just about managed it. They had to manage. Finally they reached Melbourne and headed toward Flemington Racecourse to confirm their winning place by flying over the finishing line between the two pylons at a height of no more than 200 feet, then circle around and fly on for Laverton. On landing at Laverton and switching off the engines, Scott turned to Black and shook his hand. It was 5.35am [GMT] their record breaking flight had lasted two days and twenty three hours. Deafened by the engine noise Black and Scott stiffly climbed out of the cockpit for the last time to receive congratulations from officials, from A.O. Edwards, who had backed them, from Jean Batten, and then from the crowd, every member of which seemed to want to pat them on the back and shake their hands. Rather numb and dazed they found themselves in a Puss Moth, being flown back to Flemington Racecourse for the first of many receptions.
The scene at Flemington Racecourse was long to be remembered by everyone there, and indeed is still remembered. Ruth Church, who was then a girl, recalls that the air was electric with excitement as that little red plane shot over our heads. A roar went up from the crowd and every man threw his hat into the air. In the distance the crowds, happily chanting and singing, saw the Moth land and its occupants alight and transfer to a procession of cars already lined up and waiting. In the first car were Scott and Black, both looking grimed and slightly dazed but still upright, and they made their way to the dias where the Lord Mayor, Sir Harold Gengoult-Smith, began the formal welcome, "You have thilled the world and earned the Empires admiration and Australia's homage".
Messages, cables, telegrams and letters poured in. Among the first to reach Black and Scott was a cable from King George V: "The Queen and I warmly congratulate you both on your wonderful feat. We are very glad we saw you at Mildenhall before setting out on your great adventure, and trust that you are not unduly tired after the strain of the past few days."

After many congratulatory functions in Melbourne and Sydney Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott returned to England.**

On the afternoon of 23 October, 1934, a sleek, two-engined red monoplane flew into Melbourne from the North.
As it dived low over the vast, wildly excited crowd on Flemington Racecourse, the most spectacular of all sporting epics came to an end.
Scott and Black, the two Englishmen in the cockpit of the De Havilland Comet, were only vaguely aware that they had won; certainly they were far too exhausted to care. Behind them lay eleven thousand miles of desert, mountain, forest and sea, a trail of nineteen other aircraft that still stretched as far back as Paris, and months of bitter international squabbles that seemed set fair at times to shatter the peace of the 1930s.
  From casual beginnings, as an extra attraction in the Melbourne Centenary celebrations, the MacRobertson International Air Race grew into the sporting
event of the century.
Nothing of a similar nature before or since has received so much newspaper and wireless coverage. A trial of strength on the grand scale, it had attracted all the legendary pilots of the day; Jim Mollison, Amy Johnson, Ray Parer, Jacqueline Cochran, Colonel Roscoe Turner, as well as the winners Scott and Black. The public, encouraged by enthusiastic Press panegyrics, came to expect miracles; and for once they were not disappointed. This race had everything: drama, suspense, comedy, tragedy and, above all, speed, as every existing record was broken by seemingly impossible margins.
  In retrospect, the MacRobertson Race can be seen as a watershed in aviation history; the last flourish of the heroic, pioneer age. The astonishing performances of the giant
Douglas and Boeing aircraft, which held their own with the racing Comets, demonstrated that flying was no longer a dangerous, arduous sport for irresponsible speed-addicts, but safe, practical and very fast. In a few days the world had shrunk to a third of its former size. A new element,said Winston Churchill, has been conquered for the use of man.
Arthur Swinson, 1968.**
[*Above excerpts from "The Great Air Race" by Arthur Swinson, first published 1968.]

Journalist Alan Dawes of the "Star" newspaper reported the finish of the great air race, October 23rd. at 3.33pm. G-ACSS reached Melbourne.
"Like a huge crimson-winged bullet, C.W.A Scott's Comet, with T. Campbell Black as co-pilot, dipped and swept across the finish line at Flemington at 3.34pm to-day, winner of the Centenary Air Race."  "They had made the flight from England to Melbourne in two days, 23 hours, 18 seconds."  "Tumultuous cheering arose from the crowded stands at Flemington when a small speck appeared, developed into the unfamiliar shape of the Comet, and hurtled over the course."

Tom Black and Charles Scott were awarded "The Britannia Trophy" in 1935 by the Royal Aero Club, England. The award is presented: "For the British Aviator or Aviators accomplishing the most meritorious performance in aviation during the previous year."

The Royal Aeronautical Society awarded the "British Silver Star Medal"  for practical achievement leading to major advances in aerospace to Tom Campbell Black and C.W.A Scott in 1934. 

In the starters list for the 1934 race Tom is recorded as " Captain T. Campbell Black."


Above: Tom Campbell Black [left] talking to Edward Prince of Wales [later King Edward VIII] in front
of "Grosvenor House" G-ACSS, #34, the day before the start of the London to Melbourne MacRobertson Air Race, 19th. October 1934. Tom first became acquainted with the Prince during Royal visits and safari's in Kenya during the 1920's, Tom was Prince Edwards pilot on safari.

Above: His Majesty the King shaking hands with Campbell Black at Mildenhall, Scott standing aside by the winning comet.
19th. October 1934. [Scott's Book]

Above: Left "Grosvenor House" prior to the great race. [Source: John McCulloch, Melbourne.] Right: The Port engine of Grosvenor House with the cowlings and airscrew removed for inspection at Mildenhall prior to the Great Race. Specs. 250 hp. at 2500 rpm. 561 cubic inches. Weight 510 pounds. First manufactured in 1932 [to standard specification] Source: Flight. 


Above: Scott and Black waving good-bye at Allahabad to continue their record-breaking dash to Australia. [Scott's Book]

Above: Tom Black and Charles Scott in their Comet G-ACSS #34 landing at Laverton in Melbourne on 23rd. October 1934.

Above: Tom Campbell Black and C.W.A. Scott being welcomed at Laverton in Melbourne on 23rd. October 1934 winners of the MacRobertson Centenary Air Race in their Comet, Grosvenor House, G-ACSS, #34.

Above: 1. Tom Black and Charles Scott being officially welcomed on being flown back to Flemington Race Course from Laverton.
2. Group on right, L-R Tom Black, Charles Scott giving his speech and MacRobertson. [23rd. October 1934] 3and 4. Scott and Campbell Black in victory parade
 through Melbourne.

[Excerpt from a letter written by MacRobertson in 1937]

The following competitors, etc., received Gold Medals, value 8 Pounds 8 Shillings each, by the sponsor of the Mac.Robertson International
Air Race of October 1934:
C.W.A. Scott and T. Campbell Black.
K.D. Parmentier, J.J. Moll, B. Prinz, and C. Von Brugen.
Miss Thea Rasche, P. Gillissen, R.J. Domenie [Passengers K.L.M. Plane No. 44.]
Col. Roscoe Turner, C. Panghorn, R. Nicholl.
K. Waller and O. Cathcart Jones.
M. McGregor and H.C. Walker.
C.J. Melrose.
C. Kay, J.D. Hewett and F. Stewart.
D. Jensen, M. Hansen.
D.E. Stodart and K.G. Stodart.
H.L. Brook and passenger Miss E.M. Lay.
C.L. Hill and C.J. Davies.
R. Parer and G. Hemsworth.
Also, Bronze Medals were given to the Launceston Museum and Mr. Rex Allison, R.A.N., by the Sponsor of this Air Race.
The cast, etc., of the Medals have now been destroyed.
Yours MacRobertson
25th. January 1937


Above: Left: One of two Bronze examples of the Gold Medal, this one was presented to the City of Launceston, Tasmania, it was kept at the Launceton Museum and Art Gallery. It was stolen from the museum in 1941, and was never recovered. The second Bronze Medal was presented to Rex Allison R.A.N. Right: Gold medal presented to Roelof Domenie, passenger on the KLM Uiver, entry. The medal was donated to the Albury City Council by Roelof's son, Johan Domenie, 2011.

"TIME" - Newsmagazine on October 29, 1934, ran an article on the MacRobertson London to Melbourne Air Race, [read full transcript inserted below]

Note of interest: A first cousin of Tom Campbell Black was Norman Black 1894-1973, a pioneer motor bike and racing car driver of the 1920-30's. Click on left picture below.

 [CLICK SITE LINK]   Norman Black.



 Tom Campbell Black in British East Africa [Kenya]

Family and recorded history has it that Tom Campbell Black and his brother Frank owned and managed a coffee plantation in British East Africa [later Kenya] in the 1920's, it would appear that they settled in Africa as soldier settlers in about 1922. Recorded in the National Archives, England, is the following- Source Medal Card, Captain Frank Milner Black, 1914-1920, Corps, Hampshire Regiment and 4th. Kings African Rifles. It would seem that Frank was seconded to the 4th. Kings Africa Rifles in East Africa and discharged in 1920. It then appears that Frank was interested in staying in Kenya and convinced his brother Tom to join him in a farming venture. The farm was between the towns of Rongai and Eldama Ravine, in the Rift Valley, about 110 miles N.W. of Nairobi.
Tom was a very keen horse-man as the following excerpt from the "Kenya Weekly News" confirms, circa 1925: "That afternoon Tom Black had thrilled the crowd with one of the most remarkable if unorthodox exibitions of show jumping that I have ever seen. He owned a black gelding that jumped like a stag and very fast, but he was as wild as a kite and the devil to hold. More often than not their way round the ring left a devastation of jumps behind them but on this occasion all went well. At a speed more suitable to the finish of a hurdle race, they never touched a jump and Tom retired to the Rift Valley Sports Club with a large cup which held an awful lot of liquor in the course of the evening. It was, indeed, a memorable night."

Above: Tom Campbell Black 1899-1936

It is uncertain when Tom took up flying as a career, but he joined and saw active service during World War 1 as a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service and then with the amalgamation of the R.N.A.S. and the RFC in April 1918 he served in the RAF, [note RAF Wings in the photo of Tom below] he attained the rank of Captain.
Prior to the war Tom attended Brighton College and the records for the period summer 1915 to summmer 1917, show he entered Hampden House, May 1915, appointed House Prefect January 1917, played Second XI Football, 1915 to 16 and 1916 to 17, he attended Army Class II and entered the RN College at Greenwich and attained a Commision in the R.N.A.S.

Above: Capt. Tom Campbell Black RAF Circa 1918 [Source Derek Morrison]
It is stated in the Shuttleworth Collection records, England, that an aircraft currently in their collection, a De Havilland DH51, [one of only three built] was built in 1925 as G-EBIR, and shortly after bought and shipped to Mombasa, British East Africa, it first flew in Africa on the 4th. April 1926. The plane was actually bought by a fellow farmer/pilot of Tom Black, namely John Evans Carberry a very experienced W.W.1 pilot, who owned a coffee plantation called Seremai, near Nyeri, about 60 miles S.E. of Tom Black and brother Franks farm. It was the first privately owned aeroplane imported into British East Africa. In June 1928 Tom Campbell Black, G. Skinner and A. Hughes bought this aircraft from John Carberry and on September 10th. 1928, she became the first aircraft to be registered in Kenya and was named "Miss Kenya", her first Kenya registration number was  G-KAA but with a change in the system she was re-registered VP-KAA. Miss Kenya is maintained in the Shuttlewoth Collection as G-EBIR. 


In 1929 a Mrs. Florence Kerr Wilson formed Wilson Airways in Kenya, at inception, the airline possessed a single Gypsy Moth aircraft, primarily piloted by Tom Campbell Black, who became the Managing Director of the company [he departed Kenya in march 1932]. The airline grew into a comprehensive timetable across Kenya, the Company was profitable but was disbanded in 1939 with the outbreak of World War 2. All 17 aircraft owned by Wilson Airways were confiscated and incorporated onto the Kenya Auxilary Air Unit. At the end of WW2 Wilson's aircraft continued to remain  the hands of the authorities.


Above: Tom Campbell Black [right] M.D. Wilson Airways, Kenya Colony, with Captain Hugo Dunkerley, the Editor of 'Aeroken' who accompanied Tom as the Special Correspondentof the East African Standard in the first flight from Nairobi to Mombasa and back in a single day, on 21st. November 1929.
Captain Hugo Dunkerley also accompanied Tom on a round flight, Nairobi,  Dar es Salaam, Mombassa and back to Niarobi in just over nine hours, in November 1930.


Above: Tom Campbell Black, centre in shirt, Zanzibar, April 1930. Among the welcoming officials is Ronald Harrison
[Second on the right of Tom Black] who was employed with Cable and Wireless, Zanzibar, uncle of Trevor Owen who kindly contributed a copy of this original family photo. Tom Black was the Managing Director of Wilson Airways Ltd. The aircraft was a De Havilland Gypsy Moth named "Knight Of The Mist" owned by Wilson Airways.

Excerpt from The Times, newspaper, September 21, 1936.
Obituary, Mr. Campbell Black

"In April 1930, he pioneered the first non stop flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi in five hours 20 minutes.The journey usually took two days. In this flight he made the first aeroplane landing on the island of Zanzibar, and also linked up by air the capitals of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar."

The Samachar, Zanzibar, 13th. April 1930.
The First Aeroplane in Zanzibar.

Many sea-planes have visited Zanzibar up to now. But the first aeroplane was seen here last Monday, the 7th. instant, when Captain T.Campbell Black, Managing Director of Wilson's Airways Limited, landed on the Muazimoja Golf Course in the morning. The next day the Captain thrilled the Zanzibar public with wonderful feats of his air mastery.

The Aeroplane, April 9, 1930. Zanzibar.
On April 7 Mr. Campbell Black landed an aeroplane of Wilson Airways Ltd. on Zanzibar Island. This is alleged to be the first time the feat has been done. During the war 1914-18 a detachment of R.N.A.S. were operating in the neighbourhood, so aircraft, even if only on floats, have been seen from the island before. On the other hand Wilson Airways  Ltd. and in particular Mr Campbell Black have been doing an immense amount to develop aviation in Kenya and the neighbouring parts of Africa. So this is quite an event demonstrating the fact that Zanzibar can be linked up by air with the main air routes of the African Continent.

Flight, April 11, 1930.
First Flight to Zanzibar.

On April 7, Captain Campbell Black flew a Wilson Airways aeroplane to Zanzibar. This is stated to be the first time an aeroplane has landed on Zanzibar.

Bwana wa Ndege.
The historian Khamis S. Khamis tells us that Tom Campbell Black first landed on Zanzibar on the 7th. April, 1930, and reported that: The pilot "gave an exhibition of loops and swooped low then shot up, to the delight of the crowd. Capt. Black's performance made him a hero on Zanzibar; he was referred to as Bwana wa Ndege." [This translates roughly to "Man of the Birds. Source: Barghash Barghash.]

History Timeline, April 1930, Zanzibar Government Website.
The First Commercial Plane Landed On Zanzibar.

The plane was piloted by Captain T. Campbell Black, Managing Director of the then Wilson's Airways Ltd.
By communication with the Police Station at Ziwani the pilot managed to land on Mnazi Mmoji Golf Course on Monday at 10.00.

The Aeroplane
February 18 1931
page 290


Everybody who is even mildly interested in Civil Aviation has heard of Wilson Airways Ltd., that enterprising venture, financed by Mrs. F. K. Wilson, of Nanyuki, Kenya, which has already done so much to make Central and East Africa air-minded. But few know anything about how the firm came into being, or why. On various occasions THE AEROPLANE has tried to induce Mr. T. Campbell Black, the Managing Director of the firm, to tell the history of Wilson Airways, but he is a busy man, and modest withal, so these attempts have failed. But at last a third party, Mr. Dunstan Adams, the Secretary of the firm, has been induced to put this interesting, and historically important, story into print. Here then is the tale:-

In February of 1929, Mr. T. Campbell Black, flying a Fokker Universal belonging to Mr. John Carberry, and with Mr. Watkins as engineer, carried as passenger between Nairobi and Croydon, Mrs. P. K. Wilson, of Nanyuki. During this flight Mrs. Wilson's interest in aviation, which had been lying dormant, was stimulated by Mr. Black's enthusiasm.

For some considerable time previous to this Mr. Black had been flying in a D.H. 51 all over the highlands of Kenya. and he had cherished a hope of forming an air transport company long before the flight in which Mrs. Wilson was carried as passenger. Before his return to Nairobi Mrs. Wilson suggested that she would be very willing to interest herself in such a company should he still be interested in forming it on his return. In consequence of this, matters proceeded very rapidly, and arrangements were made for the purchase of a nucleus of a fleet of aeroplanes, which now includes two Avro Fives (tri-motor monoplanes), two D.H. Puss Moths and three Gipsy Moths.

On Mr. Black's return to the country the necessary formalities for the formation of the company were completed and at the end of July 1929 the company now known as Wilson Airways Ltd. was incorporated, with a capital of 50,000 Pounds.

The first flight of note was that of a Gipsy Moth, piloted by Mr. Campbell Black, with Captain H. A. White, of the Chicago Field Museum, as passenger, from Nairobi to England. Capt. White was called by urgent business to Europe, where it was imperative for him to arrive within a week. The flight was successful, and he was landed in the South of France at midday a week later. This was particularly meritorious in view of the fact that the little machine was loaded with a passenger weighing 17 1 /2 stone and baggage; In addition it was fitted with an extra fifteen-gallon petrol tank. When it is realised that the machine had to cross a mountain range 10,000 feet high, the machine's astonishing performance will be better appreciated.

Following upon this flight, Mr. Black flew back to Nairobi in an Avro Five, carrying two passengers and a mechanic. [Ref. photo below] Mr. F. A. Swoffer, with a passenger for part of the way, flew the Moth on its return to Nairobi.

Interest in aviation was rapidly aroused In Kenya, where it had suffered a serious setback because of the lamentable accident in which Lady Carbery and her passenger, Mr. D. Cowie, lost their lives.

A great impetus was given to civil aviation in East Africa, and to this company in particular, by the patronage conferred by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales during his safari in the beginning of 1930. He not only flew in one of this company's machines from the Nairobi Aerodrome, but afterwards had a landing ground made near his camp, and a machine, piloted by Mr. Campbell Black, was stationed there for his use.

Almost immediately after its arrival in the country the Avro V was chartered by the Tanganyika Government for an extensive survey of the areas on the Central Line, which had suffered through the abnormal rains and floods of 1929. This work was done very successfully.

Apart from a very great number of comparatively short flights, ranging from fifty to five hundred miles, in Kenya. Uganda and Tanganyika, totalling over one hundred thousand miles. the company has on two occasions since its inception flown passengers between Nairobi and the Union of South Africa and is at present engaged for the tenth flight between Nairobi and Croydon.

In addition, passengers have been flown to Cairo and Khartoum. The machines used on these longer flights have been both Avro Vs and Gipsy Moths, and the uneventful nature of the flights, which have all been concluded to the utmost satisfaction of the passengers, and at very fine average speeds, speaks very decidedly in favour of the Judgment of the directors of the company in their choice of machines.

Many of the aerodromes in Kenya are situated in the highlands at altitudes varying from 5.000 to 7,500 feet above sea-level, so that machines of a specially high performance are required. Mr. Black recently gave an interesting demonstration of the Avro's capabilities in this direction by taking it off the Nairobi Aerodrome, nearly 6,000 feet above sea-level, on only two engines, with the middle engine switched off, two circles of the aerodrome were then made and the machine landed.

Included in the shorter flights are some of decidedly good performance, a few of which are given below.

Mr. Black, flying a Gipsy Moth between Nairobi and Molo, on the Mau Escarpment, landed with a passenger and took off from a landing ground 9,600 feet above sea-level. This was in the original machine which made the flight from Nairobi to London and return, and it is of interest to note that this machine is still in excellent condition despite the fact that it has borne the brunt of most of the pioneer flights which were made by the company's pilots prior to the completion of the numerous aerodromes which now exist throughout the Colony.

In the early days of the company the character of the flying was distinctly unique. Districts were visited about which little was known from the point of view of suitable landing places, and many landings had to be made in the bush: The list of places visited under these conditions is too numerous to give in detail, but included in them was the coastal area of Kenya, the aerial development of which had been entirely neglected.

Mr. Black made the first landing at Mombasa, the first landing at Zanzibar, the first non-stop flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi, and from Zanzibar to Dar-es-Salaam, and the first flight from Nairobi to Mombasa and back in a day. Aerodromes are now existent in all these places.

More recently, flying a Puss Moth, Mr. Black accomplished the round flight, starting from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, visiting Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanganyika, Zanzibar and Mombasa and returning to Nairobi in one day, during which, the distance covered was over one thousand miles and his flying time just over nine hours. This is the first time in history that the capitals of these three territories have been visited in a day. [Above: An excerpt from "The Aeroplane" magazine February 18 1931]

[CLICK SITE LINK: Avro Heritage, then click on Avro Type Register and Type No. 619.]
Tom Campbell Black [far right] with one of the two "Avro Type 619 Five" aircraft he purchased for Wilson Airways Ltd. VP-KAE was purchased in October 1929, the second aircraft VP-KAD was purchased sometime later. The original of this photo is not detailed but could be VP-KAE as mentioned in the above article from "Aeroplane" February 18 1931. [Photo source, Derek Morrison]

Beryl Markham.
Tom Campbell Black had a relationship with, and was the Flying Instructor of, the famous female pioneer aviator Beryl Markham who was raised and lived in Kenya. Their relationship began in the fall of 1931, they first met in 1925 while Beryl was employed as a horse trainer at the Westland Stables, a highly regarded race horse training establishment, Beryl learnt her horse skills from her father Charles Clutterbuck who was a respected race horse breeder and trainer in Kenya. Tom and his brother Frank had their jointly owned race horse stabled at Westland Stables. In March 1932 Tom resigned from Wilson Airways and departed Kenya to take up an employment offer made by Lord Marmaduke Furness, a renouned horse breeder, to be his personal pilot and live back in England. Beryl did not accept this was the beginning of the end of their relationship and would hopefully regain Tom's attention, but this was not to be, in 1935 he married the british actress Florence Desmond. In September 1936 Beryl Markham achieved fame by being the first Aviator to fly the Atlantic Ocean from East to West [England to America] against the prevailing winds. She took off from Abingdon in Berkshire, England and was forced by fuel/mechanical problems to crash land her Percival Vega Gull [VP-KCC] at Beleine, Nova Scotia, after a flight of 24 hrs. 40mins., she was only slightly injured in the rough landing. Beryl was born Beryl Clutterbuck on the 26 October 1902 in Leicester, England and died on the 4th. August, 1986 in Nairobi at 83 years of age, her achievements and life are well documented on the Web. [Her book "West with the Night" and a book by Errol Trzebinski "The Lives of Beryl Markham" are interesting reading, with many references to Tom Campbell Black

 Excerpts from "The Lives of Beryl Markham" by Errol Trzebinski.

1931-1932 "He [Tom Campbell Black] spoke well, which Beryl always found appealing in a man, not recognising that his manner was entirely cultivated; his father, as Mayor of Brighton, was nouveau riche, which enabled him to give his sons decent schooling. It was while attending the Royal Naval College at Greenwich that Tom had taken on the manners and accent of the English public school. As a Flight Lieutenant, Tom was given a taste of glory at the end of the war when he was part of the first British Squadron into Cologne. It was evident to Tom after a decade of indifferent progress just how wise he had been to renounce Brighton - possibilities thereafter seemed endless. On top of it all, there was Beryl suddenly at Tom's side, his only pupil, a much more seductive assignment than running a fleet of seven machines." [referring to his position as Managing Director of Wilson Airways]

1931-1932 "[Tom Campbell Black] entered the Wilson Airways de Havilland Puss Moth in a competition to fly the five capitals of East Africa in March. Covering 1,600 miles in one day, stopping only for refuelling, his speed of 17 hours and 15 minutes won him the Mansfield Robinson Golden Trophy, awarded by the Aero Club of East Africa." [REFER TO THE ENTRY BELOW ABOUT THE MANSFIELD ROBINSON TROPHY]

1936  Beryl Markham made the following statements to reporters after Tom Black's death:
"England has lost a wonderful pilot and I have lost the instructor who taught me all I know about flying."
"No words of mine can express how much I owe to the man who gave me two years.... conferring on me, all his knowledge and skill."

Above: Beryl Markham


The Mansfield Robinson Trophy: For The Most Meritorious Flight Performed Each Year In East Africa.
This prestigious trophy was won the first three times in succession by the famous English aviator, Tom Campbell Black. 

Thank you to Chris Balm for supplying the photos  and information relating to this trophy.

Solid 9ct Gold "Mansfield Robinson" Aviation Trophy. 1928.

Unique and very important, solid 9ct gold trophy known as 'The Mansfield Robinson Golden Trophy'. It was presented annually by the Aero Club of East Africa for the most meritorious flight performed each year in East Africa.
This beautiful quality, handsome trophy was manufactured in London in 1928 by Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co. Ltd. The front of the cup bears an image of a biplane in flight and the reverse is engraved with the inscription, "Aero Club of East Africa - The Mansfield Robinson Trophy - For The Most Meritorious Flight Performed Each Year In East Africa". The trophy is stamped with a full English 9ct gold hallmark corresponding to the year 1928, the maker's initials, "G&S.Co" as well as the manufacturer's name under the base, "Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company Ltd., 112 Regents Street. W.". Overall height (including lid) : 221mm, Cup diameter : 108mm, Overall width (including handles) : 165mm. Total weight : 304 grams (9.7 Troy ounces). Very good condition.

This prestigious trophy was won the first three times in succession by the famous English aviator, Tom Campbell Black. In 1931 he was awarded the trophy for his competition flight in a deHavilland Puss Moth between the five capitals of East Africa, covering 1600 miles in little over 17 hours. Campbell Black was probably best known for winning the famous MacRobertson Air Race between London and Melbourne in 1934. He and C.W.A. Scott flew the legendary DH.88 Comet racing plane, "Grosvenor House", reaching Melbourne in just under three days.

The Aero Club of East Africa was formed in 1927 and is still in existence today.

Tom Campbell Black and Beryl Markham were both members of this club.



General References to Tom Campbell Black.

Manx Air Race 1932
The following report was made on an air race held at the Isle of Man, England: "Manx Air Race 1932. Held Saturday June 18th., total Island course 108 miles. At the end of the two laps it was Ashwell Cook with Tom Campbell Black as navigator, who came through to win in a Circus Moth aircraft averaging 102 M.P.H."

Spainish Civil War
In a Spanish [translated] site headed "In memory of all those that fought bravely and nobly furrowing the skies of Spain during the Civil War" [17th. July 1936-1939] Sub heading "Relation of Foreign Volunteers - Other British Pilots Related to the Civil War" Two of the pilots listed are:
"Tom Campbell Black, Pilot ferry in nationalistic zone." and "Owen Cathcart Jones, Pilot ferry in nationalistic zone." [Owen Cathcart Jones with Ken Waller also competed in the Mac Robertson London to Melbourne Air Race in 1934, flying one of the three Comets namely, No.19, G-ACSR, they finished in fourth place.]


Above: Left- Comet G-ACSR #19.  Right: Lt. Owen Cathcart Jones and Ken Waller arrive back in England in Comet G-ACSR after their quick turn around in Melbourne carrying film and photos of the finish of the Mac Robertson London to Melbourne Air Race, in doing so they set a new there and back again record of 13 days 6 hours 43 minutes .                                                                   

Above: Newspaper advertisement 1935, note name Lt. Owen Cathcart Jones. Refer above entries "Spanish Civil War" and "Comet G-ACSR."
Caption in the circle: "FLY with Lt. OWEN CATHCART JONES - FLY in T. CAMPBELL BLACK'S MACHINE"
[Referring to Comet G-ACSS #34]

Newspaper report, 27/3/1936 [excerpt]

Twelve pilots will take part in the British Empire Air Display to be presented by Mr. T. Campbell Black at Coal Aston, Sheffield, on Easter Monday

Newspaper advertisement 4/1936
British Empire and Air Display at Coal Aston, Norton, Sheffield, on Easter Monday, April 13th. Flights from 3/6 Admission 1/- Children 6d Cars 1/- Demonstrations of Flying Flea, Drone "King Bee" and Aerobatics. 12 other aircraft. Parachute. Races.

Newspaper report, 16/4/1936 [excerpt]
A similar air display to that given by Mr. Campbell Black's British Empire Air Display at Coal Aston Aerodrome, on Monday will be given to-day at the home of the Sheffield Aero Club at Neterthorpe- just off the Sheffield- Workshop road, near Shireoaks.
It is anticipated that Miss Florence Desmond, the wife of Mr. Campbell Black, and Miss Greta Nissen, will be present at the display."

Today?s Cinema News and Property Gazette. 16/3/1936 [excerpt]
Gaumont British announce a new box-office service of the greatest value to exhibitors; the creation of a regular air delivery service for specials, under the captaincy of the famous airman, Mr. T. Campbell Black.
"Mr. Black was a joint winner with scott of the Melbourne air race."
A complete schedule of times has been prepared having the precision of a railway time- table arranged in a series of schedules each classified under a letter. Exhibitors, therefore, on being notified that a reel will be delivered by, say, "Schedule K" will be able to know to the minute when they will get the news.
Mr. Black has been engaged as "Aviation Manager," and Gaumont-British state-
"By this new plan and a large number of planes, it will be possible, and it is the intention of G. B. News, to deliver to practically every town throughout the United Kingdom within four hours of the news-reel supplements being issued at the London laboratories."

Above: Left - Daily Mirror Newspaper, 3/1/1936. "The expert explains-Captain T. Campbell Black discussing an aeroplane engine with an appreciative audience after opening Selfridge's exhibition for the modern boy in London."
Right - Newspaper advertisement, Daily Mirror 3/6/1936, with Tom Campbell Black endorsing "The New Berkeley Superlax Arm Chair" 



Tom Campbell Black Married Florence Desmond.

Tom Campbell Black married the well known actress Florence Desmond [1905-1993] in March 1935, during their short lived life together they resided in Norfolk Road, St. John's Wood.

THE TIMES, newspaper report, April 1, 1935

Mr. T. Campbell Black, who with Mr. C.W.A. Scott won the Melbourne Air Racer last year, and Miss Florence Desmond, the actress, were married at St. James's Church, Piccadilly, on Saturday. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Black are flying to Morocco for their honeymoon. During their reception at Grosvenor House the bride and bridegroom were toasted by Sir MacPherson Robertson in the gold cup which he gave as a prize in the Mildenhall-Melbourne Air Race. Toasts were also proposed by Sir Harry Preston and Mr. C.B. Cochran.
Florence is well documented on the web, she was born Florence Elizabeth Dawson in London, England.

Above Left: Mr. and Mrs. Tom Campbell Black. Centre: Tom and Florence Black about to depart on board Lord Furness's Puss Moth aircraft, piloted by Tom, for their honeymoon in Morocco. Right: Mr. and Mrs. Tom Campbell Black. [Source: Derek Morrison]
A report in TIME - Newsmagazine, April 8, 1935: Married. Tom Campbell Black, Co Winner of the MacRobertson Trophy, England - to - Australia air race last autumn, [Time, Oct. 29] and Florence Desmond, British actress, in London.

Above: Left-Florence Desmond. Centre-Tom Campbell Black and his wife Florence, August 1935. Right-Cigarette card of Florence Desmond. 


In 1936 Tom Black had entered to fly in an air race from England to Johannesburg, South Africa, "The Schlesinger Race", flown on the 29th. September to 1st. October, the race offered a prize of 10,000 Pounds to the winner.

The following newspaper report relates to his entry into the Schlesinger race:

Daily Dispatch, newspaper report, 16/9/1936

" Miss Liverpool 1" Liverpools own plane in the Portsmouth to Johannesburg air race
, which is to start on September 29, is to be named at Speke Airport on Friday.
Captain Campbell Black, the famous airman, will pilot the machine in the race and will fly it to Speke to-morrow. The airport authorities are arranging for a public inspection of the plane at the airport.
It is not yet certain who will perform the naming ceremony, but it is understood that Sir Thomas White, leader of the City Council, will attend if he is in Liverpool.
The plane a Percival Mew Gull, is believed to have an average speed of more than 200 m.p.h.
Captain Campbell Black will give a demonstration of the machines capabilities after the christening ceremony, and on Saturday will fly it back to Gravesend for the final adjustments."


Above: Left. Tom Campbell Black with the Percival Mew Gull "Miss Liverpool" dated 17/9/1936 a couple of days prior to his death.
Centre. Christening of "Miss Liverpool" in front of a large crowd with Champagne flowing. Tom Black second from left.
Right. Tom Black climbs into the cockpit of "Miss Liverpool" after the christening ceremomy. [Source: Centre and right photos, Derek Morrison.]

While preparing for the race Tom Campbell Black was accidently killed in England at Liverpool's, Speke Airport, on the 19th. September 1936 in a ground collision with another aircraft. An R.A.F. bomber on landing collided with Tom Black's plane, the propeller of the bomber tore through the side of his plane, striking and killing him. The eventual winners of the "Schlesinger Race" were C.W.A. Scott and Giles Guthrie.


The following is a trancript of "Incidents Report at Speke Airport"- "On the 19th. September 1936 Flying Officer Peter Stanley Salter who was the Assistant Adjutant and Chief Flying Instructor of No. 611 Squadron collided in his Hawker Hart No. K3044 with the Persival Mew Gull G-AEKL piloted by Mr. Tom Campbell Black whilst taxiing on aerodrome after landing resulting in the death from his injuries of Mr. Tom Campbell Black as he was waiting to take off. Mr Tom Campbell Black who was best known for winning the air race held in 1934 from England to Australia, co-piloting the DH Comet Racer G-ACSS "Grosvenor House". Percival Mew Gull G-AEKL had just been named "Miss Liverpool" in a ceremony when the accident occurred. This aircraft was to have been used in an air race from England to South Africa that had been announced in 1936. The aircraft was sponsored by Mr. John Mores of Littlewoods. K3044 was written off but G-AEKL was repaired only to be destroyed in an air raid at Lympne on the 3rd. July 1940. Status, Pilot, Flying Officer, Peter Stanley Salter, OK. Status , Civilian, Tom Campbell Black, Killed."

Above: A photo of the wrecked R.A.F. Hawker Hart Bomber No. K3044 after it collided with Tom Campbell Black's plane at Speke Airport.

Alex Henshaw, an accomplished aviator, winner of the 17th. 1012 mile "Kings Cup Air Race" in 1938 flying the same model of aircraft as Tom Campbell Black was killed in, stated of the Persival Mew Gull:
"The Mew Gull was not an ideal aircraft for a long-distance record flight. The cockpit was extremely cramped, being only about two feet wide, and just high enough to clear the pilot's head. Additional fuel tanks were fitted to extend the range to over 1200 miles, and these when full, shifted the centre of gravity so far back that a special certificate of airworthiness had to be issued, which lapsed upon completion of the flight. The view forward was so poor on the ground that Henshaw devised a system of taxiing which involved walking beside the aircraft with the canopy open and his hand on the throttle! This feature almost certainly contributed to the tragic death of Campbell Black, who was killed when his Mew Gull was involved in a collision with a Hawker Hart while taxiing on the ground."

The following are newspaper reports of the accidental death and obituaries of Tom Campbell Black: 

THE TIMES, newspaper report 21/9/1936
At the aerodrome at Speke, the airport of Liverpool, Captain T. Campbell Black, the airman, was killed yesterday in extraordinary circumstances.
On Friday he was present at the naming of the aeroplane Miss Liverpool, which he was to have flown in the Portsmouth-Johannesburg race on September 29, and within 24 hours he was dead as a result of injuries received in the machine, which had been purchased and entered in the race on behalf of Liverpool by Mr. John Moores.
A fine day and the prospect of seeing Captain Black demonstrate the grace and speed of the machine attracted a very large crowd to the airport yesterday, and the spectators were shocked to see a collision on the ground. While Miss Liverpool was taxi-ing at a moderate speed a Royal Air Force machine, a Hawker Hart Light Bomber, landed, and, taxi-ing, crashed into the smaller aeroplane head on.
Stuck By Airscrew
The airscrew slashed the wing of the Miss Liverpool and made a big gash in the cockpit, and Captain Black was struck on the shoulder
. The aerodrome fire van and ambulance were hurried to the spot, and within a few minutes of the collision Captain Black had been lifted out of the damaged plane and taken to Garston Hospital. According to an airport official he was unconscious, and his shoulder and left arm were terribly injured. He was dead by the time the hospital was reached.
The R.A.F. pilot escaped with slight injury to one of his legs, but the front of his machine was torn open and one of the wings crumpled. It is believed that Captain Black's plane, being low on the ground and having a white fuselage and black wings, only 3 ft. to 4 ft. from the grass, could not be seen by the other pilot.
It was officially confirmed at the Air Ministry last night that the R.A.F. officer involved in the crash was Flying Officer P.S. Salter.He is attached to No. 611 [West Lancashire] [Bomber] Squadron, No. 6 [Auxiliary] Group,with headquarters at Speke Aerodrome.
Captain Black's wife, Miss Florence Desmond, the actress, accompanied by his parents, Mr.and Mrs. Milner Black, later arrived at Liverpool and were met by Mr. and Mrs. John Moores.
The inquest will be opened this morning, and Captain Black's body will be taken to Londonon the 2.15 pm. train from Lime Street, Liverpool. The funeral will be at Golders Green Crematorium at Noon on Wednesday. Mrs. Campbell Black has received the following telegram from Lord Swinton, Secretary of State for Air:
"Greatly shocked to hear news of fatal accident to your husband, and wish to convey my very sincere condolences with you in your great loss. Your husbands career was worthy of the best traditions of British aviation, and his loss will be universally deplored.
Swinton, Air Ministry."
Sir Francis Shelmerdine, Director of Civil Aviation, sent the following message from hiswife and himself:
"We are most deeply distressed to hear of your husband’s death as a result of a flying accident, and we send you our heartfelt sympathy."
The Secretary of State for Air has received a message of condolence from M. Pierre Cot, the French Minister for Air, and has sent a suitable acknowledgement.

Evening News, newspaper report, 23/9/1936 [excerpt]

Men and women waited outside the home of Mrs. Campbell Black
[Miss Florence Desmond] in Norfolk- road, St. John's Wood, to-day, to see the departure her husbands funeral cortege for Golder's Green Crematorium.
The crowd became so large that foot and mounted police were summoned to keep the people from approaching too near.
Inside the house rested the plain oak coffin, covered in a Union Jack. On it lay an enormous wreath of red and white roses- Mrs. Black's wreath of red and white roses.
As she stood before the coffin she said: "I chose red and white roses because they were the flowers which I had in my wedding bouquet-he will understand."
Over and over again, she repeated: "I cannot believe it!"
Room full of flowers.
The room was filled with flowers, and so was the hall and even the carriage way. Many of the wreaths bore moving inscriptions.
When the cortege left people climbed on walls and railings to see it pass, and there were deep murmurs of sympathy as Mrs. Black entered her car. Crowds lined the Finchley road, and the courtyard of the Chapel.

Above: Left: Funeral of Tom Campbell Black: "A sympathetic crowd watching the cars leave Norfolk road to-day" 
Right: Tom's wife Florence and his father Hugh Milner Black leaving her St. John's Wood home. 23/9/1936.

THE TIMES, newspaper report, Monday September 21, 1936.

Mr.*Thomas Campbell Black, who perished in an air collision at Liverpool on Saturday at the age of 47, was a highly experienced pilot and the holder of various records.
With Mr. C.W.A. Scott he won for Britian the great air race from England to Australia in October 1934. they accomplished the journey in a De Havilland Comet from Mildenhall to Melbourne in 70 hours 54 minutes. The fastest flight to Australia ever done before took six days 17 hours 56 Minutes, and that was only to Darwin which is over 2000 miles nearer than Melbourne. Black and Scott thus won the MacPherson Robertson Cup and 10,000 Pound first prize. Black was preparing for a solo flight to the Cape, and early this month went into training with Len Harvey, former heavy weight boxing champion, in order to be perfectly fit to stand the strain.
Born at Brighton in **1889, the son of Alderman H. Milner Black, a former Mayor of that town, he was educated at Brighton College and afterwards at the Naval College, Greenwich. He served in the War in the Royal Naval Air Service and also in the Royal Air Force.
Much of his post war flying was between England and Kenya, where he was a farmer and a pioneer of civil aviation. He made 13 flights between the colony and England,

founded Wilson Airways, Limited, in Kenya, and established air routes over that part of Africa.
In 1929, accompanied by a mechanic and a women passenger, he flew from Nairobi to England in eight days, establishing the fastest time for the journey. He acted as temporary pilot King Edward VIII during his visit as Prince of Wales to East Africa in 1930. He was also private pilot to lord Furness. In April 1930, he pioneered the first non stop flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi in five hours 20 minutes.The journey usually took two days. In this flight he made the first aeroplane landing on the island of Zanzibar, and also linked up by air the capitals of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar.
In March, 1931, Black, who was at Malakal, heard that the famous German "ace" Ernst Udet, who was one of Richtofen's "Flying Circus" during the War, was missing somewhere in the Sudan. He set out on the air search and eventually rescued Udet, who was on the verge of starvation when found. In 1931 he set up a new Puss Moth record by covering 1600 miles in a single day. In March, 1935, he married Miss Florence Desmond, the actress, and they flew to Morocco for their honeymoon. At the reception Sir MacPherson Robertson toated the pair in the gold cup which he had given for the England to Australia race. In 1935 Black registered a new company, Campbell Black [Aviation] Limited, to undertake all kinds of aerial transport, and he and his wife were the two directors. He was awarded the Mansfield Robertson Trophy by the Aero Club of East Africa for the most meritorious flights in each of the years 1929 and 1930. The Royal Aeronautical Society awarded him the Britannia Trophy for 1934 and the British Silver Medal for outstanding achievements in aeronautical science.
In August, 1935, he made an attempt on the Cape record in Mr. ***C.W.A. Nicholson's De Havilland Comet twin engined aeroplane. But the oil supply was exhausted and he abandoned the attempt at Cairo. Not withstanding this, he had again put up a record in that he had flown 2,240 miles in 11 hours 18 minutes, representing an average speed of ****109 m.p.h., and had landed at Cario 20 hours quicker than any previous record. In September 1935, with Mr. J.H.G. McArthur, he took off from Hatfield in Mr. Nicholson's Comet in another attempt on the record flight to Capetown. In the early stages they made excellent progress, but both the engines failed and they came down near Kabushia, in the Sudan, 100 miles North of Khartoum. The machine burst into flames. Black's escape from death was remarkable, for he and his co pilot, J.H.G. McArthur, came down in the desert by parachute. Black landed safely, but McArthur was unconscious, knocked out by a collision with a tree trunk. Freindly natives arrived on camels and the two airmen were taken to the nearest village and entertained by a hospitable sheikh. Black owed his escape to his wife, he had never used a parachute before, but just before his departure she persuaded him to sacrifice his overcoat for a parachute. He protested at first, but finally consented.
When the Spainish civil war broke out it was reported that Black, who knew Spain well, having sold British machines to flying clubs in the south, went there on a "mystery flight" with two Spainish insurgents. It was stated that he had been commissioned by a secret agency set up in Paris to smuggle exciled insurgent leaders back to Spain.
The funeral will be on Wednesday at Golders Green Crematorium at noon.

[Note: Corrections to the original article: * Tom Campbell Black ** Born 1899. ***Cyril Nicholson, writer could be confused with C.W.A Scott.
****Average speed would be abt. 198 m.p.h. ]

September 24, 1936
page 79

Campbell Black: The Man.
A Happy, Modest Spirit.

If ever a man was blessed with a happy spirit, that man was Tom Black. His sunny nature won for him hosts of friends everywhere.
He always looked on the bright side, and he always found a way of overcoming difficulties. His modesty was no pose; it was the real thing, despite the high position he had won for himself in aviation. Dapper, debonair, soft spoken, with a pleasant sense of humour that was Tom Black, whom his friends will remember as a man who always kept smiling.
As a pilot he could not have been surpassed. I say that with vivid recollections of sitting behind him, watching him handle a little machine in the teeth of an 80-mile an hour gale. His hand moved on the " joy-stick " like lightning, and none but a born airman could have brought his machine through the storm which struck us when we left Croydon for Nairobi just seven years ago. It was my first flight, and I still marvel at his navigation, as I admired his nerve.
His courage in the air had been proved again and again, and though sometimes people said he took unnecessary risks, his uncanny skill brought him through.
We were flying at 5,000 ft. on our way to Paris. Suddenly, when about 50 miles from Le Bourget, all three engines cut out, and we began a series of spirals until he made a perfect landing on a field. " How�s that for a forced landing?" he called out. I asked why a forced landing. "We haven�t any petrol," came the reply. There was literally none, we had to pull the machine over to the shelter of some trees.

Courage and Skill.
In another forced landing near Rome he missed the telegraph wires skirting the field by not more than a foot. He knew it�and knew that he had to do it to put the machine down safely in the twilight. Yet there was no boast; nothing beyond, " Well, here we are."
When we took off from Mongalla aerodrome, then rain-sodden, he knew we had to be air-born half-way across the field in order to clear a range of trees. But in taxi-ing it was plain that we could not do it. Nearer and nearer came a low hedge; yet he could not get the speed necessary to lift.
Suddenly, when it seemed to me that we must crash, he pulled the stick back and we literally jumped into the air. In front was a gap in the row of trees and by dint of the most marvellous steering he went through the gap with the smallest possible margin on either wing.
He was justly proud of his part in winning the Australia air race. As I sat beside him as he awoke on the morning after his arrival in London, he told me simply that he felt he had achieved something for aviation. But there was no boasting; no hint of the very great part he had played in winning the race.
He had a fine descriptive power in conversation, and for an hour he held me spellbound with the story of how he and Scott had hurtled across Australia with one engine out of commission.
It was not the first time such a thing had happened to him, for on our flight to Kenya an important part of the engine had rushed past the window of our cabin as we flew over Egypt. Yet he managed to keep the machine at practically the same height on the other two engines until we reached Cairo.
One of the finest tributes I have seen paid to two men occurred when Black and Scott were entertained by the Royal Aero Club on their return from Australia. Twelve hundred people came to do them honour, and among the guests were Black�s mother, of whom he was very fond, his father, and his sister. It is given to few parents to witness such an explosion of enthusiasm for a son as occurred when the toast of the two winners was given.
Tom was fond of children, and among his many photographs was one of a group of children seated in the cockpit of the " Knight of the Grail." After a forced landing, he went to take off the following morning, only to find several French peasant families grouped round the machine. He asked if the kiddies would like to go into the cockpit, and helped to lift them up into the machine and to his seat. There he stood with them, while one of the
parents took a picture.�.and, true to her promise, afterwards sent it to him. He treasured it.
An all-round sportsman, he was an expert rider, and often rode in races in Nairobi and Nakuru. He was good at squash�and at least one man in the Sudan knows of his skill at table tennis. We had landed at Wadi Haifa in the early evening and had gone to the club for an hour before dinner
The local champion invited him to a game of table tennis, and was unmercifully beaten.

A Keen Sense of Humour.
Black was not a man who could normally be relied upon to be punctual, but there was a notable exception. In 1929 he was chartered by two Americans in Nairobi, but his machine would carry only one�and that one (who was suitably nicknamed "Tiny ") found it difficult to fit himself into the passenger seat. So his friend left by ship, arranging to meet Black and "Tiny "at St. Raphael at noon 12 or 13 days later. Owing to various
private matters Black did not leave Kenya until six days before he was due to reach the South of France, but he kept to his time schedule so accurately during the journey that he reached St. Raphael with five minutes to spare, and characteristically occupied that five minutes by flying over the town and alighting just as the clock struck.
This puckish sense of humour won him many friends of all nationalities. With French airmen he was thoroughly at home, and he amused some Italian peasants so much when we were forced to spend an evening on their farm that they insisted on writing their names and addresses on the back leaf of our passports, exacting a promise that when ever he flew over their farm again he would at least circle round. Yet his knowledge of Italian was almost nil.
Once he reached the office of East Africa and Rhodesia at which he was a frequent and welcome visitor driving a magnificent car. As we entered Marylebone Road policemen were seen to be posted at each corner, and from the people who lined the street it was evident that Royalty was due to pass. It was Black�s opportunity. As we passed each policeman he solemnly raised his hat in greeting, and the constables, bewildered, but equal to the occasion, sprang smartly to attention.
It is as such that he would wish his friends to remember him as jovial, witty, sometimes perhaps happy-go-lucky personality. Those memories will not fade, but they will be blended with recollections of a man of great aeronautical skill and outstanding personal courage whose name will be preserved in the history of aviation and of the development of East African communications, in which he was so notable a pioneer.

G-AEKL Repaired to fly again.
The Percival Mew Gull G-AEKL, in which Tom Black was so tragically killed, was purchased, repaired and flown by Charles Gardner in the 1937 Kings Cup Race in the colour blue. Gardner won the race. Giles Guthrie raced her in 1938 with red and gold coloured trim.

G-AEKL No.21 winner of the Kings Cup Race 1937. Pilot, Charles Gardner, sat in the cockpit.


 ABOVE: C.W.A. SCOTT [Source: Scott's Book.]


ABOVE: The gold watch presented to C.W.A Scott by "News Of The World" at a function held at Grosvenor House Hotel on the 20th. December, 1934, in honour of Charles Scott and Campbell Black's wonderful achievement of winning the Mildenhall to Melbourne Air Race. The photos of Scott and Black were inserted in the menu for the function that evening. The insciption on the watch reads:

"Presented by News Of The World To Charles W. A. Scott being a Memento of the Mildenhall to Melbourne Air Race October 1934 Which he won with T. Campbell Black as Co-Pilot In The Epoch Making Time of 70 Hours 54 Minutes"

Source: From the private collection of John......, England.


During the years following his great victory he bathed in the constant light of praise, flattery and adulation. His memoirs were serialized in one London newspaper and he joined the staff of another. Night after night he was invited to dinners and celebrations; everyone wanted to meet him and fawn on him. In 1936, when he won the Rand Race with Guthrie in a Percival Vega Gull, flying from Portsmouth to Johannesburg in fifty-two hours and fifty-six minutes, the fever broke out afresh. King Edward VIII congratulated him and a few days later the Lord Mayor of London received him at the Mansion House. He could do no wrong. Journalists composed long eulogies, pointing outthat he was not only a superb airman but a fine boxer who had held both the heavyweight and cruiserweight titles of the RAF. Also he was an excellent yachtsman, a member of the West Mersea club. Such sustained and feverish adulation would have been hard for anyone to take; and though Scott remained unaffected in the company of air-men, it was noticed that he had begun drinking rather heavily. Then, with the Munich crisis, the adulation stopped, and there were no more articles, no more contracts to be picked up from the Press.
 During the war, Scott served for a time as an ARP ambulance driver; then he joined the RNVR as a lieutenant, and took part in the Dakar landing. He also spent a period as an Atlantic ferry pilot. But he found obscurity hard to accept; he realized that his world had gone for ever. In 1945 the race to Melbourne was as remote in most people's minds as Waterloo or the sinking of the Armada, six years of war having erected a great barrier of experience and feeling and loss. However he tried, Scott could not succeed in making a place for himself, could not find a job where his great experience and flair had any place. He was divorced, married a second wife, and was divorced again, and any stable relationship now seemed beyond him. Only alcohol brought any relief, and that was temporary. In 1946 he obtained a post with UNRRA, the United Nations agency, and went out to the headquarters in Germany.
And it was here on 15 April that he shot himself. He was forty-two years old.
[Above excerpt from "The Great Air Race" by Arthur Swinson, first published 1968.]




THE RECORD THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN- London to Capetown and back in 1935: Tom Campbell Black and James Henry Gordon McArthur and the new Super Comet "Boomerang"- There were two attempts one on the 8/8/1935 and the other on the 21/9/1935.

The following references to Tom Black are recorded in the history of "Firbeck Hall 1935-1939" by Noel Wade. An elegant country home in England dating from circa 1585 that in the mid 1930's was converted into one of the country's most exclusive sporting country clubs.

"FIRBECK HALL 1935-1939"
Above: Firbeck Hall Sporting Country Club.

"An aerodrome had been constructed to the west of the hall under the direction of Capt. Tom Campbell Black the joint winner of the 1934 Mildenhall-Melbourne Air Race. Cyril Nicholson had funded the purchase of a de Havilland 88 Comet in 1935 at a cost of 10,000 pounds for [Tom] Campbell Black to attempt further endurance flights. It was intended to name the aircraft "Firbeck" and start many of the flights from Firbeck following the extension to the length of the aerodrome to accommodate the heavily laded aircraft during take off. Lady Fielding convinced Cyril Nicholson to name the plane "Boomerang" as it would always come back. Boomerang did not live up to her name and in a near fatal accident over Africa the Comet was written off and [Tom] Campbell Black's aspirations of flying from Firbeck to the Cape and back in a weekend came to an end. It was Tom Campbell Black's previous connections with the Prince of Wales during their flights looking for game in Africa that persuaded the Prince equerry to alter the itinerary of a royal engagement to Sheffield and visit the club."

Sheffield Telegraph, newspaper, 12/7/1935.
New Club Arouses the Prince's Admiration
The Prince was impressed with the appearances of Firbeck Hall and he inspected the club premises.
Presented to him by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield were: Lord and Lady Fielding; Mr. Cyril Nicholson and his wife and daughter; and Captain Campbell Black, the airman, and his actress bride, Miss Florence Desmond.
The Prince then walked through the ballroom to the swimming pool, where a large number of members were bathing. He expressed his admiration of the club and was particularly interested, as a keen golfer, in the golf course.
He later partook of tea on the terrace overlooking the bathing pool, and the members gave him an enthusiastic send off when he left for his ?plane.

Boomerang was registered as G-ADEF and was the fifth and last DH88 Comet ever built, the so called Super Comet, she was painted silver and blue. During the second record attempt to Cape Town, mentioned above, Tom campbell Black and his co-pilot had to abandon Boomerang by parachute over Sudan, the plane was destroyed. The following is the story of both attempts to set a new record to CapeTown and back as reported in the newspapers of the day. [copies of original newspaper articles contributed by Noel Wade, England.]

Above: Tom Campbell Black and "Boomerang" 7/8/1935.

Sheffield Telegraph, newspaper report, 29/7/1935. [excerpt]
As announced in the "Sheffield Telegraph" last April, Mr. Cyril A. Nicholson, a well known Sheffield stockbroker, and proprietor of the Firbeck Country Club, is financing the spectacular series of record attempting flights which are to be under taken next month by Mr. T. Campbell Black, joint hero with Mr. C. W. A. Scott of the memorable flight from England to Australia last October.
Mr. Black has planned to attempt the 14,000 miles flight from England to South Africa and back in five days; England to Hong Kong and back [16,000 miles] in five days; and England to Canada and back [4800 miles] in a week-end.
His flights will be made in a remarkable new Comet machine which has been constructed for him at a cost of 10,000 Pounds."

Above: Left-Comet "Boomerang" G-ADEF. Pilot: Tom Campbell Black.

Newspaper report, 9/8/1935. [excerpt]
From our Air Correspondent.
In his new monoplane, Boomerang, Mr. T. Campbell Black started from Hatfield Aerodrome yesterday evening on his effort to set up a new record for a flight from London to Capetown and back.
The start was made within an hour of the christening of the machine. While waiters carried out champagne for the christening, mechanics were giving the machine the "once over" and putting in flasks of tea and coffee for the journey.
Mr. Black got away at 5.30. He had hoped to start even earlier, but he was delayed by sparking plug problems, and had to turn back twice after starting to taxi across the aerodrome. Once a pilot landed in his path and then a plane took off and made the Boomerang swerve. The machine a D.H. Comet, was expected to reach Cairo, by dawn today.
Mr. Cyril Nicholson, of Sheffield, the donor of the machine, in which several attempts on existing records will be made, presided at the christening ceremony.
"After months of work," he said "we are privileged to admire, the product of the skill, ingenuity, and resource of British aircraft manufacture at its best."
He said he was convinced that the major benefits of the Australian air race would be lost to British industry if it were not followed by flights such as those Mr. Black was undertaking.
Lady Fielding then broke a bottle of champagne over the nose of the machine , named it Boomerang and wished its pilots safe, sound, and successful flights.
In the little group surrounding the monoplane, standing beside Captain Campbell Black was his wife, Miss Florence Desmond, a slim fair haired figure in a simple white frock, who spoke earnestly to her husband, and Mr. Black's mother and father and brother.
Mr. Black who is accompanied on the flight by Mr. James Henry Gordon McArthur, is carrying two parachutes in the plane."

Above: Left-The christening of "Boomerang" L-R Cyril Nicholson, Lady Fielding, J.H.G. McArthur, Florence and Tom Black, Tom's mother Alice Jean nee McCullough, his brother Frank and Father Hugh Milner Black.  Right- Tom Black and J.H.G. McArthur farewell friends and family from the cockpit of Boomerang shortly after the Comet's christening ceremony on the 8/8/1935.

Above: "Boomerang" takes off for the Cape 8/8/1935.

Daily Independent, newspaper report, 10/8/1935 [excerpt]
After creating a record for the first stage of his flight as far as Cairo, Mr. T Campbell Black yesterday morning decided to abandon his attempt to fly to Capetown in 36 hours, and return to London.
Mr. Black told Reuter in an interview that his plane had developed engine trouble, and that he was afraid that one of the engines would have to be overhauled.
"I noticed the feed pump was not working satisfactorily some 90 minutes before reaching Cairo" he said."
"He landed in Cairo yesterday morning after having covered the 2,240 miles separating Hatfield and Cairo in 11 hours and 18 minutes. The next stop was to have been Kisumu in Kenya."
"The present record for the flight from England to Cape Town is held by Mrs. Mollison, who made the trip in 4 days 6 hours and 54 minutes in December, 1932."

Daily Telegraph, newspaper report, 13/8/1935. [excerpt]
Mr. T. Campbell Black and his co-pilot Mr. J. H. G. McArthur arrived back at Croydon last night in their Comet mono-plane from Cairo, where they had been obliged to land owing to engine trouble when attempting to set up a new record for a flight to the Cape and back again."
"We hope," said Mr. Campbell Black, "that the overhaul of our machine will be completed before the end of next week. We are only too anxious to set off again"

News Of The World, 22/9/1935 [excerpt]
Captain Tom Campbell Black, accompanied by J. H. G. McArthur, began from Hatfield yesterday the delayed flight which he anticipates will establish for Great Britain a new record for the trip to Cape Town and Back.
Since the failure of that first attempt, when one of the engines gave out over the Mediterranean and Campbell Black and his companion had to return from Cairo, the Boomerang-as the monoplane is neatly named - has been thoroughly overhauled and re-tested."


Above: Tom farewells Florence and gives interview for the news media prior to his second attempt on the Cape Town record, 21/9/1935. Right: L-R Tom, Florence and McArthur standing beside Boomerang.

 Newspaper report, 23/9/1935. [excerpt]
After Flight To Cairo In 11 Hours.
Mr. T. Campbell Black is racing across Africa in his De Havilland Comet aeroplane Boomerang on the second "hop" of his attempt to fly to Capetown in 2 days.
Accompanied by Mr. J. H. G. McArthur, relief pilot, he arrived at Cairo at 3.20 a.m. yesterday [G.M.T.] from Hatfield Aerodrome, Hertford-shire. He took off again an hour later for Kisumu [Central Africa] a distance of more than 2,000 miles, adds Reuter."

 Newspaper report 23/9/1935
After a great flight from Hatfield to Cairo, accomplished in record time, Capt. T. Campbell Black was reported late last night to have passed over Wady Halfa, on the Egypt-Sudan border, on his way to Cape Town.
If luck remains with him he should accomplish the out ward stage of the Cape and back flight in the remarkable time of about 2 days.
He left Hatfield at 4.11 p.m. on Saturday. By arriving at Cairo at 3.20 a.m. , B.S.T., he beat his previous record of 11 hr. 18 min. for that flight by nine minutes. He left Cario at 4.23 a.m.
On landing at the Egyptian capital the first thing he asked for was a cigarette. He then instructed engineers to look at the port engine, which had been "missing."
He suggested that the cause of the trouble was probably the change from cold to hot air affecting the carburettor mixture.
The magneto was examined, and it was ascertained that there was nothing wrong with it. After refuelling, Capt. Campbell Black, who was accompanied by Mr. J. H. G. McArthur, co-pilot and wireless operator, continued the journey. both airmen were in the happiest mood.
They arrived at Wady Halfa, 580 miles from Cario, at 8.25 a.m. B.S.T. They continued their flight without landing.
The three stages of the flight are:
London-Cairo.................2,210 miles
Cario-Kisumu.................2100 miles
Kisumu-Cape Town 2600 miles
Capt. Campbell Black is flying a de Havilland Comet, "Boomerang," which has a cruising speed of 220 m.p.h. and a maximum speed of 235 m.p.h. He is carrying 250 gallons of petrol.
Before he left Hatfield he said: "I propose to make three stops- at Cario, Kisumu, and Cape Town if my range will allow it, but I may possibly have to make a fourth stop between Kisumu and Cape Town, at a landing place to be decided upon en route.
"I shall stay in Cape Town, but I do not know for how long, and then try to come back"
Mrs. Campbell Black [Miss Florence Desmond, the actress] watched him leave the aerodrome. Before he took off she saw that four vacuum flasks were stowed away in the cockpit. Asked if her husband was taking any mascot, she replied, ?some photos of me."
When she was told yesterday of her husband's arrival at Cairo, Mrs. Black said, "It is marvellous. Tom did not think he would beat the previous time he set up to Cairo, but he has done so, despite the fact that he started with adverse winds. I am glad the night is over and he now has the daylight before him for his long flight through the heart of Africa."
Capt. Campbell Black, with Mr. C.W.A. Scott , won the England -Australia Air Race last year. They arrived at Melbourne on Oct. 23, having accomplished the flight in 2 days 23 hrs. 18 secs.
On Aug. 8, 1934, Capt. Campbell Black left Hatfield at 5.30 p.m., in an attempt to fly to Cape Town and back in five days. He was accompanied by Mr. McArthur, and after reaching Cairo in the record time of 11 hrs. 18 mins., at an average speed 198 m.p.h., was forced to abandon the attempt on account of engine trouble.
The present record - England to the Cape - is held by Mrs. Amy Mollison, who flew from Lympne to Cape Town in November, 1932 in 4 days, 6 hrs., 53 mins. Mrs. Mollison broke the record held by her husband by 10 hrs. 29 mins.

 Newspaper report, 24/9/1935 [excerpt]
Their Comet aeroplane, the Boomerang, was last seen flying over Wadi Halfa, on the Egypt-Sudan frontier, at 8.25 a.m. on Sunday.
At about 2.30 yesterday afternoon they suddenly appeared riding on camels at Kabushia, 130 miles north of Khartoum.
They reported, says Reuter, that Boomerang had crashed to the west of Kabushia railway station on Sunday morning.
In Flames.
Both of them had time to leap clear in mid-air and descend safely by parachute on the west bank of the Nile.
The machine burst into flames as it struck the ground, and was completely destroyed.
Last night they arrived in Atbara - one of the hottest places in the world - in a goods train.
Miss Desmond was in a London news theatre when the first messages of her husband?s escape reached this country.
"I had been nearly mad with worry." She revealed that just before the Boomerang left Hatfield Aerodrome, Herts, she persuaded her husband to sacrifice his overcoat for a parachute, despite his mild protest that he would be quite all right.
"He had never used one before" she said.
Mr. And Mrs. H. Milner Black, Mr. Black's parents, who live in Brighton were overjoyed when they heard that their son was safe.
"Is Mr. McArthur all right , too?" was Mr. Black's first question.
By their jump for life both Mr. Black and Mr. McArthur have qualified for membership in the Caterpillar Club.
There is only one qualification - to have been saved from certain death by a parachute descent."

Above: Tom Campbell Black [left] being indoctrinated into the "Caterpillar Club." October 1935.

Newspaper report, 24/9/1935 [excerpt]
Miss Florence Desmond, the actress wife of Mr. Campbell Black, had a "hunch" that he would need a parachute on his attempt to make a record flight from England to the Cape and back - and she made him wear one.
"You don?t know how wonderful it is to think that my hunch has saved his life," she said last night.
Her husband and his co-pilot J.G. McArthur, had been missing for 30 hours."

Daily Telegraph, newspaper report, 24/9/1935 [excerpt]
"CAIRO, Monday.
Every aerodrome on the route to the Cape had kept ceaseless watch since it became clear last evening that Capt. Campbell Black was missing. At Kisumu, 2100 miles from here, for which he was making, flares were kept at hand all night ready to burn should the drone of an engine in the sky signal that a ?plane was in the vicinity.
Messages of enquiry were sent from Cairo to every point along the route which had means of wireless or telegraphic communication, but without result."

Daily Exchange, newspaper report, 24/9/1935 [excerpt]
Khartoum, Monday.
The deep anxiety felt for him and his co-pilot, Mr. J. G. McArthur, in their Cape-and-back flight was dispelled this afternoon when they rode into Kabushia, 130 miles to the north of Khartoum, on camels.
It was half-past two this afternoon that they suddenly turned up at Kabushia.
They reported that they crashed to the west of Kabushia railway station yesterday morning.
Their plane was burned out. They escaped injury.
They jumped from the machine as it fell and landed safely by parachute on the west bank of the Nile.
They are now proceeding to Atbara on a goods train.- Reuter."
Daily Telegraph, newspaper report, 24/9/1935 [excerpt]

Above: L-R Cyril Nicholson, Tom Campbell Black, his wife Florence nee Desmond and co-pilot J.H.G. McArthur, examine one of the parachutes that Tom and McArthur carried, at Tom's wife's request, that ultimately saved their lives.

Above caption: "In view of the trouble our fliers always have in finding a desert goods train
or something in which to finish their flights to the Cape, the Air Ministry will insist that a spare
Camel be carried on this route in future." [The Evening Standard. Saturday, september 28, 1935.]

News of the World, 29/9/1935

To-day the ?News of the World" publishes exclusively the story for which the nation has been waiting- Captain Tom Campbell Black?s own personal account of the air drama played out above an African desert, the destruction of his wonderful Comet monoplane, and the safe deliverance by parachute of himself and his co-pilot, J. H. G. McArthur.
Until the vivid and vibrant cables arrived from the co-adventurers, the world knew nothing of the breathtaking moments that preceded their escape; moments when it seemed that a force with which they had not reckoned would hold them prisoners in their seats and send them crashing to destruction with the doomed machine.
As they prepared for the parachute descent from the Boomerang, then shooting rapidly earthwards, a terrific inrush of air hurtled them back into the cockpit, but a moment later providentially flung McArthur head first over the opposite side from the one he had chosen for the drop.
Black a shoe ripped from one foot as he struggled to get clear, "and the earth coming swiftly to meet me," followed a minute later.
he dominant thought of each pilot as he floated down was for the safety of the other.
Campbell Black was the more fortunate. He arrived to find McArthur unconscious - knocked out by collision with a tree trunk as the parachute swung him like the pendulum of a clock.
Succour came quickly in the shape of friendly native and their camels, and ?
But let Campbell Black tell the story .................
By Tom Campbell Black.
I am cabling from Atbara. You should see Atbara and live in it for a day. A day would be enough.
They tell me it is one of the hottest places on earth. Undoubtably they speak the truth.
But Atbara is Paradise. At least, it was Paradise to McArthur and I when we came rolling in on a camel train last night.
The camels are going to Kassala for dispatch to Eritrea. The Italians want them in their preparations for war.
Well, we?ve had another go to get to Cape Town and back quicker than anybody has done the double journey yet. Again we failed.
Distressed? Of Course. Who wouldn?t be?
Finished with records? Not on your life.
As a matter of fact, Mac and I are coming home, hoping to find backing for another attempt.
Optimism, effrontery-call it what you like-but we are hoping just the same.
When we got to Cairo in 11 hours and 10 minutes, and the beautiful machine, now an ugly, twisted pile in the African scrub, was answering perfectly to every touch and turn, I was confident of hitting Cape Town well under two days.
So much for cocksuredness.
The only satisfaction is the knowledge that I have just stepped out of the most adventurous experience of my career.

On the very night of our departure we struck enormous and impenetrable thunder clouds, and
electric charges flashed across the Boomerang from one metal propeller to the other. They lit us up as though we were on fire.
Solid sheets of water swirled around us and hemmed us in so that we could see nothing for hours, but we groped a way successfully over the Mediterranean and went down into Cairo ahead of time.
Great bare patches along the wings of the monoplane, where the force of water had cut under the paint-work, were eloquent of the conditions through which we had flown.
Rapid inspection of the motors at Cairo, and an even quicker refuel, enabled us to leave a few minutes in front of schedule and we headed south on the second hop to Kisumu.
Our course would have taken us right off the usual beaten track, but, after two hours and a half, the Boomerang?s port engine began to loose revolutions.
McArthur immediately got into wireless touch with an Imperial Airways machine flying down the Nile, reported the trouble, and asked at which Imperial station we were most likely to obtain quick repairs.
Possibly the responsibility of advising a suitable aerodrome for landing the heavily- laden Comet required considerable thought, and, as time slipped by without answer, I got McArthur to wind in the aerial and help me at the controls.
The machine at that stage required a great force to maintain height.


We decided then to turn towards the river and make for Khartum.
Suddenly the starboard motor developed trouble also, and we could no longer keep our altitude.
Gradually the ?plane dropped to 4,000feet.
We hoped, however, to remain airborne long enough to make the journey, but from here onwards we were on constant watch for more open country, where if imperative, we might pull off a landing.
While passing over heavy bush the motor suddenly lost several hundred more revolutions, I suppose, to the strain imposed by flying in a semi-stalled condition with insufficient revolutions.
Then something went on the starboard propeller, and the vibration momentarily suggested that Boomerang had broken in two.
In the hot dry atmosphere she continued to drop at over ........m.p.h. and still nothing below offered the faintest possibility of landing. Bush was everywhere.
I write the simple truth in saying that we nearly stayed too long before deciding on our parachutes.
Remember, we were rapidly getting lower all the time.
Finally we prepared to release the cockpit cover and get out.
Our decisions had already been made.
I was to stall the machine, so that McArthur could jump clear and avoid being fouled by the rudder or elevator behind, and I was to follow him as soon as practicable.
Here, however, our plans went amiss,
Immediately the cockpit cover was released it thundered back into the tail mounting and the terrific inrush of wind, hitting both of use full in the chests, forced us down in our seats.
At the same time, the machine, which I had stalled in order to get clear, whipped into the most vicious spinning nose dive I had ever experienced. In that fleeting second as Boomerang hurtled to the desert we were both trapped and held by the in rushing air, and, strive as we did, we could not escape.
I caught sight of McArthur struggling desperately to clear the starboard side, but the wind drove him down, and finally threw him head first out of the other side.

I saw the ground rushing headlong towards me then, and made a last desperate effort to get out.
Hazily I remember noticing that one shoe, momentarily caught in a control, had been ripped from my foot, and then, in the next second, I felt myself lifted backwards by the wind.
To my astonishment I was out.
McArthur, I understand, made his forced descent in full accordance with the instructions given by the makers.
He tells me he waited for a while in order to get well clear before pulling his rip-cord, and so was able to view from above the final explosion as the Comet struck the desert.
It was shattered into pieces, and some of the fragments landed a hundred yards away.
My own parachute operation was far less in keeping with the book, I had been trapped, as I have said, until desperately near to the earth, so that almost before I left the cockpit I had pulled the rip-cord.
I was on my back head downwards when I felt the most astonishing tug at my shoulders.
As I turned right side up the machine hit the ground.
Almost immediately I, too, "touched" with surprising, gentleness, and the parachute cords had no time to set me swinging like a clock pendulum. With McArthur, however, it was different.
As he came down he was slung against a tree and knocked unconscious.
Immediately after freeing myself from the harness I had a horrible impression that McArthur was in the wreckage, because the thought flashed through my mind that, as he got out first, he should be down before me. Actually, of course, by getting out first, he was above me all the while, but in that silent moment after the crash I did not think of looking skywards.
My landing spot was very near the smashed machine, and as I rushed towards it I saw Mac, practically dead overhead, slowly coming down.
While he lay unconscious, I am afraid I was so relieved that both of us were safely out that I did not worry at all about his little argument with the tree, but waited quietly for him to recover.
Anyway, his first words reassured me completely.
He expressed great relief at seeing me and regret that our only bottle of mouth-wash had gone.
He had bitten a lump out of his tongue in the impact.
Before we could decide our next move a very surprised native lumbered up on a camel, followed shortly afterwards by others. Then began a trek to their village.
Here we rested until further camels were forthcoming, and we were taken a step nearer the Nile.
Mac and I spent the night in the open, and the following morning reached the water and obtained a boat.
The Nile is now in flood, and we were pushed and punted through marshy swamps until finally taken out into open water.
Another tiring ride and we came to the railway track at Cabushiya.
Here we telegraphed, and ultimately caught the camel train for Atbara
The people here have asked constantly about our future plans. These, of course, are uncertain at the moment, but as I said in the beginning we hope to find someone high-spirited enough to back us for a further attempt to lower the record to the Cape.
It can be done, and by putting these high performance machines through such gruelling tests a great and rapid development in aircraft can be achieved.
Until I see you in England- au revoir.
By Gordon McArthur

As the sun rose after our take-off from Cairo it began to get intensely hot and stifling even at a great height.
By the time we were over the desert it had grown almost unbearable.
The desert gave way to bush country, as so often happens when failures occur, and it was quite obvious that no safe landing could be made, even by a machine of the slow-landing type.
The moment it became apparent that a jump was inevitable the ground looked more barren and inhospitable than ever.
I braced myself so that at the word "Go" I could release the cockpit lid to enable us to jump.
I had only agreed to jump first on Campbell Black?s promise to follow immediately, but the resulting spin upset all calculations.
In the hectic dive which followed it was impossible to get clear until, by some whim of providence, I was blown backwards over the opposite side from that which I had been so desperately trying to free myself.
Once clear, I waited some seconds before releasing the parachute, as otherwise there would have been great danger of fouling the tail and being dragged in its wake to the ground.
The rip-cord came away in my hand and for a moment I thought the "chute" had failed.
Immediately afterwards, however, I was relieved to feel it clutching me back, although I was still in an agony of anxiety at not seeing Black clear of the machine, which now was in its final dive.
I was sick with joy when at last I spotted his parachute slither out.
I watched the machine burst into flames, and then saw Black land safely.
Thereafter I hoped my own "chute" would stop swinging, which it did by banging me against a tree!

Campbell Black probably owes his life to the tearful last-minute pleadings of his charming wife, Miss Florence Desmond.
Just as everything was ready for the take-off at Hatfield Miss Desmond urged that overcoats should be sacrificed for parachutes.
Black himself would have preferred his coat. "I shall be very cold," he said, remembering a previous experience.
"Better cold and safe," counselled his wife. "Please take your parachute Tom, I shall feel so much happier about it."
Miss Desmond had her way.
The first telegram sent by Campbell Black after reaching civilisation was to his wife. "My thoughts were with you during those first silent moments of jumping," it said.
Campbell Black and McArthur are now making their way home by steamer and aeroplane. This week they reach Alexandria, where they hope to pick up an aeroplane bound for Paris or London.
Mr. Cyril Nicholson, the Sheffield business man who financed the venture, was shown Campbell Black?s dramatic story and, after reading it, sat thoughtful and silent for a time.
"What a terrible experience the poor fellows must have had!" he said.

Above: Tom Campbell Black and J.H.G. McArthur being greeted by Tom's wife Florence, on their arrival home, at Croydon airport 4/10/1935.

Above: 609 Squadron.

James Harrold Gordon McArthur, co-pilot to Tom Campbell Black during his record attempts from London to Cape Town in 1935, is recorded in the Battle of Britain "Roll of Honour".
He is listed as F/Lt. J.H.G. McArthur, 37925, No. 238 and 609 Squadrons. He is also recorded as J.H.G. [Butch] McArthur, a very experienced ex-test pilot, leader of "B" Flight 609 Squadron. Also recorded is- J.H.G. McArthur 37925 No. 609 Sqdn. shot down a Dornier over the Thames Estuary 7 Sept. 1940 in his Spitfire.

"I went for the nearest bomber and opened fire from about 400 yards, meanwhile experiencing heavy return cross fire from the bomber formation. After about twelve seconds smoke started to come from the port motor and it left the formation. I then waited for it to go down to 3000 feet and then dived vertically on to it and fired off the rest of my ammunition. It kept on going down seemingly still under some sort of control, until it hit the water about ten miles out from the centre of the Thames Estuary.
Fl/Lt J.H.G.McArthur 609 Squadron Warmwell Spitfires on September 7th 1940"


Above: Spitfire during the Battle of Britain with 609 Squadron markings PR




Above: Left, Edward Prince of Wales [right] Denys Finch Hatton [centre] and Jock Aird, game warden [left] on safari in Kenya, British East Africa in 1928. Right, L-R Bror Blixen, Edward Prince of Wales and Denys Finch Hatten. Circa 1930 [Source Straight On Till Morning by Mary S. Lovell] Tom Black piloted the Prince of Wales during the 1928 and 1930 royal safari.

It would appear that Tom Campbell Black first met Edward Prince of Wales and his brother Henry Prince of Gloucester in 1928 during their Royal Tour of British East Africa. In 1930 during Prince Edward's  safari  in February - April, again with the renowned White Hunter Denys Finch Hatten, Tom was commisioned with a plane to fly the Prince of Wales over the country side in search of animals to hunt and photogragh.

Excerpt from Straight On Till Morning: "On the second royal safari, in february, 1930, Tom acted as pilot to the Prince of Wales, operating from a hastily cleared bush airstrip near the camp. He flew the Prince and his aide Joey Legh across the Rift Valley in a Puss Moth; Legh sat in the fold away auxilary seat. Later Tom flew Bror Blixen over Voi to spot elephant, anticipating Denys' [Finch Hatten] idea that this might be a feasible way of locating herds. In March Tom took the Prince over Kilimanjaro."

Saturday, March 1, 1930.
Among the Clouds near Snow-Capped Peaks.
NA1ROBI (Kenya), Saturday
The Prince of Wales has become an airman-hunter.

The jungle growth has been cleared near the Royal camp to provide a landing ground, and from this point the Prince has made many interesting flights this week.
He has flown with Captain Campbell Black every morning and evening, being fascinated by the marvelous panorama of the bush covered plains stretching out below, while his keen eyes searched for big game.
Yesterday the Prince was in the air long before the sun had dissipated the mists of dawn.
The machine circled up through a great cloud bank, and then emerged into a clear blue sun lit sky. There broke upon the airmen's view the extraordinary sight of the snow-capped Kilimanjaro peaks, 19,000 feet high, surrounded by a level carpet of clouds.
Refuses to Shoot.
The Prince was disappointed that he had not brought his camera with him to obtain a record of one of the most thrillling sights of natures handi work.
When not taking trips in the air the Royal hunter tramps miles through the hush with his camp fellows, carrying with him his cinematography camera and heavy tripod. He has often set the camera into position at a likely spot, waiting patiently for denizens of the wild to emerge, and the near presence of lions does not worry him in the least.
He has already collected many remarkable cinema records - a tribute to his patience and zeal, despite the great heat of the sun-scorched plains in the middle of the day.
As his camp is within a game reserve the Prince has resolutely refused to do any shooting, thereby missing many opportunities. The Canons of sportsmanship, he feels, forbid him to take advantage of what is denied to others.
On an air reconnaissance yesterday Captain Black had a great stroke of luck. He discovered a herd of 30 elephants. As a result the Prince changed camp today, in the hope of securing the elusive elephant.
He is eager to obtain a " hundred-pounder," the weight of the ivory tusks being the criterion of success.
Meanwhile Captain Black has returned to Nairobi, bringing with him Sir Edward Grigg, the Governor of Kenya Colony.
Sir Edward's khaki tunic, corduroy trousers and sheath knife suggested the atmosphere of the hunter�s camp which he had left only three-quarters of an hour previously. Central News.

Tom also flew concurrently for the safari of Lord Marmaduke Furness. Furness was a wealthy and renouned horse breeder in England.
During December 1931 - January 1932 Lord Furness was again on safari in Kenya and Tom Campbell Black was his pilot. During this hunt Furness offered Tom the position of being his personal pilot in England. Tom resigned his position of Managing Director of Wilson Airways in March 1932 and returned to live in England and fly for Furness. In early 1934 Tom was back in Kenya for the safari season with the Furness Family, in October that same year Tom and C.W.A. Scott won the London to Melbourne Air Race. By 1936 Tom had married Florence Desmond and had left the employ of Lord Furness, in March 1936 Tom was appointed Aviation Manager for Gaumont BritishHe was for a period of time the personal pilot of Edward Prince of Wales, Prince Edward created The Kings Flight [now known as 32 [The Royal] Squadron] in 1936 to provide transport for the Royal families official duties, Edward was the first monarch to be a qualified pilot.

Above: Nairobi Horse Race Meeting in 1928 [Standing rear] Tom Campbell Black 2nd. from left, Edward Prince of Wales 6th. from the left, Henry Prince of Gloucester is 4th. from the right.



 Ernst Udet 1896-1941 [Awarded the Blue Max]

In the "Time Magazine, Oct. 29, 1934." report of the London to Melbourne Air Race, a mention is made to an incident that happened concerning Tom Black "Captain T. Campbell Black, famed for his spectacular rescue of Ernst Udet, German War Ace, in the desert wastes of the treacherious Nile country three years ago." I found a reference to this act in the transcribed book of "Ernst Udet-Knight of the Iron Cross" I have put together the following account of the rescue: While flying for Wilson Airlines in 1931, Tom Black arrived in Juba in Sudan, some 250km. North West of the Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, borders. An aircraft had left Juba but had not reached its destination, the Shell Agent [Shell Oil Co.] expressed concern for the safety of the two German crew members. Tom Black carrying fresh drinking water took off in search of the two fellow airmen. He located the crippled aircraft and landed in the treacherious desert terrain. The two airmen had draped a tarpualin over their plane and were lying under it to protect themselves from the searing sun, one of the men was seriously ill. After two days without fresh drinking water and food they gratefully welcomed Tom Black and his supplies. Tom introduced himself as Campbell Black. The German pilot was Ernst Udent, Knight of the Iron Cross, a highly revered flying ace of World War One and adventurer. An adventurer saved by an adventurer. Ernst described his situation as-"The heat is unbearable, the brain dehydrated. Slowly, a dull despair takes hold. A sick friend, no food, and the unfriendly natives." [For a more detailed excerpt from Ernst Udet's book, refer below]



Tom Black's and Charles Scott's aircraft in which they won the London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race in 1934 was a British made twin engined "De Havilland DH88, Comet", with a range of 2000 miles and a top speed of 237 M.P.H. From the original 64 potential starters, from 13 countries, the field had reduced to 20 starters by the take off date, 20th. October 1934, from the R.A.F. Mildenhall, Air Base.

Lloyds of London gave the race participants a 1 in 12 chance of being killed during the race.


In 1930 the question as to how the Australian state of Victoria, and it's capital city Melbourne, might celebrate it's up coming centenary, produced a suggestion from the Melbourne Lord Mayor, Harrold Smith, that an air race linking England with Australia be organised. The great race was sponsored by the Melbourne confectionary giant Sir MacPherson Robertson. It was divided into a speed competition and a handicap division. The race was over a 11,300 mile course, from the original 20 starters 11 finished, three planes crashed, in one case killing both crew members.

The original aircraft, named "Grosvenor House", number 34, G-ACSS, that was flown by Tom Black and Charles Scott was evaluated by the R.A.F. after the race as the K5084, however it suffered several accidents in the hands of the R.A.F. and was sold as scrap.

Above: Evaluated by the R.A.F as K5084

It was purchased by Mr. F. Tasker and restored at Essex Aero Ltd. and renamed "The Orphan", she gained 4th. place in the England to Demascus air race in 1937

Above: Renamed Orphan
Under the name "Burberry" and flown by Flying Officer A.E. Clouston and Mrs. Kirby-Green she won the London to Capetown air race in 1937


She was then re-named "Australian Anniversary" and piloted by Flying Officer A.E. Clouston and Victor Ricketts she set new records from England to Sydney and New Zealand and return in 1938, after which she was abandoned at Gravesend and was stored there for the duration of World War 2.

Above: Renamed Australian Anniversary

The plane was then restored by De Havilland apprentices for the 1951 Festival of Britain. She was given to the Shuttleworth Collection in 1965 for restoration back to flying condition, but this proved too expensive and help was obtained from fifty organisations. Restoration began at R.A.E. Farnborough and completed at British Aero Space Works, Hatfield.

G-ACSS flew again after forty nine years on the 17th. May 1987. She is now stored and maintained in the Shuttlewoth Collection at Old Warden Park, Biggleswade, England.

In November 1935 Charles Kingsford Smith with his Co-Pilot Tommy Pethybridge set out from Lympne in Kent, England, in an attempt to break the 71 hour England to Melbourne record set by Tom Campbell Black and C.W.A. Scott the previous year. It was to be his last record bid. It became his last flight, he disappeared off the Burma Coast. Despite a huge search of the entire Rangoon - Singapore route by R.A.F. aircraft, no trace of Smith's plane was found.

Transcript From "Time Magazine" Reporting The London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race in 1934.


 From TIME MAGAZINE, October 29, 1934
Volume XXIV, Number 18. Above: Cover shows American entrant Col. Roscoe Turner.

Mildenhall to Melbourne

"The great doors of the Royal Air Force hangars opened wide at 3 a.m. One sleek machine after another was wheeled out. The deep-throated roar of their engines being tuned up fairly shook the field. Since midnight they had been converging on the new R.A.F. airdrome at Mildenhall, 60 miles from London. Over the field and its floodlights hung pitch-black night.

Motors warmed, the 20 planes were lined up in two rows for the start of the greatest air race in aviation history. Chattering in little groups were flyers, mechanics, officials, men in dungarees, women in evening dress from London. At 6:30 a.m. Sir Alfred Bower, Acting Lord Mayor of London, gave the starting signal. First away were Jim and Amy (Johnson) Mollison, 12-to-1 favorites in their De Havilland Comet. Two minutes later Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangborn took off in their big Boeing, just as an orange-red sun edged over the horizon.

One by one the rest took the air and headed south. Last off, 16 minutes after the Mollisons, was Capt. T. Neville Stack, carrying a complete motion picture of the start. On the sidelines "Tony" Fokker looked up from the technical journal he had been reading in time to see Stack's plane disappear over the horizon. Finish of the race: Melbourne, Australia, 11,323 miles away.

Preparations. Month on long month of intensive preparations by the aviation industry throughout the world had preceded the race's start last week. Represented by each entry were countless technicalities, endless research, details, delays, many a heartbreak. Of the 64 original entries, more than two-thirds had withdrawn. The night before the start Colonel James C. Fitzmaurice, Irish transatlantic flyer, had been disqualified when his U.S.-built Bellanca special, IRISH SWOOP, proved overweight. Two days before the race the Mollisons had come near being "scratched," when they broke a tailskid.

The day before the start Their Majesties and the Prince of Wales visited Mildenhall to give the flyers a royal send-off. Queen Mary set foot in a plane for the first time when she inspected the U.S.-built Douglas entered by Royal Dutch Airlines (K.L.M.). The Prince of Wales showed greatest interest in a small U.S.-built Monocoupe entered by John Polando and John H. ("Utica Jack") Wright. From Roscoe Turner the Prince received a model of the Boeing 247-D on which the U.S. pinned its highest hopes for victory. To the Mollisons Their Majesties gave a letter to be delivered to their third son, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, In Melbourne, halfway around the world.

 A hundred years ago this month a tough little band of Tasmanian pioneers rowed up the Yarra River, picked a spot which their leader, John Batman, decided would be "a good place for a village." John Batman's village became the city of Melbourne (pop. 1,000,000), which, with the State of Victoria, is this year celebrating its centennial. Features of the celebration are an All-Australia Exhibition, an agricultural show, dedication of a National War Memorial, Henley regatta, Australian Derby, many another bigtime sporting event.

More important was the arrival in Melbourne last week of the Duke of Gloucester aboard the cruiser SUSSEX. Handsomely arrayed in the uniform of a Royal Hussar, the tallest of the King's tall sons received a warm greeting from Governor General Sir Isaac Isaacs, a tumultous welcome from half a million cheering Australians. That Prince Henry, 34, is being groomed for the Governor Generalship was last week no State secret.

Grand climax of the Melbourne Centennial - the one thing which last week was of interest to all the world - was the MacRobertson Trophy Race from Mildenhall to Melbourne. The course covered 16 countries and three continents, required night & day flying over country perilous with jagged mountains, snake-infested jungles, deserts, hurricanes and typhoons. Toughest stretch was across the Syrian Desert where blinding sandstorms sometimes rise 20,000 ft. and huge kitebirds menace aerial navigation. Not much easier was the 2,210-mile jump from Allahabad to Singapore, with its Bay of Bengal water hop nearly as long as the North Atlantic. To the participants in the race Lloyd's of London gave a 1-in-12 chance of being killed.

Purely a long-distance speed race, the MacRobertson Derby was a free-for-all with virtually no restrictions. Chief requirement was that contestants land at five specified control points: Bagdad, Irak; Allahabad, India; Singapore, Malay Straits; Darwin and Charleville, Australia. The finish was at Melbourne's great Flemington Racecourse, where more than 100,000 persons awaited the winner. Prizes will be awarded by the Duke of Gloucester Nov. 10. First prize is $50,000 and a $2,500 gold cup; second price, $7,500; third, $2,500. Donor of the prize money is Sir MacPherson Robertson, Australian candy tycoon. His sole stipulation was that the speed race must be completed within 16 days. British bookmakers found plenty of money to wage the race would be won in 86 hours. Record for the run was 6 days 17 hr. 56 min., made last year by Charles J.P. ("Unlucky") Ulm.

First Day. First to drop out of the race were Wesley Smith and Jacqueline Cochran, sole U.S. woman entry. They quit at Bucharest. First plane into Athens was the Douglas D.C.-2 flown by Pilots J.J.Moll and Koene D. Parmentier of Royal Dutch Airlines. Their longtime service on the Amsterdam-Batavia airway (three-fourths of the MacRobertson route) gave them a decided edge over other contestants. On board their plane were three paying passengers-- two bankers and famed German Aviatrix Thea Rasche.

Turner reached Athens an hour after the Dutch entry, complained of a splitting headache. Speeding non-stop from England, the Mollisons leaped sensationally into first place when they swooped into Bagdad, first control point, hours ahead of the field. There Amy kept Irak officials waiting while she took a hot bath, her husband waiting while she made a little speech.

Hardly had the dust of the departing Mollisons settled on the Bagdad field when in dropped a second British plane, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Charles William Anderson Scott and Captain T. Campbell Black, famed for his spectacular rescue of Ernst Udet, German War ace, in the desert wastes of the treacherous Nile country three years ago. Lost, Scott & Black had made a previous stop at Kirkuk, where they beg-borrowed 20 gallons of "petrol" to continue. They left Bagdad close on the Mollisons' heels, flew straight to Allahabad, second control point, to take over the lead. The Mollisons had landed at Karachi to refuel, had taken off only to be forced back ten minutes later with landing-gear trouble. Seven hours behind the leader was Roscoe Turner. At Bagdad he became confused, made a down-wind landing, nearly cracked up. Stuck in Paris was Captain Stack with his complete newsreel of the flight's start.

Second Day. Still far in the lead were Britons Scott & Black in their De Havilland Comet GROSVENOR HOUSE. Behind them as they sped over the Bay of Bengal for Singapore were Parmentier & Moll. At Allahabad these two had lost valuable minutes when they carelessly took off without one of their passengers, had to return to pick him up.

Two other Hollanders, Asjes & Geysendorfer, smashed their undercarriage landing at Allahabad. Their mishap put Turner & Pangborn in fourth place, which soon became third when they passed the Mollisons at Karachi.

The Mollisons left there two minutes later, got lost, developed motor trouble, limped back to Karachi. Turner & Pangborn likewise got lost, nearly ran out of gas, finally landed at Allahabad. First accident of the race occurred at Aleppo, Syria, when Australians Woods & Bennett turned over in landing.

Scott & Black, pushing their engines to the limit, swept into Singapore that night with heavy black smoke pouring from their exhaust. Alarmed field officials rushed out with fire engines. Scott asked for two glasses of beer, danced with nervous impatience to be off. Onetime light heavyweight champion of the R.A.F., he was visibly suffering from the terrific strain of his flight. Eight hours after Scott's departure, Parmentier reached Singapore. Said that doughty Dutchman: "I'm in a great hurry."

Back at Karachi the Mollisons got off a third time, had engine trouble all the way to Allahabad, were grounded there with a broken oil line. Hopelessly behind in the race was Captain Stack with the newsreel of the start at Mildenhall. Grounded at Marseille, harassed by motor trouble, he announced he would continue as an "amateur."

Third Day. Biggest sensation of the race came just before dawn of the third day, when burly Lieutenant Scott and dapper Captain Black flew their scarlet Comet into Darwin. They had covered the last 300 miles over water on one motor, risked death landing on a field made soggy by the first rain in seven months. Said sandy-haired Lieutenant Scott: "We've had a devil of a trip." But they had flown 9,000 miles in two days, had broken the England-Australia record of 162 hr. in the unbelievable time of 52 hr. 33 min., were only 2,000 miles from their goal at Melbourne.

First fatality of the race brought Death to two Britons, Flying Officer Harold D. Gilman and Amateur Pilot James Baines. Bad luck had plagued them from the start. Taking off from Rome, 10,000 miles behind the race leaders, they crashed near Palazzo San Gervasio, were burned beyond recognition.

Scott & Black, keeping up their sensational pace, flashed into Charleville, refueled, sped toward the finish where waiting thousands cheered their progress, reported over loudspeakers. With one motor dead, with only two hours sleep since leaving England, the Britons triumphantly set their scarlet torpedo down in Melbourne at 3:34 p.m. In 71 hr. 1 min. 3 sec. - just under three days - they had flown halfway around the world."


Above: Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott land in Melbourne as winners of the " MacRobertson Air Race" before a crowd of some 50,000 people who had turned out to see them cross the finish line at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne.

           1934-1935 Melbourne Centenary Posters.

Above: Colonel Roscoe Turner [1895-1970] with Clyde Pangborn, took second place in the speed section of the MacRobertson Air Race 1934, after Tom Campbell Black and C.W.A Scott. Click on the above photo to access an excerpt from his account of flying in the MacRobertson Air Race, it gives an idea of the difficulties faced by the entrants.

Above: The Plane flown by K.D Parmentier, J.J Mole, B. Prins, C. Van Prugge, in the MacRobertson Air Race 1934. They took first place in the handicap section.

Above: The adventurious life of Ray J.P. Parer Pioneer Aviator.  Lt. Parer and his Co-pilot Lt. John McIntosh, flew from England to Australia in 1920 as a late starter in the 1919 England to Australia Air Race, they departed on the 8th. January 1920 and arrived in Darwin on the 2nd. August 1920. Then Parer and his co-pilot G.E. Hemsworth were entrants in the Mac Robertson London to Melbourne Air Race in 1934, but because of mechanical problems didn't finish the race until 13 February 1935. The story of both his flights are well worth reading. The following excerpts, from the site researched by Paul Wilkins, I think captures the Man.

[1920] "Parer and McIntosh were astonished by the magnitude of the Civic Receptions in Sydney and at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.  During his speech Prime Minister 'Billy' Hughes praised the airmen for their courage and determination to battle through for it was men like these who were needed to push the boundaries of civil aviation in Australia.  Parer and Mac both gave short speeches of thanks in reply, then presented Mr. Hughes a bottle of Peter Dawson's whiskey which luckily had survived the trip intact.  The next day at a special luncheon at Parliament House it was announced that the Australian Government had decided to make a tangible recognition of their efforts and awarded them ?500 each.  Public donations also amounted to around ?1000 and King George V awarded the Air Force Cross to both men."

[1934] "They reached Melbourne's Essendon Airport on 13th February, 1935.  The were no crowds this time just a few friends and relatives and a couple of news reporters.  A grinning Parer announced, " I'm afraid we're a bit late, but at any rate we've beaten my previous record by four months, so that's not bad is it?  I suppose we dawdled a bit on the way, because of engine trouble and fuss with the Persian Government, but as long as we're not arrested for loitering, it will be all right.  All we want now is a drink!"   The next day they were asked to call in to see Sir Macpherson Robertson.  Much to the airmen's surprise he presented them with a gold medal each.  They were of course not placed in the race, but he was impressed by their determination to finish the course whatever the odds."

"Ernst Udet-Ace of the Iron Cross":

 Excerpt from the translated book by Ernst Udet "Mein Fliegerleben". Translator: Gaston Graf. Click on the photo of "Oberleutant Ernst Udet" to link to Gaston's site


"Then we fly off. The flat prairie disappears, and the three thousand-meter peaks of the Mau Range reach up to us over the gigantic, blinking silver shield of Lake Victoria. From there, stretching north as far as the eye can see, the green sea of primeval forests. The foul, sweetish smell rises to meet us there.
Schneeberger is working, making backlighted pictures. Suddenly, a knocking, as though someone were rapping the aircraft from below with a hammer. I look forward and see that the reserve tank has come loose from its torn brackets. I look down. Treetops, crowning eighty-meter trees and no clearings, no villages. It is impossible to touch down. To the left are the waters of Lake Victoria. Near the shallow shores, crocodiles are floating lazily, like logs. They are quite clearly visible.
"Helmets off for prayer!" I think to myself.
Then, Schneeberger rises and throws his body forward, grasping the tank with both hands, and holds it down on its rest with the weight of his body, so that the feeder line to the carburetor won't break. If he can hold it until we reach Jinja, we will be safe. We are now skimming over the treetops. The pungent reek of the forest is hard to stand, but down here Schneeberger may be able to hold on longer than up where it's colder.

"Can you still hold on, 'Flea,"' I shout. The drone of the engine drowns my words. He doesn't answer, but his small, sinewy body appears as though it were moulded to the tank.
In Jinja, the Ibis Hotel is a bit of European civilization flung into the African wilderness. We glide and land. I have to help Schneeberger out of the machine. He is stiff from the tremendous effort. He develops a fever during the night.
A Ford representative helps us to repair the damage. "Always stay with the highway through the Sudan," he says in parting, "just in case."
Above Lado we sight elephant herds. They are trotting through the high grass by the hundreds. The dust rises from them like clouds of steam.
A break in the fuel line. We have to land. There, a sandy spot, beautifully flat. It is good to be practised in precision landing. The machine comes to a halt in barely fifty meters.
We are in the Sudan, close to the highway where a car passes once every week or two. The ground reflects oven temperatures, and there is no sheltering house near. We throw the tarpaulin over the plane and lie down underneath it. Schneeberger is feverish and moans for water.

I search around and find a spot where the grass is greener than elsewhere. This is where the moisture must be. I dig down and encounter some brackish sump water collecting in a brownish-yellow pool. I boil it in empty oil cans. It is involved work. I filter it through my pajamas, and Schneeberger drinks it in short, thirsty draughts. My production can hardly keep pace with his consumption.
Toward evening, a few natives come stalking around the tent. I wave at them, and they disappear. Finally, one of them comes closer. It is the son of the chief. Communication is difficult, but we finally determine that we have landed among the tribe of the Lau. They are familiar with aircraft and seem afraid and servile. However, once they realize that our "bird" is lame, their attitude changes at once. Somehow we are dependent upon them, and they let us know.
I ask for milk. After four hours he brings back our empty canteen and sticks out his hand. "Five shillings," he says. I shrug and offer him a cigarette case. It is of brass, made in Munich, but it shines like gold. He takes it and looks at it carefully and scratches at the button release. Yes, he is actually looking for the proof mark. Then he purses his lips in derision and hands it back to me.
"No gold," he says.
I don't even dare to offer him the glass beads I have.
We are stuck for two days. Schneeberger is doing badly, and the Lau tribesmen are getting more insolent by the hour. I have to stay with the tent constantly to prevent them from stealing. The heat is unbearable, the brain dehydrated. Slowly, a dull despair takes hold. A sick friend, no food, and the unfriendly natives.
Weeks can go by before a car shows up.
On the morning of the third day I hear a low hum from the distance . . . it grows into a roar . . . the song of an aircraft engine. Then it appears. It's a "Puss Moth." I pull the tarp away from Schneeberger and wave it, although the other pilot must already have noticed the bright silver of our bird.The aircraft circles twice and lands. A slender, wiry man in khaki. "Campbell Black," he introduces himself. He brings us cigarettes and, above all, water, fresh drinking water. The Shell station in Juba, where we had last tanked, had telegraphed ahead, inquiring whether or not we had arrived. British generosity, British hospitality.
In the afternoon, a large military two-seater lands, bringing repair tools, gasoline, and an invitation from Wing Commander Sholto Douglas in Khartoum. The next evening we land there, and the colonel smilingly receives us.
"We were on the same front in 1917," he says, "and this makes for a bond, even when it was on the other side."



The Sudd, by Beryl Markham

"At that time (1935) no woman was allowed to fly solo between Juba and Wadi Halfa without express permission from the RAF Headquarters at Khartoum. The reason for this was plausible enough - a forced landing in the papyrus swamps of the Sudd was barely distinguishable from a forced landing on the banks of the Styx, and a forced landing beyond the Sudd might mean days or weeks of searching by the RAF.
I am a little vague as to why it was thought that women were less capable than men of avoiding these obvious dangers, though I suspect there was more of gallantry than reason in the ruling. In all, I flew the entire route between Niarobi and London six times - four of them solo (after convincing the RAF of my ability to do it), and other women have flown it too.
The outstanding error of judgement in flying over the Sudd, as a matter of fact, was made by a man - the late Ernst Udet let himself run out of petrol while crossing it during the dry season and force-landed on a ridge of hardened mud, where, after several anxious days, he was found by Tom Black, whose understanding of the Sudd was such that he was willing to spend several days trying to get somebody out of it. Udet himself was hardly worse for the experience, but his mechanic was near death from mosquito bites.

 If you can visualize twelve thousand square miles of swamp that seethes and crawls like a prehistoric crucible of half-formed life, you have a conception of the Sudd. It is an example of the less attractive by-products of the Nile River, and one place in this world worthy of the word 'sinister'. The surface of the Sudd from the air is flat and green - and inviting. If you should be either hypnotized or forced into landing upon it, the wheels of your plane would at once disappear into the muck, while your wings would rest upon the slowly heaving mat of decomposed -and living- growth that in many places is fifteen feet thick and under which flows a sluice of black water.

Beyond the Sudd there is the desert, and nothing but the desert for almost three thousand miles, nor are the towns and cities that live in it successful in gainsaying its emptiness.
To me, desert has the quality of darkness; none of the shapes you see in it are real or permanent. Like night, the desert is boundless, comfortless, and infinite. Like night, it intrigues the mind and leads it to futility. When you have flown halfway across a desert, you experience the desperation of a sleepless man waiting for dawn which only comes when the importance of its coming is lost."
Beryl Markham, West with the night (1942)

A Brief Encounter-Tom Campbell Black helps Aline Barton in Kenya.

Excerpts from "Silver Wings- New Zealand Women Aviators" by Shirley Laine.
The Remarkable Aline Barton
One of the most remarkable of the woman flyers of the 1930's was Aline Barton born in Featherston, New Zealand in 1899. She was the first New Zealand - trained woman pilot to make a trans-continental flight, England to Kenya in October 1931 accompanied by a passenger, Bunny Richards.

"Our lap of country from Jinja to Nairobi was a struggle against head winds with the result I had to fill up at Kisumu with petrol. This was a "blessing in disguise" for there I met a Mr. Black who is a great flyer over there and he said with my little Gipsy Moth so fully loaded I would have great difficulty in getting over the Mau which was 8,300 feet. [Tom] Campbell Black said Alan Cobham had two tries in a Moth and couldn?t get over the Mau. I suggested he take Bunny for me, but Bunny wasn?t impressed with that idea. So Campbell took two of our heavy coats to relieve us. After take off I immediately started climbing as hard as I could from Kisumu and by flying on my slots just managed to reach 9,000 feet and got over safely, though the going was very bumpy."

Above: Aline Barton flew her Gypsy Moth 2, from Heston, England to Nairobi, Kenya in 1931.




The De Havilland DH98 - Mosquito Bomber.


Above: Possibly the greatest legacy of the DH88 Comet is that it led directly to the legendary Mosquito which was to become the most successful multi roll aircraft of the Second World War.


Above: In September, 2012, I was priviliged to be invited to view the nearly completed, and only flight capable, De Havilland Mosquito Fighter-Bomber in the world, at that time, prior to her first test flight. KA114 was restored by AvSpecs Ltd. Ardmore Aerodrome, Auckland, New Zealand.

I was in the company of Gordon Robertson [left] who was a Mosquito Navigator during WW2. I also attended the Air Show

"De Havilland Mosquito Launch Spectacular", at Ardmore Aerodrome, on the 29th. September, 2012, when KA114 made he first public flight.

An amazing sight to behold.   KA114 is still the only flight capable Mosquito in the world [2014] She is owned and based in the USA. [AvSpecs are working on more Mosquito's to bring them up to a flight capable standard.]  Bruce McCullough.



DH88 Comet Racer "Black Magic" Is Being Restored.


Above: Click photo of "Black Magic" for the link to the restoration site of Comet G-ACSP


Thank you to Julie McCullough, Victoria, Australia, G.G.Grand-Daughter of Thomas McCullough 1846-1926 Maternal Grandfather of Tom Campbell Black, for help with family photo's and information.

Many thanks to my partner in research, Christopher Robb, Victoria, Australia, for his valued assistance in obtaining, viewing and detailing of a video, from the National Library of Australia, of Black and Scott arriving in Melbourne at the finish of the great race.

Sincere thanks to Trevor Owen, England, for contributing a copy of his original family photogragh showing Tom Campbell Black on his arrival on Zanzibar in April 1930, included in the group of welcoming officials is Trevor's uncle, Ronald Harrison, he was employed with Cable and Wireless, Zanzibar. [Second on the right of Tom Black] Also for kindly contributing information relating to the life of Tom Black. 

Thank you to Barghash Barghash for his contribution relating to Tom Black landing on Zanzibar in 1930.

A great many thanks to Frank Derek Milner Morrison, England, nephew of Tom Campbell Black, for contributing many very interesting historical family photographs, articles and details of his family and uncles life.

Aero Club of East Africa, Kenya, for information relating to Tom Campbell Black's time in Kenya. [Link below]

Thank you to Gaston Graf, Luxembourg, for his approval to insert the excerpt from his translation of "Mein Fliegerleben". Be sure to visit his site. [Link below]

Peter Davis for details contained in the excerpts from his book "East African: An Airline Story" relating to the early life of Tom Campbell Black living in British East Africa during the 1920-30's.

Many thanks to Noel Wade, England,  for his generous contribution of copies of his collection of newspaper clippings from the mid 1930's relating to the life and adventures of Tom Campbell Black. I have entered excerpts of reports and managed to scan and improve some of the 70 year old newspaper photos and include them as well. Makes for interesting reading. Visit Noel's site "Firbeck Hall 1935-1939" [Link below]

Paul Wilkins and his research on the life and adventures of Ray Parer, Pioneer Aviator. Be sure to visit this site of  "Battling Ray Parer" an interesting life. [Link below]

Andrew Herd, "Great Airplanes 5: De Havilland Comet" As a build up to a report on a DH88 flight simulator, this site gives some interesting technical information on the Comet. [Click link on the picture of the red Comet above.]

Steven McLachlan, Christchurch, New Zealand, aviation photo collection, De Havilland link below.

John McCulloch, Melbourne, Australia. Researcher of the Great Air Race Mildenhall to Melbourne 1934.

Noel Jackling, Melbourne, Australia. Researcher of the Great Air Race Mildenhall to Melbourne 1934.

Chris Balm, England, for supplying photos and researched information of the Mansfield Robinson Aviation Trophy. 

Janic Geelen, Auckland, N.Z. author and researcher of aviation history including the great air race of 1934, refer Frank's Flight. 

National Library of Australia.

"The Great Air Race, England to Australia 1934" by Arthur Swinson. First published 1968.
"SCOTT'S BOOK, The life and Mildenhall-Melbourne Flight of C.W.A. Scott" Told by himself.
"Straight On Till Morning, The Biography of Beryl Markham" by Mary S. Lovell
"The Lives of Beryl Markham" by Errol Trezebinski.
"West With The Night" by Beryl Markham.
"Silver Wings-New Zealand woman Aviators" by Shirley Laine.

"Frank's Flight" by Janic Geelen, NZ Aviation Press, Auckland.

"Race Through Time 1984". Race Door De Tijd.

The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, England.
National Australian Archives. [Centenary Posters]

 CLICK PHOTO: Visit for some great photos of G-ACSS as she is today.




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