Short S.23 'C Class' Empire Flying Boat G-AEUE at Karumba

Short S.23 Empire Flying Boat G-AEUE Cameronian, owned by Britain's Imperial Airways but being operated by Qantas Empire Airways, alighting and moored on the Norman River at Karumba, Qld, c.1938. In the background of the lower photo the Aeradio buildings can just be seen behind the tail of the aircraft. The Radio Officer is securing the boat to the buoy while from the top hatch the First Officer runs up the ship's mail pennant beneath the already-flying Civil Air Ensign.

The S.23s were often known as the 'C Class' as they were all given names beginning with the letter C. They were designed specially for the ambitious Empire Air Mail Scheme, a scheme to improve communications throughout the British Empire by air. The scheme saw surcharges removed from inter-Empire First Class air mail (ordinary letter mail), making sending letters throughout the Empire much cheaper but requiring modern, large aircraft to carry the resulting heavy loads. The Empire boats were renowned for their luxurious passenger accommodation for up to 17 passengers, but their real purpose was carrying the mail. Being optimised for heavy loads, the Empire boats had a normal operating range of only about 500 miles (800 km), necessitating about 30 refuelling stops over 9 1/2 days between the Australian terminus at Rose Bay in Sydney and the British terminus at Southampton.

This aircraft (c/n S0847) was launched and had its first flight on 21 October 1937. It was delivered to Imperial Airways two days later on 23 October. At the time of these photos Qantas Empire Airways and Imperials interchanged aircraft on the Australia-UK service, with QEA operating the legs from Sydney to Singapore.

G-AEUE survived the war with Imperial Airways (later BOAC) and was broken up at Hythe, UK, in January 1947.


Civil Air EnsignAeradio building

(Photos: CAHS/Ivan Hodder collection)

Click here to see the Karumba Flying Boat Base

Click here to see Short S.23 'C Class' Empire Flying Boat G-AETX Ceres at Rose Bay

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