For 40 almost years flying boat services were operated from Southampton.During that period five different locations were used as terminals.The very first was the Royal Pier ("E" on map) which was used by Supermarine during the summer of 1919.They operated services to Bournemouth,Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight ,using Channel Mk.1 aircraft.Services commenced on 16th August 1919 but only lasted a few weeks.50 years later one of Supermarines products was put on display at the Royal Pier.The S-6A N248 was displayed ,painted as N1596 to represent the Schneider Trophy winning S-6B .
In September 1919 Supermarine operated the first international flying boat services,using Channel Mk.1 N1529/G-EAED.The services operated from the Supermarine premises at Woolston("A" on map) to Le Havre.The service was discontinued after a short time,and it was not until September 1923 that any further international services were operated.In September 1923 The British Marine Air Navigation Company(jointly owned by Supermarine and Southern Railway),started operating a service from Woolston to Cherbourg.In 1924 British Marine became Imperial Airways,and as such,continued to operate flying boat services from Woolston until 28/2/1929,by which time the emphasis shifted to landplane operations.
The next development was the commencement of the "Empire" services in March 1937.Using the legendary Short "Empire" flying Boats,Imperial Airways stared services to Alexandria,and later ,in June,to South and East Africa.On July 5th 1937 the first Transatlantic service was started with flights from the UK by Imperial,and from the USA by Pan American (Using Sikorsky S-42A aircraft).The Imperial Airways terminal was at 101 Berth in the "Western Docks",using pontoons.("B" on map).In 1938 a new terminal was built at 108 Berth(Grid ref :SU 395123)and operations moved to the new location.However the start of WW2 brought an end to services ,operations were moved to Poole and Hamworthy in Dorset.The building ("Imperial House")at 108 Berth is still existing .
Throughout this period Hythe was used for maintenance using hangars rented from Supermarine.
After WW2 BOAC recommenced operations ,initially at Poole,but on 14/4/48,services moved back to Southampton using a new terminal at 50 Berth in the Old Docks.(Grid ref:SU 422106).The aircraft used were Hythes,Sandringhams and Solents.However,as aircraft development moved rapidly toward jet transport and higher speeds,flying boats became uneconomical and BOAC eventually terminated all flying boat operations on 3/11/50.
Below is the schedule of arrivals and departures for BOAC Services in 1948.
MARINE AIR TERMINAL,BERTH 50. Arrivals and Departures. Monday. 1145am BOAC Hythe Class to Australia 3.00pm BOAC Plymouth Class from Hong Kong Tuesday. 1145am BOAC Solent to Johannesburg 1230pm BOAC Plymouth Class to Hong Kong Wednesday. 1145am BOAC Hythe Class to Australia 1.00pm BOAC Hythe Class from Karachi 3.30pm BOAC Hythe Class from Australia Thursday. 1145am BOAC Hythe Class to Karachi 3.00pm BOAC Plymouth Class from Tokyo 3.30pm BOAC Solent from Johannesburg Friday. 1145am BOAC Solent to Johannesburg 1230pm BOAC Plymouth Class to Tokyo 3.30pm BOAC Hythe Class to Australia Saturday. 1145am BOAC Hythe Class to Australia 3.30pm BOAC Solent from Johannesburg Sunday. 1145am BOAC Solent to Johannesburg 3.30pm BOAC Hythe class from Australia 3.30pm BOACSolent from Johannesburg
The final chapter in the story of flying boat services and Southampton was the operation of services by Aquila Airways.This company,owned by Barry Aitken attempted to take over where BOAC left off using a mixed bag of Solents ,Sandringhams and Sunderlands,(many of them ex BOAC aircraft).The first operations had been in 1948 in the Berlin Air Lift.Passenger ops had started with a weekly service to Madiera(first service 24/3/49).Over the next 7 years services were added to Las palmas,Genoa and Montreaux.Unfortunately for Aquila,the growing popularity of charter flights ,coupled with the same factors of high speed jet aircraft and the rising cost of maintaining aging flying boats,eventually forced the termination of services on 26/9/58 when Solent G-ANYI departed to Madiera.
Since the finish of services in 1958,there have been occasional visits to Southampton Water by flying boats,mostly aircraft arriving at either Calshot or Lee on Solent for restoration,but no further services of any kind have been operated.
The photos below by Alun Thomas , show the remains of the flying boat berths at Berth 50 in the Old Docks at Southampton.
Finally I must mention the Southampton Hall of Aviation/Solent Sky.This museum,located in Albert Road South,near to the Old Docks,has on display Sandringham VH-BRC ,In addition there are many other exhibits connected with the history of both Southampton flying boat services,and also Supermarine.The museum is open daily in the summer (closed Mondays in winter)and is well worth a visit.
For a complete list of Flying Boats used by Imperial Airways/BOAC and Aquila Airways click on this link.
Link to"AVIATION in Hampshire UK 1900 to 2000"