1934: Flight to India



Micky left the RAF  in 1934 as a Flying Officer, to join the Bristol & Wessex Flying Club at Whitchurch as an Assistant Instructor and subsequently left them in November 1934 to fly to India with Lady Blanche Scott-Douglas. This was reported in Flight International magazine . He joined Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton in 1935 after reurning from India, initially as an instructor in the Flying School which Bristols had run since the First World War  and from 1939 as a test pilot.  

His first pupil was Lady Blanche Scott-Douglas, the sister of the Duke of Beaufort, who asked Micky to be her co-pilot for a flight to India to visit her friend, the Maharajah of Cooch-Behar, an Eastern Himalayan mountain kingdom.  They set off on November 20th 1934 in her new Miles M2F Hawk Major G-ACWY via Kent, France, Corsica, Tunisa, Libya, Cairo, Palestine, and onto Baghdad, following the route of the Australia Race, which had begun a week earlier.

 Unfortunately they had engine trouble climbing out of Bushire and force-landed in the desert in Persia where they were marooned for 10 days, receiving hospitality from local tribes.

"After leaving Bushire, they started climbing for Bandar Abbas but oil started spurting into the cockpit and they climbed higher. Eventually, at 8000ft, the pressure gauge went to zero and they had to shut off the engine. They were fortunate in finding themselves a long sandy valley, which proved itself to be the perfect aerodrome. In Lady Blanche’s words “ this was my first real forced landing and was lucky to have such confidence in Micky’s ability to bring us down safely that I never had a moment’s anxiety” After a week of frantic anxiety back in England by Lady Blanche's mother, the flyers are found after Micky and Lady Blanche send a note to Bushire to the British Resident  by a messenger who has to walk 80 miles through a very flooded countryside.
On the ground, the fliers discover the problem and what needed to be done and then realise that they were surrounded by by about 100 “natives”, a good many of whom were armed to the teeth with rifles and knives in their belts, a roughish lot, most of them pockmarked, all of them dirty, and scantily clothed……….

Suffice to say their ordeal was to last for about 10 more days before the rescue party arrived with more oil, and took Lady Blanche back to Bushire through some very flooded countryside. Micky got the plane’s engine going and once the flood water had subsided, flew the plane out to Bushire!

After 36 hours rest, they continued their journey to  Bandar Abbas where the plane tipped over on landing and damaged the airscrew. Rather than waiting, the couple took a considerable risk and decided to fly on to Jask, where they waited for a new propeller to be be flown in from Karachi via KLM.

Another problem awaited at Jask . Fuel had been laid down by Shell for the Australia race a month before. As the petrol was being emptied from the jerrycan into the aircraft, Micky noticed that it was frothing and suspected the fuel had been spiked with water. The Shell agent had to suck out all the fuel and replace it with fuel that was genuine.

As they approached Karachi over the sea, the oil leak re-occurred but they were able to just make it to the airfield at Drigh Road.

They then stayed in Karachi with Micky’s brother at Lloyds Bank and then on to Bombay and then to Delhi, via Agra, and to Calcutta and onto Cooch Behar, where amongst other things they did a Tiger shoot on elephants.

My father recalled that the field they took off from in Cooch Behar for the return to England was a little short & had tall trees at the perimeter. So he instructed the people on the ground to hold the tail of the aircraft while they ran the engine to full throttle.
They only just cleared the trees!

They returned safely to England in February 1935.

Michael, Micky's son was interviewed on Radio 4 Making History programme in 2009 about his father's exploit in flying to India. Please click here to listen to the recording which starts 10 minutes into the programme   

Click on the link below to read the diary of Lady Blanche about their experiences when they crashed in the desert in Iraq.

Also click on the link to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'History in the Making' telling the story of the flight.  A copy of the programme is also attached below.

Picasa Web Slideshow

Sue Carter,
14 Oct 2010, 14:28
Sue Carter,
17 Oct 2010, 15:06