Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

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Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Pondskater » Tue Aug 11, 2009 10:16 am

Watched a fascinating programme on Channel Four TV (UK) last night about the Commonwealth Tour undertaken by the Queen and Prince Phillip in 1953/54.

It showed the Queen arriving by flying boat in Tonga in Dec 1953 - although it showed archive clips of both a Sunderland and a Solent.

I've had a dig about and found the footage they used on the Pathe news website A new wonder of the modern age is watching TV and researching the programme on the mobile phone at the same time. I know sad isn't it?

The clip can be seen at: http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=78521

Anyway, the footage (as used last night) briefly shows a Sunderland flying overhead, a shot from the cockpit of the Sunderland and then a view from the passenger cabin of the Solent. Then right at the very end as the Royal party board a launch to head for SS Gothic, a Sunderland and what looks like a TEAL Solent can be seen moored in the harbour.

Anybody know which aircraft were involved? I'm assuming RNZAF Sunderlands. They were being delivered May/June 1953 - would they have been fully operational in that area by the end of the year?

And finally, here's a pic of some 88 Squadron Sunderlands escorting the Queen on SS Gothic approaching Ceylon in April 1954 - much later on her trip.

Allan

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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Bumble » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:48 am

According to a TEAL site I've seen,the Solent was ZK-AML Aotearoa 2,but I've also seen something elsewhere saying that that particular aircraft was sold to Aquila Airways in 1954,so it couldn't have been on the Royal tour. I'd guess the TEAL information is correct.
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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Bumble » Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:14 am

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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Bumble » Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:18 am

I do apologise for that Allan. When it comes to computers, I'm a self-taught idiot and I can't always combine a post with a link successfully. Get you,researching on your mobile whilst watching TV. And they say men can't multi-task ! Cheers, Anne.
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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby flyernzl » Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:21 am

I would agree that the Solent 4 used was ZK-AML 'Aotearoa' c/n SH.1556. It was the second 'Aotearoa' (S.30 ZK-AMA was the first), but the '2' was not indicated on the aircraft in any way.
The aircraft departed from Fiji on 19th December 1953 for Tonga, and although not disclosed in the movie the visit was an overnight one, the 'Gothic' departing from Tonga the following day for New Zealand.
ZK-AML served with TEAL from December 1949 until sold to Aquila Airways Ltd., Hamble as G-AOBL in mid-1955.
I would suggest that the RNZAF Sunderland was also from Fiji, and probably carried engineering and military personnel as a backup- - just in case! Both aircraft seemingly overnighted as well.
The Sunderland identity could be any one of the following: NZ4105, 4108, 4109, 4110. 4111, 4112, 4115 or 4116. Those eight were delivered to the RNZAF prior to December 1953.

Unfortunately fairly recent racial and political riots in Tonga have marred the tranquility of 'The Friendly Isles' As I found during my time there a few years ago, the Kingdom does suffer from major corruption and economic problems. But still, a nice blast from the past and interesting to see some of the landmarks of Nuku?alofa again.
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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Pondskater » Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:43 am

Thanks for that, all good stuff. I'm doing some research at the moment with an Aquila historian - I wonder if he knows that 'Aotearoa' had been a royal transport. I'll confess to not realising the link between the photo I posted before and the Commonwealth Tour until I saw the programme and they mentioned SS Gothic - pre RY Britannia days of course.

Thanks also for the info on the Sunderland. I think we will need much better images or squadron records if we are to identify the individual aircraft but I was fairly sure it wouldn't be RAF that far east. They seemed to have a high profile military escort on the tour - notice the destroyer escorting SS Gothic.

As for "Aotearoa 2" have a look at this photo. No criticism Peter, just an example of pitfalls. This is, obviously from the flag on the tail, a photo of the Aquila days and they must have reinstated the name as "RMA Aotearoa II". I was happy to believe that was the name TEAL used as well, so thanks steering me round that particular trap.

There are, I think, some photos of the launching of the TEAL boats at Belfast. I'm sure I've seen a Royal party naming one of the boats but can't remember where I saw them.

Allan
PS - as for multi tasking, it has been many years since I used to listen to the news on the radio and TV at the same time. Apparently it used to irritate other people. :?


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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby sunderlandnut » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:05 am

Allan beat me to it but the photo and caption from British Flying Boats by Peter London (Sutton 2003) may be of interest.
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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby sunderlandnut » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:45 am

Some more photos of interest.

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HRH Princess Elizabeth naming G-AOBL Aotearoa (later ZK-AML Aotearoa II) at Belfast on 26 May 1949.

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Royal party leaving Fiji for Tonga on 19 Dec 1953

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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby sunderlandnut » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:07 pm

Also this photo from FlyPast April 1999

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No.88 Squadron formation flypast over Royal Yacht Gothic April 1954.
Which I have as possibly SZ578.

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Re: Flying boat takes the Queen to Tonga

Postby Pondskater » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:33 pm

Ah, excellent photo of the Queen boarding Aotearoa. Thanks for that.

The photo of her launching the same plane four years before is the one I've seen, although I half hoped to be able to see the name worn when launched. I suspect that she was launched under the New Zealand registration. G-AOBL wasn't used until she was registered with Aquila Airways 12-4-55 - see the CAA registration doc: http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/HistoricalMaterial/G-AOBL.pdf

And thanks for the alternative photo of the SS Gothic escort. My notes from the ORB show F/88 as RN293. She is in the photo above as well - closest to camera, with D/88 EJ155 furthest away. The unit improvised some spares to make five aircraft from the squadron airworthy to intercept Gothic as she approached Ceylon. They flew past in salute and sent a message of loyal greetings before carrying out individual escorts of the royal ship.

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