Short C-Class Empire Flying Boat “Centurion” Questions

From the Singapore and Southampton through to the Short Empire

Short C-Class Empire Flying Boat “Centurion” Questions

Postby Centurion » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:09 pm


I have a crash cover from the Centurion, which crashed on landing on the Hooghly River, Calcutta on the 12th June 1939. I have details of the crash and the crew.


G-ADVE Centurion was one of the initial fleet of 12 ordered by Imperial Airways to fly the Empire Air Mail Scheme (EAMS). She was delivered on the 29th May 1937.

On the 29th June 1937 she flew the inaugural EAMS flight to East and South Africa.

On the 23rd February 1938 she flew the first flight (together with Qantas’ Coolangatta) of the extended scheme to Egypt, Palestine, India, Burma, Ceylon and Malaya. Centurion went as far as Karachi. Coolangatta carried on to Singapore.

Does anyone have more information on the life of Centurion, or can point me in the right direction? What did she do between June 1937, February 1938 and finally crashing in Calcutta in June 1939?

Two particular questions regarding the inaugural flight to South Africa:

1) Which route would she have taken?

2) Did she fly the return journey, which I believe left South Africa on the 1st July 1937?

Picture of Centurion taxiing in on the Medway after her first flight, May 1937.


I’d love to find out more about what this particular plane did – to put together this short, but interesting, life.

Thanks for any info, or pointers – Dave.
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 5:43 pm

Re: Short C-Class Empire Flying Boat “Centurion” Questions

Postby sunderlandnut » Wed Jun 22, 2011 12:03 pm

Hi Dave

Here are some Centurian references:

Following from ‘Adventurous Empires’ by Phillip E. Sims (Airlife 2000)

A year after Ceres ran aground on Lake Dingari, there was another accident in India. On 12 June 1939, Centurian was approaching the Hooghly River alighting area at Bally, outside Calcutta. There, Imperial Airways staff were awaiting the arrival of Captain Loraine home-bound from Sydney. Storms were approaching. The sky was black and, nearby, thunder and lightning were present. In the distance rain was marching towards them. The Hooghly was treacherous at the best of times. The fairway, always full of debris, was surrounded by small craft, fringed with large dockside cranes and bounded by the Willingdon Bridge. As Loraine turned the ‘boat onto the final approach, a squally wind blew. Touchdown seemed normal, but as she slowed, a gust of wind caught Centurian under the tail. The tail rose alarmingly and swung Centurian viciously to port. The ‘boat, still with considerable forward speed, dug her nose into the river and crabbed towards the shore. The sideways loading was too much for the hull and it was stove in, causing the ‘boat to roll and sink.
Of the five crew, Captain Loraine, First Officer E. A. T. Murray and Steward A. Carter were injured. Radio Officer E. B. Brown and Flight Clerk L. R. Smith escaped serious injury, but the same was not so for Mr. Kinlock, a passenger from Singapore, as he broke a leg. On shore, the station staff, Reg Moss included, summoned an ambulance and the other passengers and crew were despatched in the Imperial Airways passenger coach. From the time of the crash until the last person was ashore a mere 16 minutes had elapsed. An attempt to salvage the aircraft was made but later the strong currents had done much damage to the hulk. The aft section was beached and after a prolonged search the tailplane, fin, rudder, engines and fuel and oil tanks were recovered. The wings and forward fuselage had been damaged beyond repair.
Although three engines were recovered, the main body of the ‘boat broke in two, while attempts to lift her with chains were being made. Further repairs were not attempted. The wreck, which now lay in twelve feet of water at low tide, was a hazard to shipping and she was demolished with explosives.
Of the accident, Imperial Airways announced:
‘The Centurian, operating the airmail service from Sydney to Southampton, was damaged on alighting at Calcutta today, owing to a sudden north-wester lifting her tail and causing the aircraft to nose into the water; the passengers and crew were all saved without serious injury. The aircraft is partly submerged. The mails are being salved with the assistance of the port authorities.’

p.120 (14 March 1939 Corsair crash landed on River Dangu, near Faradje in the Belgian Congo.) ‘Still lacking their luggage, the passengers waited a few days at Juba. ..... Soon they continued their journey with Captain Foy and Centurian.

On 17 February 1938, the Empire Airmail Scheme was extended to Malaya. The first flight, made by Captain ‘Scotty’ Allan in Centurian, arrived in Karachi at dusk on 27 February, being accompanied by Coolangatta. Centurian carried 5,000 lb of mail, consisting of 181 mail bags and 40 packages. Centurian continued her journey across the subcontinent whilst indigenous airlines further distributed the India mail. Meanwhile Coolangatta flew on to Singapore, arriving on 2 March, several days before Centurian. On 9 March, ‘Scotty’ Allan departed Singapore, in Centurian, for Southampton but his stay in England was brief and he was soon Australia-bound again.

Following from Aeroplane Nov 2002


Posts: 162
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:11 am
Location: London

Re: Short C-Class Empire Flying Boat “Centurion” Questions

Postby Centurion » Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:45 pm

Hi Richard.

Thank you for the additional info on the Centurion, particularly the extra details about the crash on the Hooghly, and the inaugural Stage 2 flight to India and Singapore.

I've answered by own question - "Did she fly the return journey, which I believe left South Africa on the 1st July 1937?" - No! Centurion arrived in Durban, South Africa on the 5th July. (It did seem a bit quick to have left Southampton on the 29th June, and then to return from South Africa on the 1st July - 2 days later!)

Many thanks - Dave.
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 5:43 pm

Re: Short C-Class Empire Flying Boat “Centurion” Questions

Postby longshot » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:25 pm

Here's Centurion at Galilee, Palestine , probably not long before the crash ... 4727564944
Posts: 204
Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:14 am

Return to Between the Wars - The 'Golden' Era - 1918 to 1939

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

Help keep this forum ad-free - please Donate

This free, ad-free forum is hosted by ForumLaunch