Included below is a selection of letters sent to Provincial Airways or from Provincial Airways mainly about the flights of the 25th and 26th November. Also included are letters sent from the Post Office on behalf of the Postmaster General about abuse of Poste Restante facilities and abuse of the Postmaster Generals monopoly on the delivery of mail.
The invoice sent out by Provincial Airways Number 1001. First letter noted after the inauguration of the company on the 12th October. It is an invoice to the Newport Airmail dealers A. Phillips for 900 covers and 100 separate stamps. This shows the large quantities that these dealers were sending out.
Tressillian Bowmore was the Plymouth manager for International Airlines and an ex RAF pilot although there is no evidence that he flew for either International or Provincial. This is the only letter located by him and the only letter located from Plymouth. The letter has a number of points of interest. Firstly, Bowmore tells King that they do not have a Post-office contract. This indicates they were well aware of the post office rules on the carrying of mail. If the Postmaster General had seen this letter, he may not have been so lenient after their mail flight. Secondly, Without the whole sheet it is impossible to tell the printing of the air stamp, but this is first or second printing. It is interesting that the air stamps had been printed for at least the first printing only eighteen days after inauguration. Clearly an air mail flight was at the forefront of their thinking. Thirdly, Bowmore says the Great Western air service was suspended for the Winter. This affirms that there was no intention of running a scheduled service during the Winter. Fourthly, he said he encloses a timetable, presumably this is for the Summer service which started on March 19th, 1934. The fact they did not know when the service would restart meant it would have been a general timetable.
VERY IMPORTANT LETTERThis letter confirms that the flight of the 25th/26th November 1933. was a mail only flight and not part of a scheduled service. This shows beyond doubt that the previous accounts of this flight was not correct, it was not part of a regular service, it was a pure philatelic flight to generate ‘First flight’ covers for dealers and collectors.
These two letters show the number of covers flown. The first letter sent on the 4th of December only included four of the six routes. The second letter of the 30th of December shows the number of covers flown on the other two routes. The second letter confirms the pilot was S. W. A. Scott, the International Airlines pilot who later become chief pilot with Provincial Airways when it ran a scheduled service in 1934 and 1935. It also gives the registration of the plane as G-EBZP. It was previously thought that the plane used was a new DH 80 moth which the airline had bought. G-AEBZP was a De Havilland 60 which was a two-seater tourer. Although a much smaller aircraft the covers only numbered just over 3000 which could comfortably be stored in the passenger seat. It does confirm though that there was no intention of carrying passengers and this was mail only. Another interesting point is that the plane was never registered to Provincial Airlines so it must have been hired for the event.
The Postmaster General Responds
Historic literature on this flight gives the impression or sometimes clearly states that the carrying of mail was stopped because of the intervention of the Postmaster General. We have already seen that this was a special flight for the carrying of first flight covers. No other flights were planned (they would not be first flights anymore). We see below four letters from the Post Office on behalf of the Postmaster General. The first is not till the 22nd of December, so clearly the PGs intervention had nothing to do with no further flights being organised. As we will see further down, Provincial from the end of January made it clear to correspondents that were not allowed to fly mail. A number of points arise from the letters below. Firstly, the Postmaster General got involved because the dealer George King abused the Poste Restante service. If he had not done this, the PG may never have known about the flights. Dealers often abused the Poste Restante service, but clearly not to the extent that George King did here. It was a common ploy to send first flights covers to remote destinations ‘Poste Restante’ and then write on the back. ‘If not collected within four days, please return to ….’. This way they would not have to collect the letters and the Post Office would have the expense of sending them to the dealer’s address. They got away with it for a few covers, but as can be seen George King sent far too many by this method. Secondly, the first letter is quite hardnosed. The PG is threatening Provincial with prosecution and threatening to destroy George King’s covers. They later softened their stance. Thirdly, the second letter maintains a hard stance and demands an explanation of Provincials actions. Unfortunately, we only have one side of the correspondence at present. I had hoped to find the other side at the Postal Archives, but this is presently closed. Hopefully in the future these letters can be matched. Fourthly, the PG has softened his stance and is now merely asking for assurances that there will be no reoccurrence of these flights. Fifthly, although we do not have the corresponding letters it is clear that Provincial have pleaded ignorance of the regulations and even has the cheek to suggest the Post Office didn’t properly advertise the situation. We know from the letter at this at the top of this page that this is not the case. Provincial knew exactly what they were doing but managed to convince the PG that this was not the case. It would be interesting to see Provincial’s letter as the reference to Railway letters is interesting. They may have seen GWR’s continuing use of a 3d air letter service and wondered why they were treated differently. The answer is that GWR asked the PG whether Railway letters applied to them as an airline, as they were a railway. He affirmed on the 27th of April 1933 that this was the case. It would not apply to Provincial as they were not a Railway. A bit unfair, but those were the rules.
Letter 1 - 22nd December 1933
Letter 2 - 04th January 1934
Letter 3 - 18th January 1934
Letter 4 - 25th January 1934
Invoice from Provincial to A. Phillips. Note the large number of air stamps sold long after the flights had stopped. Also note the proviso that they are sold with the knowledge that no further mail carrying flights will take place.
Letters written by pilot S. W. A. Scott sending signed covers of the flight on the 18th Sep and 25th Oct 1934
Provincial Airways - Letters
Provincial Airways - Introduction and Air Label
Provincial AIrlines was incoroporated on October 12th 1933 with assets of £10,000. It took over the mantle of International Airlines and may have inherited some of the personnel. They flew a ‘proving’ flight from Croydon to Southampton and Plymouth on the 25th November and returned from Plymouth to Southampton to Croydon the next day on the 26th, although the flight had to land at Heston due to bad weather at Croydon. These flights are disucssed further below. There was no further flights until the 19th March 1934 when the service properly started. Additional stops were added and more were added later in the year and in 1935. In 1935 Haldon was replaced with Provincial’s own aerodrome at Denberry. Despite the extra stops the airline was not viable and closed on 23rd September 1935 and went into liquidation on December 10th 1935. A fellow operator at Croydon, Air Dispatch took over the route in 1936 with no more success. Denberry was abandoned until becoming a wartime military camp and later Channings Wood prison.