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Stuart Aitken from the Postal Museum joined us at Stampex to give a talk about the origins of transatlantic/international airmail, celebrating its 100th year.
Airmail in the UK actually began right after the First World War in 1919 when communication was necessary between the British troops that had occupied Cologne and Britain. The RAF thus introduced the service between Kent and Cologne which then became the first civilian service, but this time operating between London and Paris. This was inefficient and expensive at first as weather could seriously impact the arrival time but allowed the first postcards, letters, samples and business letters to travel across the channel by air.
The war had spurred a great advance in aviation technology and the race was on to see who could boast the best plane. With great use of original photographs and footage, the presentation then moved onto the air race for the first transatlantic flight, first achieved (after a number of failed attempts) by Alcock and Brown. They flew from Newfoundland to Ireland in June 1919 and landed themselves a winners cheque from the Daily Mail of £10,000, also carrying with them the first transatlantic air mail.
The second air race was from Great Britain to Australia. This was won by the Smith brothers, landing their Vimy Bomber in Port Darwin, also in 1919. They managed to meet the challenge of managing the journey in 30 days and also bagged a cash prize. With them, travelled 130 covers which was the first airmail service to Australia and arguably opened up Australia for emigration and communication.
To see the full presentation click HERE