Geoffrey in Cairo, possibly 1944 (?)

Geoffrey Pett was born in 1915 and died in March 2005. He joined Imperial Airways as a Commercial Trainee when he was eighteen, finished his training at age twenty, and was sent out to the middle of Africa to look after the ground arrangements for the new Flying Boat Service between London and Cape Town/Durban.

His Africa postings ranged between Alexandria, Egypt, on the Mediterranean coast, to Butiaba on Lake Albert, Uganda.   His was a ‘reserved occupation’ and he spent his war years as traffic superindent at Cairo (with a stint at the RAF base at Wadi Saidna, Sudan), handling the movements for the troops and other priority personnel on the civilian aircraft, as well as ensuring the ‘Horseshoe Route’ between South Africa and Australia operated at its turning point, Cairo. After the war he continued with the new British Overseas Airways Company, and stayed with it, through BEA into BA, until his retirement through ill-health in 1968.

Geoffrey was often sought out for his memoirs of Imperial Airways in Africa.  He left a box of memorabilia pertaining to his career. This included his photograph album and a set of tapes he dictated between December 1995 and autumn 2004.

I’m his daughter, J M Pett, and I’ve been unpacking the box, sorting the material, transcribing the tapes and finally editing a book in order to place the information out in the wider world.  This website works in conjunction with the original blog which holds all the archive material.

The book, White Water Landings, has now been published.

You can access the archive  and use it freely under a Creative Commons licence as a reference source and matter of historical record. Here you can view his photograph album and also ten flying boat pictures that feature in the book; these may be of interest to flying boat enthusiasts. Please credit this website as shown.

Featured on the front page and here is one of Geoffrey in Cairo around 1942. The one in the sidebar at the base of the pages is Geoffrey in his uniform, possibly as a Trainee, or just out of training.  It is in the style of passport photographs of that time, and he has the same look as his two youngest children in their first passport photographs.

About the author

J M Pett is Geoffrey’s only daughter, the youngest of his and Frances’ four children.  After gaining her first degree in Maths, she ended up in recruitment and training, working for a major travel company and then as a management development consultant.  After doing some self-consultancy she advised herself to retrain, and after some Open University courses (leading to a Diploma in Earth Sciences) she embarked on a Masters Degree in Environmental Technology.  This led to a career in research, focussing mainly on fuel poverty, energy efficiency and climate change.  Her writing skills were unleashed, having been previously constrained to reports and manuals, with a refreshing stint in local sports journalism on the side.  She now writes fiction under the name Jemima Pett, primarily fantasy for older teens, The Princelings of the East series, and science fiction for adults – the Viridian System series, book 1 of which, The Perihelix, is scheduled for publication winter 2015-6.



3 thoughts on “About

  • July 19, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Hi – as a former BOAC inmate (1969-74, and a further 8 years in British Airways – I too joined as a management trainee, but not the stellar career Geoffrey had) and I’m really enjoying the book.

    However, as a London and transport (amateur) historian, I have some questions…
    1 – when Geoffrey first goes up to London to be assessed, he says he went to “Airways Terminal”. As this was 1933 and a building of that name (Victoria) didn’t exist until 1939 (I worked there for many years, going on into BritAir days), do you know which building he was referring to?
    (answer) We’re fairly sure the Airways Terminal was inside Victoria Station, which is why he was eligible to join the Railwaymens club where he got his breakfast. The Victoria Terminal further down the road opened in 1939 and he talks about it at the start of Part 2.

    2 – Geoffrey talks of taking the tram from Streatham to “Vauxhall Bridge” – this must have meant the tram terminus (routes 8 and 20) in Vauxhall Bridge Road, at Victoria, near the junction with Wilton Way and Victoria Street, at ‘Little Ben’… He then talks of taking a bus ride to his destination. Do you know where that destination was? I haven’t yet been to my local archives which has street directories of the period, to see which London addresses Imperial then had.
    (answer) Vauxhall Bridge would have meant Vauxhall Bridge, not Victoria! The final destination would have been any of the offices as he moved around every three months as a Commercial trainee.

    Haven’t yet finished the book – I’ve reached the start of WW2. I’m writing my memoir of those five years in BOAC: even if it’s never published, I’ve long wanted to record experiences as “an East End lad in the glamorous airlines” (my strapline). White Water Landings has filled a few gaps in my knowledge, and many thanks for that…

    Best wishes,

  • June 15, 2023 at 12:00 pm

    Hello there,
    I have just started reading White Water Landings, I am only on page 12 and came accross the name of Mr. Ross Stainton…
    “Having begun his career as a station manager for Imperial Airways in North Africa in the 1930s, Stainton rose to join the board of Imperial’s successor, British Overseas Airways Corporation, in 1968. He became BOAC’s managing director in 1971 shortly before it was brought together with British European Airways (both being state-owned) under the newly created British Airways Board, of which he was a founder member. He then served as chairman and chief executive of BOAC from 1972 until 1974, when the airlines merged operationally as British Airways…. The Telegraph – 03/01/2012”
    … Why have I copied this extract from the Telegraph of January 2012? It is because I have just finished and published my first book in English and on Amazon titled “Fox Delta” – My story of the Boeing 707 and B.O.A.C.’s 707-436 series G-APFB thru G-APFP … And in the book I did insert this extract from the Telegraph and reading your book, his name just jumped at me.
    I must tell you that I am thoroughly enjoying reading your book, I love England and its way of life and your description is just marvellous!! I love Africa (I was born in Madagascar, lived in Mauritius, went to Kenya, Zambia, Rodhesia and South-Africa and was a cabin crew flying the old Boeing 707-436) so, I am bound to confirm my liking your book.
    I would like to thank-you because I have had my doubts about publishing and your book gives me hope.
    Very best regards,

    • June 15, 2023 at 1:55 pm

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. Yes Ross Stainton went on to lofty heights indeed. Knighted for services to aviation, I believe (definitely knighted!) He was interviewed at length (age 92) in the early 2000s for a short series about the flying boats. I’ve forgotten its name now, but I may have included a reference here in the news items when it was shown again in the 2010s.
      Good luck with your own adventure in writing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.