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.



One thought 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,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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