Corsair, G-ADVB, became infamous for crashing not once, but twice, in Equatorial Africa.  Geoffrey was in Juba, in the middle of things, when the accident happened.  Then after the flying boat was salvaged from its watery berth on the edge of the river in what became the Congo, it was repaired enough to fly out, then promptly crashed again.

ADVB Corsair crashed
ADVB Corsair crashed at Faradge

Various tales surround it, and there are several in different books.  Some stick to the official report, in which the manager of West Africa region behaved promptly and directly in saving the passengers and sending them on their way.

Several technical details emerged during the inquiry, and the blame seemed to be laid on some new direction finding equipment, a claim that was strongly defended by the manufacturers.

I have no doubt that there was a combination of technical and human error, all hushed up. My version is almost entirely based on the description of events by my father. I think I’ll write it as fiction one day, just to be safe.

The Corsair tapes

Here’s my father’s version, divided into four sections.

First, the realisation that Corsair was in trouble. Juba (Rejaf) was at the heart of the radio search area, although the alert was sent to them via the Khartoum station, as Geoffrey says. After describing the radio search, Geoffrey discusses the official and the ‘understood’ version of how much the plane was carrying.  If you are not a technical person with detailed knowledge of flying, remember the discussion of trim in the Centaurus acceptance tests, and think about the implications for a plane that is carrying more than it officially should.

Secondly, Geoffrey describes the preparation and the journey across Central Africa to find the plane near Faradje and the passengers at the town of Aba. He references two books here who have used his account Penrose calls “Pett to the rescue”, namely Penrose (Wings Across the World; p115) and Sims (Adventurous Empires, p120).

Third, the return journey, with a memorable account of the woman who wouldn’t stop talking, and the night-time encounter with buffaloes, who Geoffrey reckoned were the most dangerous animals in the bush.

The account finishes with what to me is the clincher for Geoffrey’s tale being the true one, namely the ‘ladies knickers incident’!  Time enables stories to be embroidered and bystanders to become heroes, but I don’t believe my father would ever have made up the ladies knickers incident, and therefore, the ladies had to have been brought back to Juba, and not to wherever Vernon Crudge said he looked after the passengers. Geoffrey doesn’t have much to say about Vernon Crudge, but then Vernon Crudge said nothing about Geoffrey!


The Corsair Affair – Geoffrey’s voice tapes
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4 thoughts on “The Corsair Affair – Geoffrey’s voice tapes

  • February 16, 2022 at 8:11 am

    The text talks about Corsair “crashing” in the Dungu River in the Belgian Congo. That is not correct! The aircraft made a controlled and successful landing as the crew had become disoriented and were running out of fuel about a 120 miles to the south west of their intended destination. As the air aft was preparing to stop on the river, it run over a submerged rock which tore a 26 foot long hole in the hull. Captain Alcock powered on and rammed the river bank in order to stop the flying boat from sinking and making it easier to get the passengers and the all important Mail off the aircraft. The repairs took many months and when an attempt was made by the same Captain to get airborne, they hit another rock and this time suffered an 11ft gash 8n the hull and the whole repair had to be repeated. All up, the aircraft was in the Dungu for almost 10 months, finally being brought home to the U.K. by senior Captain J.C. Kelly Rogers. So….crashed?.
    Not really but it makes for a dramatic tale!!

    • February 16, 2022 at 10:28 am

      There are a lot or reports, some official, some not so much, so I suspect it depends on which one you are going by – unless you were there!
      Geoffrey says he was the first ground personnel on the scene, the pictures are from his collection, and poor Corsair certainly looks pretty beaten up by the time she got her nose on the bank. Have you read his whole account? I can’t remember whether he uses the term ‘crash’ or whether he used ‘air accident’ or some other term. There was a lot going on with that flight that didn’t make the official report.

  • April 2, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    It is lovely to hear your father describing the Corsair accident. Did he ever describe exactly where the aircraft landed? Did he ever revisit the scene and see Corsairville during the ten months the aircraft was stuck there?

    • April 2, 2022 at 6:28 pm

      I can’t remember much of a description of the site, although the photos here are from his collection, and I have always understood he took them when he got there.
      Once Vernon Crudge took over, Geoffrey would have stayed on his own patch, unless one of the many engineers who came to deal with Corsair (and I think they came via Juba) took him out there, but I suspect not. The full transcription of the tapes are on the website if you’re interested.


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