This is a bit more about the tail-end of F318's flight out to Egypt - when Lawrence joined it to complete his journey. It's taken from an article I've written for the Cross and Cockade Journal. You need to imagine about half a dozen 58 Squadron Handley Pages and their crews, along with Lawrence who had travelled out with them from France, sitting more or less trapped at Suda Bay in northern Crete, in blistering heat, working hard on their tired and exhausted machines, most of the men sick with fever as well, staring at a range of snow capped peaks to the south, standing between them and their next specified airfield in Egypt, but quite unreachable because of the mountains... They had been at Suda about 9 days, trying to come up with a solution. They had also been patiently waiting for an Italian flying boat to accompany them on the sea crossing. The latter had finally turned up on the 24th. Now read on...
The day after the flying boat's arrival, however, saw a very special Handley Page limp into Suda Bay - not from 58 Squadron but instead HP F318 of the 86th (Communications) Wing, which was making a dramatic and ultimately record breaking run from England to Cairo with very important Foreign Office officials on board. Remarkably, it had left Lympne with its VIP passengers only four days earlier. This blistering journey had taken its toll on the machine, and halfway to Crete the port propeller had burst, putting considerable strain on the engine, requiring throttling back. They had reached Suda Bay only by the smallest of margins.
The faulty engine was overhauled by the 58 Squadron mechanics, and then a good propeller, taken from a 58 Squadron machine, replaced its damaged one, Lawrence helping to do this. And Henderson then offered the flying boat, the machine his squadron had so patiently waited for, to accompany F318 to the Egyptian coast. Lawrence would also join the diplomats, and so that is how he reached North Africa and Cairo.
On the 26th the repaired F318 took off, taking three attempts to get into the air. They had brought news that petrol and oil was available at El Sollum, an airfield on the border of Egypt and Libya, and it was for here that F318 headed that day, and to which 58 Squadron now planned to go, for it was within range of their machines. The flying boat sent with the diplomats would eventually return, it was hoped.
The last stages of Handley Page F318’s epic trip to Cairo are worth recording: quite unable to fly over the Cretian mountains the pilot, Lt Yates, flew south around the coast and then took a dead reckoning across open sea on his destination. Four hours later they touched down, right on target. Though now showing considerable signs of stress, it was decided to press on to Heliopolis that same day – a flight of six hours across 500 miles desert, but somehow it was managed, and the machine landed some hours after sunset, on June 26th 1919. HP F318 had made the journey in just five days, with a flying time of 36 hours - a truly remarkable time for the journey, and given the fate of so many others making the flight that summer, no doubt involving much good fortune.
The whole trip of 58 Squadron out to Egypt is a fantastic story, to be honest.
Absolutely astounding! Thank you.
Do you know whether Lord Milner was one of the "important Foreign Office officials" you mentioned? My grandfather (47 Squadron, Helwan/Saloum, Cairo) has some pictures of him by F318 being greeted by Commodore Groves (I think, will check later...) when he arrived to start his mission.
Which issue(s) of the Cross and Cockade was your article in? I'd love to obtain a copy.
Many thanks again, extremely appreciated.
Try this link for Lawrence's eventful flight to Egypt-bit of a discrepancy with the aircraft numbers though.Lawrence to Egypt
Fascinating! Thank you!