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A record-breaking flight

The dramatic tale of a world record-breaking flight that was fraught with danger and filled with adventure entertained the audience at the third talk in the Memorial’s spring 2023 series.

While it departed a little from the Battle of Britain theme, the presentation by Adam Fraser, senior culture heritage consultant with Arcadis, and Catherine Tappenden, a graduate consultant colleague, was well received by the audience in The Wing.

The pair told the story of the record-breaking flight from Lympne to Cairo in June 1919 undertaken by a young Canadian RAF pilot, Harry Yates.

Yates needed to deliver Harry St John Philby, the father of Kim Philby, to Egypt in order to negotiate a peace between warring Arab tribes.

Flying in a mammoth Handley Page 0/400, he left Lympne in Kent – not far from the Memorial - on 21 June and arrived in Cairo on the 26th.

Remarkably, this was just a week after Alcock and Brown had completed their non-stop transatlantic flight and, although they completed their trip in stages, Yates and his crew covered a similar mileage with little or no preparation time.

They told the audience how the crew and their passenger were really ‘on their own’ for most of the flight, having to cope with failed fuel pumps, cracked propellors and emergency landings on riverbeds.

Every leg of the journey brought danger and adventure and the crew even picked up a hitchhiking Lawrence of Arabia along the way.

The speakers, both trained archaeologists, brought the story of this flight to life and showed another side of the history of aviation in the south east of England, telling a little-known story with its roots just a few miles from the Memorial.

Thanks to the speakers, a detailed illustrated article about this epic voyage is available by following this link.

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