Cathay Pacific crash February 1949 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific crash February 1949

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Cathay Pacific crash February 1949
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Friday, February 25, 1949


Well done on digging out that account, and indeed a photo of poor Olive herself. My word it certainly puts a human face on the tragedy.

The press account seems rather 'understated' and matter of fact by todays standards of reporting. (You can only imagine the sensationalist hysteria these days).

And yet it must have been a huge incident at the time for the emerging Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Airline to have a crash in their own territory.

Perhaps so soon after the war people were used to hearing about aircrashes?

Come to think of it, didn't Clive James poor father die flying back to Australia from Hong Kong after the war. The plane carrying Australian internee's home crashed in Taiwan. You can find his grave in Sai Wan military cemetery.

Still both very tragic incidents. I am sure Olive would have been the envy of her friends having such glamorous (by the standards of the time) career as an air hostess, and travelling the world.

Life is fragile indeed...

That's another good find, thanks IDJ.

I've got a feeling we've talked about that crash before on this site, but I can't find where. Does anyone else remember, or am I mixing it up with another crash?

Regards, David

The previous discussions were probably based on

The Mount Parker area seems to have been a magnet for air crashes over the years.
The SCMP 25 February report on this crash mentions that Olive Batley had been with the company only 6 months and had previously sung with  the Eddie Guzman's band at the Ritz. Her name is sometimes refered to as Olive Dolores Batley. Presumably Dolores was the name she used with the band. Her funeral is fully reported in the SCMP on February 28. Most of the passengers appear to have been Philipinos.

Thanks IDJ, that's the one I was thinking of.

Regards, David

Many thanks IDJ you are certainly on the ball.

I'm not sure how to access the SCMP archive material. I presume they keep back issues somewhere?

I will have a look online for a start.

Yes the high and often mist covered hills of HK were obviously pretty unforgiving in the days before grond proximity warnings etc...

Oh just found this link online which tells us a little more about Olive, the aircrash and her connection with Eddie Guzman and the Ritz ballroom!

Perhaps some of the posters here could help Titania and RDG with their queries at the end?

The SCMP website hides behind a paywall.  Once you have paid, you will find that the archive search behind it is rubbish.  I have tried a few times to do just that (I am an online subscriber) but I have never been able to find anything useful.  To me it will be easier to head to the Central Library in Causeway Bay and look things up.  Microfiche if needs be.


additionally, i believe the online archive only goes back as far as 1994.

Yes I deduced that when I looked at their website. 10 year limitation...not great for historians lets face it, and most of us would have a living memory of events in the last 10 years (hopefully)...

So Causeway Bay Central Library it is sat afternoon!

Thanks for the tips!


Found another account of the crash in an Australian newspaper article...linked. 

A little information on the pilot in this one - different name in this one! Evidently newspapers in the late 40's had as much trouble getting the facts right as they seem to today...

So did actually get into Central Library at the weekend - fantastic resource and very helpful and friendly staff. I will be back.

All the SCMP back issues micro-fiched.

You could spend hours reading the old issues, and adverts. Really brought that period to life for me.

Anyway I did actually find what I was supposed to be looking for, and find attached several accounts over the week of the crash up to the funerals in the colonnial cemetery.

I printed the relevant pages, with a view to posting them here, however I scanned them and they are saved as a PDF file, which I dont think I can upload here, having just tried...

Any IT guru's can assist or advise?

Anyway not a lot more detail than we have posted here to date. In fact the story did not even get a mention only 2 days later! the accident happened on a thursday morning at 11.35am. It was reported on the friday, then the next we read about it was the funeral of Olive on the tuesday...

Olive's sister Edith and mother were at the funeral of course, and would you believe all her other 2 sisters were also air hostesses for other airlines. 

An E. Batley is mentioned on the HK war diary website, so they must have been a reasonably prominant local family at the time.

One other puzzling thing - they mention the plane clipping the wall and travelling 300yds over the water before hitting the hillside. I have not been up to Braemar Hill yet, but is the reservoir covered over now? When I looked on Google Earth, I could not see any open body of water...

Finally I thought I would pay my respects again at the cemetery on the way home from the library.

Olive has a beautiful and still bright white headstone over her grave, with her face sculpted onto it. I noticed NWF Moore, the radio operator lies buried beside her, though the incident is not mentioned on his headstone.

Best for now


Martin Willing's book "From Betsy to Boeing" gives more info about the crash than do the local newspapers.

The DC-3 had approached Kai Tak's Runway 07 ( see here ) in thick fog and although the pilot could see the runway from the Hung Hom Beacon, he subsequently lost visual contact and elected to turn right and circle to land on Runway 31. Unfortunately, the flight path taken was straight toward Hong Kong Island. The aircraft struck the lip of Braemar Reservoir at a height of 400 feet, broke up and caught fire. All aboard perished.

Hi Julian,

At the moment we can only upload plain JPG files as images, not PDF files. You can either scan again to a JPG file, or I found this online converter that will take your PDF and convert it to individual JPG files, one per page.

Braemar Reservoir has been drained and converted to Choi Sai Woo Park.

Regards, David

Hi there,

Part of the filled up Braemar Reservoir had become the Braemar Hill Mansion, which is visiblein the map above.

Best Regards,


Managed to do a save as on the PDFs and turn them into JPEG's with relative ease, so attached as promised.

SCMP 25 Feb 1949


CPA crash cot'd

Cathay Pacific crash 1949

Some interesting old views of Kai tak through the years on this PRO website:




I was just wondering if you have a photo of the grave of Mr Moore please?

He is my grandmother's brother, and although I would love to go myself to visit, this is probably not a viable journey in the near future.

Many thanks


This photo is from Patricia Lim's collection:

N W F Moore's gravestone

The inscription comes from Patricia's records:


In loving memory of / "Frank" / Nathaniel Wellington Francis Moore / died 24-2-1949 / aged 30 years / "I thank my God upon every / remembrance of you"

Wm Nodes Co.

Thank you.

Hello - my name is Kim (Wilber) Brasnson and I am in Anchorage, Alaska. I just learned about this site about an hour ago and am fascinated by the information you have on the airplane crash and specifically, Olive Batley. I am Olive's great-niece; her oldest sister, Mary D Batley was my maternal grandmother. I've known of Olive's tragic story for most of my life, but only vaguely. Many of the details are missing and I am eager to learn more about Olive, herself.
I am amazed to see that so many others are interested in her story, as well. I am also hoping to find out more details on the death of Olive's sister, Edith, though I believe she passed away in England. It was officially ruled a suicide, but my family firmly believed there was foul play involved, though they couldn't prove it.
I look forward to learning more about my family and perhaps making a new friend or two here at Gwulo.

According to family lore, Aunt Olive was not scheduled to be on hostess duty that day. Apparently, the woman who was scheduled to fly that day fell ill and Olive was called in as a replacement... so sad.

-- kim