1954 Summer holidays - arriving home on BOAC | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1954 Summer holidays - arriving home on BOAC

Children arriving at Kai Tak on BOAC, July 1954

Thanks to Ron Rakusen for sending this photo. He writes:

I started at Boarding School in the UK in April 1952 and next saw my parents in HK when I flew there for the summer holidays in 1954. 

It being my first time, I did not know what was involved but soon found out. Jardines, who I believe were the  BOAC agents made sure that all children flying out to HK were “collected” to arrive at Heathrow on a particular date and all flew out on the same plane so that it was “easier” to control them etc.  Therefore, as many schools had different end of term dates, I had to stay with my guardian for a few days and then got taken to Heathrow for the flight.

We duly set off from the Nissen Hut terminal at Heathrow on a BOAC Britannia for HK.  I do not recall all the stops that Roy’s letter mentions and as far as I can remember we only stopped at Karachi and Rangoon.  Maybe I was too busy playing with other children on the flight!  I do recall that when we got bored, we had pillow fights where we threw the headrest pillows at each other down the plane aisles – I do not recall anyone getting punished!

At Rangoon we stayed overnight in a “hotel” which I remember had lots of small lizards crawling all over the walls and ceilings.  Not harmful but scary for us children!

The next morning we flew on to HK and duly landed at Kai Tak.  As it was a plane full of children coming for the holidays, there were all the parents waiting and the SCMP reporters were also there.  I attach a photo of the children on the gangway which appeared in the next day’s paper.  

I do not know the exact date but maybe you can find out from the SCMP.  I do not know if anyone in Jardines would know more about how these flights were arranged and where they stopped. 

I will not identify which one was me but I do remember three of those in the photo!!  Maybe others will come forward and identify themselves and they can contact me.

Best wishes


If you can tell us any more about these school-run flights or recognise anyone in the photo, please let us know in the comments below.

We're heading to the airport this evening, where hopefully something faster than a Brittania will fly us to Heathrow. Then it's summer holidays with the family, so there won't much new from me on Gwulo over the next few weeks.

Have a good summer, and safe travels if you're heading overseas.

Regards, David

Also on Gwulo.com this week:


Not sure if the turbo-prop Britannia was flying to HK in 1954, but thanks, Ron, for rekindling fond memories of its 'flapping' wings and long meal and re-fueling stop-overs. Not always 'fond' though. On one occasion in 1960 en route to Mauritius (via Nairobi) the nose wheel failed to retract on take-off so spent an hour dumping fuel over the English Channel before returning to Heathrow. Can still smell the kero ! And David .... happy holidays. You deserve it. H.

BOAC's Bristol Britannias commenced services to Hong Kong In July 1957.

Before that, from 1949, BOAC used Canadair 'Argonauts' powered by four Roll-Royce Merlin engines on the route to Hong Kong.

This website lists out the route from London to Hong Kong in 1954. An Argonaut at Kai Tak

The beginnings of the organised traffic in children flying between schools in the United Kingdom and homes overseas are lost in airline history. Before the Second World War a very limited number of children used Imperial Airways for annual visits to their parents. Parents tended to see their children only when they returned ‘home’ on long leave by ship every four years or so.

In the post-war years after ‘priority’ travel restrictions had been lifted, school children traffic grew prodigiously. Such travel became a ‘perk’ in the conditions of employment for those employed by government and major companies in the colony. It was later not unknown for children to make three or four journeys a year in each of the school holidays.

For these veteran passengers, BOAC started its Junior Jet Club as early as March 1957 although passenger carrying ‘Jets’ were yet to appear on the Hong Kong route.

Log-books mimicking the design of a pilot’s log-book were issued to child passengers in which club members could obtain via the cabin crew a record of their air mileage for their flight along with the signature of the Captain. On some heavily booked flights this must have been a burdensome distraction to operating the aircraft.

By the summer of 1958, the club badge comprising a pair of gilt wings with a blue shield had already been issued to twenty-thousand Junior Jet Club members. Apart from those who commuted between school and home, many other children flew unaccompanied, usually in the charge of ‘Aunties’ who were members of the airline’s staff.

In the posted photograph of children disembarking at Hong Kong, the older person at the bottom of the steps appears to be one of these ‘Aunties’ who would have been in charge of the children throughout the flight.

Thanks for the memory Ian,remember doing this only too well.Next time I'm in the loft I will

have to dig out my logbook!I do have a certificate on the wall for Jet Club 100000miles dated May 1962.

Given that I was travelling 3 times a year and doing trips with my folks they ran out of mileage certificates for me.

Being airline staff passenger I never had the luxury of an Auntie looking after me,however I found myself sitting in

First Class often...kind of made up for it!


Yes, Mike - more memories ! In the late 1950's and 60's before the days of bar codes and computerisation, upgrades for staff passengers - not children - were sometimes the luck of the draw. On overbooked flights an announcement in the departure lounge asked staff passengers to declare themselves - the 'luck' being you were either upgraded or offloaded to standby. It became a decision whether or not to just keep quiet .


On Sunday 20th October 1957, I and a group of R.A.F. pals, some other Service personnel and a few wives and children flew out of Heathrow to Hong Kong.  Having checked in at the Victoria Air Terminal in London we were taken by one of the 'split deck' B.O.A.C. buses to the Nissen hut terminal off the old A3, Great Western Road at Heathrow.

 Half an hour before midnight we flew out on a chartered B.O.A.C  Argonaut, GALHY, named Arion.  In the very early hours of Monday, we stopped briefly for refuelling at Rome and again at Brindisi for breakfast and more fuel.  The next stops were at Istanbul for lunch and re-fuelling and again at Ankara.  Argonauts must have been thrirsty beasts! The Air Hostess had told us that we would be staying the night in a good B.O.A.C. hotel in Baghdad but, as we started to descend onto the landing strip at R.A.F. Habbanyia, in the desert, she changed this to "Well, actually you'll be staying in the transit wing on the camp - but don't worry boys, you'll be very comfortable in the modern living block."  The transit wing accommodation for lowly airmen turned out to be several small marqees acquired from the U.S. Army, but at least they had standard R.A.F. issue iron frame beds.  Higher ranks and civilians were looked after in the officers' and sergeants' messes!

Next day we flew down to Bahrain.  Every now and again, the pilot, obviously an ex R.A.F. guy, told us over the tannoy to look out of the windows on one side or the other and then banked the plane steeply so that we all had a good view of camel trains, oil wells or whatever.  We were only flying at about 10,000 ft so we had a good view of everything.  Even when, out of devilment, we all rushed to one side and caused the plane to bank even more steeply he took it in his stride and just said that we were making things a bit difficult for him.  It cannot have been half as bad as what he had presumably put up with when on bombing missions during the war!  Can you imagine a 747 pilot doing the same thing to entertain his passengers?  We spent the night in the Minwalla Grand Hotel, just a mile or so to the East of Karachi airport.  B.O.A.C. and other major airlines regularly used this hotel for stopovers.  It was way out in the desert and surrounded by a high wall and gate that was locked at night.  The same building exists in 2015 but is no longer a hotel and it is surrounded by urban sprawl.

Next morning we flew on, re-fuelling at New Delhi, Calcutta and, in the middle of the night, Rangoon and probably finally at Bangkok - but by then we were too tired to take much notice.  Early on the Thursday morning, after more than three days of travel, we landed on the old runway at Kai Tak (the one jutting out into the harbour was still being built).  It was a gloriously warm, sunny and cloudless Hong Kong morning.  Crossing the harbour by R.A.F. launch, the first thing we saw and heard as we climbed up some steps onto the waterfront at North Point was a traditional Chinese funeral.  We had arrived in the exotic Far East!  For the next year I continued to be amazed by it all - the sights, the smells, the sounds, the food and everything else that made Hong Kong so different to anywhere else I'd been.  No wonder I returned on several occasions!

Andrew Suddaby

My first flight out to Hong Kong for the summer holidays was in 1952 on an Argonaut. For that round trip only we flew First Class paid by the Hong Kong Bank, but they came to their senses and after that it was economy only. As I recall these planes could only take around 40 or so passengers, almost entirely schoolchildren. In 1953 or 1954 I came out on the Comet, but as it couldn't fly into Hong Kong had go via Singapore and then on to Hong Kong by Argonaut. Due to the crashes it was suspended from flying some months after my flight. On the return flight from Hong Kong in either 1953 or 1954 the Daily Mirror sent a reporter and cameraman with us and we had a 2 page spread in the paper! George

I remember well the summer holidays and the long flights to and from Hong Kong.  I was also a member of the Junior Jet Club and still have my "wings" - oddly enough years later I became a stewardess and earned another set of "Wings" not unlike the Junior ones!

My father kept all my letters during the English boarding school years and these I have transcribed into a book.  One is in great detail about the flight back to UK in September 1960 - in fact it is ten pages long. Obviously no movies or other entertainment that we know today!  We flew on a Comet 4 (and I know they had a crash record, which I learned much later in my life!) and the transit stops were Rangoon, Karachi, Teheran, Beirut, Frankfurt and London.  All the kids were seated together and the flight was known as "The Lollypop Special".  We swapped comics, read books and generally got quite bored.  In Karachi we went to the BOAC lodging called Speedbird House and had dinner but it was 1am and no one was hungry!

The journey seemed to be interminable and the only food service commented on in the letter seems to be tea with greasy cake (no sandwiches!) and a "watery breakfast with lovely rolls"

Sometimes we slept at Speedbird House and I well remember the punkah fans in the huge dining room which was set with white tablecloths and sparkling glasses.  I was fascinated by the punkah wallahs who pulled the fan cords all night long.  We were woken in what seemed to be the middle of the night and had to get in the bus to go back to the aircraft - feeling very groggy and confused.  

I don't recall "Aunties" who looked after us - we all seemed to look after ourselves and certainly we were taken to London by a member of the school staff who delivered us to the BOAC terminal at Victoria to be handed over to airline staff there.  

Some time ago I posted a photo of one of our arrivals in Hong Kong which was always greeted by a journalist from the SCMP and the article and photo subsequently published the following day.  





Thanks Alison, good to hear some more memories of the journey. Here are the photos you mentioned:

BOAC arrival students
BOAC arrival students, by Alison.
BOAC arrival
BOAC arrival, by Alison.