Coronation Aerial Post to New Zealand, 1911

As part of the celebrations for the Coronation of King George V in 1911 an aerial postal service was operated between Hendon Airport and Windsor Castle (distance of 21 miles). This was the first scheduled air mail service in the world with a total of 16 flights from Hendon and 4 from Windsor.

The first flight (by Gustav Hamel in a Bleriot) was on 9 September 1911 and the last on 26 September [1] although the flight on 9 September only carried one bag of VIP mail. An advert for the service is shown here. On arrival in Windsor, the mail was taken by bicycle to the local post office.

The planes used were two Bleriots and a Farman with the Farman being depicted on the special cards and envelopes. Pictures of the planes are shown here. Four pilots were involved: Gustav Hamel, E F Driver, Clement Greswell, and Claude Hubert although Hubert crashed on his first take off on 11 September, breaking both his legs. This led to a strike by the other pilots during 20 - 24 September to ensure that he was given compensation.

Card to New Zealand

Coronation 1911

Only specially produced cards and envelopes were flown. The cards, already stamped with a ½d postage stamp cost 6½d while the envelopes cost 1s 1d. That was sufficient to pay for internal British delivery, but items addressed to overseas had to have extra postage added.

This card is addressed to New Zealand and so has an extra ½d stamp. Although a large number of items were flown on the service, relatively few were sent overseas. The number sent to New Zealand are so few that a list was published in 2006 of all known examples; the total only being 31 [2]. The card shown here, postmarked on 11 September, is not on the list.

The postmark has the number 2. Numbers 1-4 were used for items collected from one of the special London collection boxes while 5 and 6 were used for items collected at Hendon.

Coronation 1911

The reverse of the card has a panel on the left that gives the cost of postage and where the cards could be purchased and posted.

More than one printer was used. Hunt, Barnard & Co. were used to print the first and later cards while a second printer was used to print a second supply. They can be differentiated by the shape of the first T in the inscription This space for written or printed matter. With the second printer, the T is straight while for the other printer, it is curved [3]. This card has a straight T.

An unusual feature of this card is that the word Roper's has been added to the list of where the cards can be purchased. I have not seen this described in the literature, but the addition was added by printing and so would seem to be official. I have been informed that Roper's were in Finchley Road and that most cards purchased from them were posted at the airport.

Originally, the service was scheduled to run between 9 - 15 September, but was extended to deal with the volume of mail which was quite a few thousand.

The first few flights were [4]:

day aviator left Hendon arrived Windsor no. of bags
Saturday 9 SeptemberHamel (Bleriot)4.55 pm5.08 pm1
Monday 11 SeptemberDriver (Farman) 6.30 am7.05 am4
Greswell (Bleriot)6.35 am7 am2
Hamel (Bleriot)6.15 pm6.45 pm2
Tuesday 12 SeptemberGreswell6.10 am7.40 am2
Driver6.22 am6.52 am4
Driver8.43 am9.13 am3
Hamel5.58 pm6.31 pm2

There was no service on Wednesday 13 September due to bad weather.

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All scans were made by the author.
[1] E.W. Leppard, First United Kingdom Aerial Post to New Zealand, The Kiwi, vol 46, pp 16-18, January 1997.
[2] L. Giles, 1911 Coronation Airmails to New Zealand, The Kiwi, vol 55, pp 89-92, July 2006.
[3] R. Whitely, The 1911 Coronation Aerial Post. The Settings of the Postcard Back Inscriptions, Air Mail News, vol 47, pp 197-206, November 2004.
[4] Flight, 16 September 1911, Vol 3 (no 37) pp 798-799.