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Homepage. This page: Bristol Freighters & SuperFreighters operated as a car ferry by Silver City airlines, plus cars.

Silver City air ferry & a Morris Minor car.

This is the latest old photograph to feature a car and a Silver City Bristol Freighter, or in this case Superfreighter, that I've bought recently. A Morris Minor, registration YMB 219, is shown loaded on board the Silver City car ferry, and is in the process of being strapped down. A daring chap is stood in front of the aircraft's windscreens, giving them a quick buffing up - no Health & Safety in those days! A separate photo showing the same Morris Minor, parked at a French roadside filling station, can be found here.
A Morris is loaded into a Silver City Bristol Freighter
A note on the back of this original photo says: "A window cleaner with an unusual job. This maintenance man at Lydd airport clambers over the ferry aircraft to clean the cockpit windows".
A number of these aircraft were operated by Silver City, ferrying cars, by air, between England and France in the late 1940s and into the 1950s and 1960s.

2. Hillman Minx boards the Bristol.

Next, another of my favourite photos (dated 9-52 on the rear), showing an early Hillman Minx driving onto a Bristol 170 series Superfreighter. The uprated Superfreighter can be identified from the earlier Freighter by its taller doors, and longer front fuselage.
Bristol freighter operated by Silver City

3. Several 1950's cars.

Leo kindly sent this photo-postcard over, featuring not only classic aircraft, but a number of interesting cars. To the left is a laden Triumph Mayflower, with luggage on its roof and a Union Flag patriotically attached to its radiator. Somewhat shinier is a French-registered 1951 Cadillac, and also a similarly-licensed, but RHD, two-tone Aston Martin DB2. In the background, a Silver City freighter awaits its next cargo. The bi-plane, registration G-AESR, is a De Havilland DH89 Dragon Rapide, in use with Trans Channel Airways. The DH89 was registered to Air Kruise (Kent) Ltd (trading as Trans Channel Airways) in March of 1953, until another change of ownership in January 1956. Later that year it was pranged while serving in Libya, and its registration cancelled in September 1956. The location of this photograph, depending on its age, could either be Lympne, or Lydd, in England, or Le Touquet in France.
The Silver City aircraft in this case is a Bristol Freighter, rather than Superfreighter.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
A Triumph Mayflower carried by air ferry

4. Loading a Morris Minor.

Jeremy kindly sent over the next snapshot of a Silver City Bristol Freighter. In this image, his family's Morris Minor tourer is shown while being loaded into the aircraft at Lydd. The date of this photo was May 1956. His parents and grandparents undertook a round trip to Italy and back in the Minor, to visit WW1 sites that his grandfather had associations with. The Minor was registered ONF 583, dating it to 1954.
A Morris Minor is loaded into the Bristol

Background to Silver City.

Silver City aircraft on a magazine cover
After publishing this page on oldclassiccar, I stumbled across this old magazine in a box of paperwork, which features a pair of Silver City aircraft on the cover, one flying, and the other unloading its cargo of E-Series Vauxhalls.

The magazine dates to 1955, and contains an article about flying these lovely old machines.
Silver City were set up after WW2, operating three Avro Lancastrians, which were civilian-ised versions of the RAF's four engined bomber. These were soon joined by several Douglas DC-3 Dakotas, the operation now located at the Blackbushe airport. The Bristol 170 first joined their fleet on lease in 1947, and inspired the company's owner to set up new service, enabling the rapid air transportation of civilian vehicles, and their passengers, back and forth across the Channel. The first flight of this new service, from Lympne in Kent, took place in July 1948, and a report appeared a couple of weeks later in a contemporary motoring magazine, singing this service's praises.

In 1954 the company moved to it's own new airfield, named Ferryfield, at Lydd in Kent. Cost to fly a car to the Continent was 25, with an extra 4 charged for each passenger, flights taking their cargo to Le Touquet airfield in France. In the late 1950s, Silver City changed hands, ultimately ending up being taken over and the aircraft re-branded as British United Airways (BUA), still operating the car ferry service with the old Bristol Freighters. The final air ferry trip was made in 1971.

Comfort in the Bristol Freighter was not it's strong point, not forgetting that it started out in life as a transport aircraft for the RAF. The Silver City fleet had clam-type opening doors, into which the car(s) were driven. The design of the loading area was altered over time, to allow greater headroom, which explains why the doors differ in some photographs of the Silver City aeroplanes.
A magazine in 1948 tested out the new air service between Lympne and Le Touquet, taking an Armstrong Siddeley Lancaster along for the flight. It was necessary to pre-book one's flight, and arrive 1 hour before take-off. Customs was dealt with on arrival, and members of the Silver City staff took responsibility for loading the car into the Freighter's hold and securely chaining it down. The crossing, from England to France, was approximately 42 miles, and this took 20 minutes or so with an English-speaking company rep meeting the passengers on the other side.

There were a few rules that applied to the cars being carried - they could have their fuel tanks filled up to 3/4 of their maximum capacity, and on arrival in France, petrol coupons to the equivalent of 40 gallons would be issued by the customs office. These early flights could hold two reasonably sized cars - a Bentley MkVI accompanying the Armstrong Siddeley on this particular flight. Passengers during the flight sat in their own cabin to the rear of the aircraft, rather than inside the cars. Although flying a car over to the Continent cost more than going by sea, the great time savings more than made up for the extra expense in the opinion of the journalists on that early trip
By all accounts, the Silver City service is now looked back at with great fondness, opening up as it did the Continent to many people who had not previously set foot on foreign turf. On this site there are some interesting scans showing timetables issued by Silver City.
Another old photo of a car-carrying aircraft, this time showing a Land Rover boarding an RAF Beverley, can be seen on this page.
Return to the old transport photos - Page 5.
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