No other part of the British Isles has had more connections with flying boats and seaplanes than Southampton Water.Starting in 1913 with the opening of the air station at Calshot,for the next 50 years ,the strip of water from Southampton to Cowes,on the Isle of Wight,was home to several firms engaged in building marine aircraft.In addition ,both the Navy and the Air Force had marine aircraft bases on Southampton Water .Civilian flying boat services first started at Southampton,and as far as the UK is concerned ,finished there in 1958.
Reference to the map above will show seven main sites.Starting with "A" Calshot we will work round the map in a clockwise direction.(Click on the pictures to go to detailed pages)
Air station opened on 29th March 1913 and used by RAF until closure on 1st April 1961.To see a fuller history click on the picture of a RAF Sunderland above.
Admiralty shed at Hythe used in WW1 for flying boat production,later used by Supermarine and Imperial Airways.For fuller history click on the picture of the buildings above(as seen in the late 30s).
From 1919 to 1958 four different locations in Southampton Docks were used as terminals for Flying Boat services.For more details click on th picture above of Short Solent 4 G-ANYI(c/n S.1558) of Aquila Airways ,about to leave on the last ever passenger carrying service ( 1958).
Woolston,on the banks of the river Itchen, was the location of the Pemberton-Billing aircraft building company.This was later renamed Supermarine.Also located on the river bank at Northam was the Gosport Aviation Co.To see more about Supermarine ,click on the picture above of their factory as it was before WW2.
Hamble,with it's three airfield locations,was also the site of several different seaplane and flying boat builders.Among them was the Fairey Aviation Co.To read more about Hamble click on the above picture of the Fairey N4 Titania N129(c/n F.337).This aircraft was first assembled,but not flown, at Hamble.
In 1943 the Southampton Harbour Board put forward a plan for a combined land and water airport.The airport would have been located near Meon,about halfway between the mouth of the Hamble River and the Meon River.Around the same time a scheme to build a similar facility at Langstone Harbour ,near Portsmouth,was also put forward.At the end of WW2 the ideas ,along with others in the same vein,were evaluated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.With the rapid increase in size and performance of land planes,the whole idea of flying boat operations was becoming less attractive,and as a result,none of the schemes were taken any further.
Lee-on-Solent opened for seaplane operations in July 1917.Later a land airfield was built and use of the seaplane facilities gradually diminished .To learn more about Lee-on-Solent click on the picture of Fairey IIIF J9153 above.
If you want to learn more about Flying boats, visit the Poole Flying Boats Celebration website..