My photograph of Commercial Road, Portsmouth, taken from the high-level platform of Portsmouth and Southsea railway station was seen by Tim King, a former reporter with The News in its Stanhope Road days.
He tells a story told to him in the 1950s by another reporter, Peter Michel, about Amy Johnson’s solo flight to Australia in 1930.
Editor James Bayes was desperate for a diary piece. Michel looked out of the newsroom window in Stanhope Road from where you could see the roof of the general post office.
On the tiles he could just make out the words Good Luck Amy that had been painted on them. This referred to the famous solo flight to Australia of Amy Johnson, who took off from Croydon on May 5, 1930.
Tim doesn’t know if her flight path brought her over Portsmouth and he doesn’t know who painted the GPO roof. Do you?
Johnson died on January 5, 1941, while piloting an Airspeed Oxford. Airspeed, I believe, was the forerunner to Portsmouth Aviation, so the plane was probably built in Portsmouth (of the 8,586 built for the RAF, more than half were built in Portsmouth) and would have flown initially from Portsmouth Airport.
Airspeed was founded by novelist Nevil Shute (Nevil Shute Norway, whose surname is remembered in Norway Road).
Amy Johnson joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) when the Second World War started. The ATA delivered planes around the country,
On that day, she was flying the Oxford from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, when she went off course in bad weather. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames estuary
The crew of HMS Haslemere spotted Johnson’s parachute and saw her alive in the water. Conditions were poor, with a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold.
Haslemere’s commanding officer, Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher, dived into the water. His heroic efforts failed and he died later from hypothermia. Johnson’s body was never recovered.