The Schlesinger, England – South Africa Air Race, Portsmouth to Johannesburg 1936.
The air race was the grand idea of industrialist I.W. Schlesinger who had donated £10,000 to mark the opening of the Johannesburg Empire Exhibition. The aviation world, which for two years had bathed in the brilliant reflection of the MacRobertson air race to Australia, buzzed with excitement at the prospect of another great international air race.
Unfortunately the onset of the Second World War meant that aircraft manufactures were more preoccupied with producing war machines than touring aircraft. The last major event in aviation’s era of the great air races was to be a battle between a handful of sporting pilots.
The Royal Aero Club announced that the London-Johannesburg Race would start from Portsmouth. The first machine would be sent away from Portsmouth aerodrome at 6.15 a.m. on Tuersday, September 29th, the reast to follow at one minute intervals, the times being adjusted at the Cairo control. A total of 14 entries were received – see the table below, although eventuall there were only 9 starters, these being nos.1,2,3,4,6,7,8,10,13.
The Mew Gull (left) to have been flown by Tom Campbell Black , co-winner of the MacRobertson race, but he was killed in a freak accident ten days earlier. Campbell Black had flown the Mew Gull to Liverpool for a special naming ceremony. While taxiing at Speke Airport the tiny Percival had collided with a Hawker Hart. The biplane’s propeller had slashed into the Gull’s cockpit, mortally wounding the illustrious racing pilot.
C.W.A. Scott and Giles Guthrie