Jones-Williams and Jenkins Fly Non-Stop to India.
On 24th April, 1929, two Welshmen, Squadron Leader Arthur Jones-Williams OBE, Croix de Guerre, MC and Bar (then serving with 23 squadron at RAF Kenley) and his co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Norman H. Jenkins OBE, DFC, DFM took off from RAF Cranwell in a specially developed Fairey Monoplane (J9479).
In a little over 50 hours, and 4130 miles later, they arrived in Karachi, failing to beat the world record for long distance flight, (then held by an Italian team) by 336 miles, but becoming the first to fly non-stop from Britain to India.
However, the lure of the world record had not receded and later that year, the intrepid pair made a second attempt – this time with Cape Town, South Africa as their intended destination. However, they ran into difficulties soon after crossing the North African coast and crashed in the Atlas mountains of Tunisia on December 16th December 1929. Both men were killed.
Despite this tragedy, the Air Ministry ordered a second Fairey monoplane (K1991), which beat the world distance record, with Squadron Leader O. R. Gayford and Flight Lieutenant G. E. NIcholetts at the controls between the 6-8th February 1933. They flew from Cranwell to Walvis Bay, South West Africa – a distance of 5410 miles. Unfortunately, this record only stood for six months before being lost to a French team.
Arthur Gordon Jones-Williams originally joined the Welsh regiment, before being seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, in January 1917. He won his first string of victories flying a Nieuport fighter for 29 squadron. Only five months after his move to the R.F.C., Jones-Williams was promoted to Flight Commander and awarded the Military Cross.
The citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has continuously shown the utmost dash and gallantry in attacking superior numbers of hostile machines. On one occasion he attacked twelve hostile scouts and succeeded in destroying one and driving down another.”
Between 14 April and 23 September 1917, Jones-Williams drove down out of control eight German Albatros fighter planes. After a spell in hospital, he returned to combat flying a Sopwith Camel for No. 65 Squadron. Between 5 September and 4 October 1918, he was credited with three more German Fokker D.VII fighters, bringing his total to eleven victories.
After the War, Jones-Williams remained in the Royal Air Force, received the O.B.E. In June 1927, and was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1st January, 1928.
He was a bachelor at the time of his death, during the second attempt to break the World Record for Long Distance flight with Norman Jenkins in the Fairey Monoplane.
There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of information about Flight Lieutenant Norman H. Jenkins OBE, DFC, DFM, but he was obviously a much decorated war hero and, like Jones-Williams, was excited by the potential opportunities opened up by developments in long distance flight.
The Fairey Long Range Monoplane was an experimental airplane designed and built in 1928 by Fairey Aviation Company, Ltd., at Hayes, Middlesex, England, for the Royal Air Force to investigate methods of increasing the range of airplanes. The agreed price was £15,000. It was designed for a crew of two pilots and even had a small bed. It had an 82ft wingspan! The wood and fabric wings contained petrol tanks with a capacity of 1043 Imperial gallons. The high-wing monoplane design allowed a gravity feed to the Napier Lion XIA (Special) engine. It produced 530 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m., and a maximum of 570 horsepower at 2,585 r.p.m., which gave a cruise speed of 110mph and a range in excess of 5000 miles.
This video has some footage of the Gayford/Nicholetts world record flight in 1933.