Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Villard)

At Mr. Berle’s request I telephoned Air Commodore Thornton50 and asked him to supply us with details concerning the BOAC planes which the British Government desired to have stop in Liberia for refueling purposes. I said that we had had this matter under discussion for some time and that at a conference about two months ago the British air authorities in Washington had been requested to supply precise details as to the need for these BOAC planes to land in Liberia. So far we had not received this information and I suggested to Air Commodore Thornton that he might be able to obtain exact figures concerning the pay loads and capacities of the planes in question.

Air Commodore Thornton suggested that he might better discuss this question with the War Department. I replied that we were working on the problem here in the light of representations made by the British Minister, and that it would be helpful if the figures could be given to us direct.

Air Commodore Thornton then stated that the planes on this run were known as the ensign type, and were used on the trans-African run linking up British West Africa with Khartoum. He did not appear very sure of the terminal at either end, mentioning both Mombasa and Massaua for the eastern terminal. He said that the planes were obsolescent and stripped down to carry freight, with six hours endurance in the air, or about 850 miles. The planes were defined as “commercial planes”, that is, “civilian”, as distinct from “military”, but they did not operate for hire. They carried freight but, of course, could also be used to transport passengers.

According to Air Commodore Thornton, the planes were not worth operating between Freetown and Takoradi unless they could land for refueling at Roberts Field in Liberia, as otherwise the useful load would be too small. I again asked for the exact figures regarding the pay load and gasoline consumption. Air Commodore Thornton then said that he would look up the details and would call on Monday, the twenty-fifth, in order to make an appointment for the purpose of discussing the matter.

  1. Air Commodore H. N. Thornton of the British Embassy.