The Department of State to the British Embassy


Reference is made to Mr. Hayter’s letter of March 23, 1943 regarding the desire of the British Government to obtain permission for the use of the base at Fisherman Lake in Liberia by BOAC flying boats, in addition to the use of Roberts Field by BOAC land planes.

The only understanding so far reached with regard to the use of Fisherman Lake is an arrangement between the War Department and the appropriate British representatives in connection with the basing of four Catalina flying boats of the RAF for anti-submarine patrol missions. The British request for such use was granted on the basis of urgent operational necessity as stated by the RAF. The agreement was made with the specific understanding (confirmed in writing by [Page 714] a letter of January 26, 194361 to General Handy from Air Commodore S. C. Strafford, British Joint Staff Mission) that the British corporation would make no commercial use of the facilities at Fisherman Lake and would vacate the station upon request.

Before considering the question of the use of Fisherman Lake by BOAC flying boats, it would appear desirable to examine more closely the nature of the services engaged in by the BOAC land planes which move through Roberts Field in Liberia. According to a report from the Staff of Brigadier General Shepler W. Fitzgerald, Commanding General, African–Middle East Wing, it does not appear that the BOAC land planes are primarily carrying military cargo or personnel but that they are largely interested in commercial passengers and freight. For example, on March 26, 1943 a BOAC plane landed at Roberts Field with twenty-three civilians and no military passengers. At Kano in Nigeria there are said to be 150 tons of spare parts for British aircraft awaiting transport, which are never picked up by BOAC planes. The passengers carried are reported to include Syrian traders, who would not be transported on United States planes because their passage was considered unnecessary to the war effort. The BOAC planes passing through Maiduguri, Nigeria are reported by the office of the United States Air Transport Command to be carrying principally civilian passengers and freight. At this station on several occasions members of the RAF have applied to the Air Transport Command for transportation to the next stop on the BOAC line, this taking place on the same day that the BOAC was running a plane carrying an almost total load of civilian passengers.

Reverting to the question of BOAC flying boats, officials of the War Department appear to take exception to the statement made in Mr. Hayter’s letter concerning the increase in payload which could be effected by a stop at Fisherman Lake. Taking the distance from Freetown to Fisherman Lake as 175 miles, and taking the fuel consumption figure for four-engine aircraft of the Sunderland or Boeing type at normal speeds as one gallon per mile, the figure of 175 gallons or about 1,050 pounds is obtained. This would represent about one-half the increase in payload mentioned by Mr. Hayter.

Moreover, on the basis of a recent report of the War Department, it appears that BOAC flying boats do not land at either Takoradi or Accra, but travel direct between Freetown and Lagos. It is pointed out that if such flying boats could increase their payloads by landing and refueling in Liberia, by the same token their payloads could be increased by landing en route at Takoradi or Accra.

  1. Not found in Department files.