Who was going to be the first to fly round-the-world? Major W.T. Blake (autograph)
wanted to be that man and do it for jolly old England. He organized a round-the-world
plan with spirit that overshadowed reality. Because of the shortcomings of aircraft
design his plans called for detailed logistics for frequent re-fuelings along his
projected route. Weather information and forecasting left much to be desired.
On May 24, 1922 he and his crew departed Croydon, England on their round-the-world quest.
Captain Norman Macmillan (autograph) was chossen to be the pilot with Blake handling co-pilot and navigator
responsibilities. Colonel L.E. Broome was selected to attend to photographic needs but he was
replaced by Geoffrey Malins when they were in Marseilles, France. Blake chose a DeHaviland DH-9
(G-EBDE) biplane for the trip. He arranged for a Fairey F-3 Floatplane to spell the DH-9 when
they reached Calcutta, India since that part of the flight had to cover long water expanses.
Their trip was a real learning experience and the thought that "whatever could go wrong, did
go wrong" followed their every leg of flight. They networked and relied on the goodwill of the
British military spread throughout the British colonial system. They were well stocked with tea
and biscuits for a daily repast and socialized with old military friends along the way. Macmillan
was a skilled pilot and enjoyed a good amount of luck getting them through tough situations.
Macmillan suffered a hard landing at Marseilles, France and Blake decided to replace their
plane with another DH-9 shuttled to them from England. Blake, Macmillan and Malins continued on
through Europe, the mid-East and India. They had a forced landing in Delhi, India and had to
change engines. When they arrived in Calcutta, Blake suffered an appendicitis and was hospitalized.
They auctioned their DH-9 and switched to the Fairey F-3 Floatplane for the rest of the trip.
Blake was forced to stay behind in Calcutta as Macmillan and Malins continued the journey. Fate
was catching up with them as they had to make a forced water landing after departing Akyab, Burma.
Contaminated fuel interrupted their ability to stay airborne and after floating for 3 days and
2 nights they were rescued by the SS Dorothea. Their F-3 sank in the Bay of Bengal on August
25, 1922 and their round-the-world flight attempt was skuttled.