Amy Johnson changes her mind

[Update: due to my misunderstanding of a key word, this post is fundamentally misconceived. Exercise due caution!]

Hello everybody, I seem to have got here at last, it's been a long long time but here I am and jolly glad I am to be here at last. I bring [inaudible] from the people of England to the people of Australia and I shall be very, very happy if this flight of mine can bring together people so far apart, but so near together in -- in good feeling, fellowship and friendship, and everything except violence mileage! If you could get aeroplanes to bring you together that would be so much better.

I'm fairly certain the above words were spoken by aviatrix Amy Johnson, on the occasion of her pioneering solo flight from Britain to Australia in May 1930 -- the first by a woman and the first of several record-breaking flights by her. I've transcribed them from a sample at the start of a song called The Golden Age of Aviation, by The Lucksmiths, one of my favourite bands. (For any Londoners reading, their next gig is very nearby, so go see them if you get the chance -- particularly if you like very witty and somewhat wistful indie pop.) The words would seem to fit the context of a speech to a throng of gawking Australians, and the voice sounds very much like Johnson's in the clips on this BBC Humber Culture site about her.

If it is Amy Johnson, then she is espousing a liberal, internationalist view of aviation -- that by allowing easy travel around the world, it can help people from different countries to know and understand each other. By 1934, her views had become rather darker:

The science of aviation has progressed so extensively in recent years that even in thick cloud and fog pilots can fly blind to their objective, drop their bombs, and return unseen. How are we to stop them? We cannot.
Our Government tells us that we have a certain measure of home defence. We have aircraft guns [sic]; searchlights which work on the 'grid' pattern, i.e. in squares, in order to give the least possible chance of escape to any enemy aircraft; fast interceptor fighters. What use are all these if the enemy is invisible, as he would be in the kind of weather which usually prevails in this country? ...
We have only one way of defence -- reprisals in kind. In the new techniques required in aerial tactics the best way to defend is to attack. We must be equipped with numerous squadrons of large, high-speed, long-range bombing machines. These might be flown by pilots experienced in long-distance, all-weather flying, as they may have to fly 'blind' to their objective and back.1

She was born in Hull, where her father was a fish merchant -- I wonder if she experienced any of that city's Zeppelin raids?

Johnson died in the line of duty -- she was a ferry pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary and baled out over the Thames Estuary on 4 January 1941 and apparently drowned: 'an aviatrix lost at sea, never to be found'.

The novelty wore off
When the pilots still wore goggles
But your eyes look skywards
And your mind still boggles
Through frequent flyers' disappointments and disasters
The golden age of aviation never lost its lustre


  1. Daily Mail, 5 April 1934; quoted in Philip Noel Baker, "A national air force no defence", in Challenge to Death (London: Constable & Co., 1934), 198. 

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7 thoughts on “Amy Johnson changes her mind

  1. RS

    I am pretty confident she says the word "mileage" and not "violence". I don't think it was intended to be a political statement but one of the advocation of air travel.

  2. Post author

    Thank you -- I do believe you're right! It's a little indistinct at that point and I listened to it about 10 times trying to make sure what it was, but it does sound more like 'mileage', and that actually makes a lot more sense than 'violence'. Oh well -- ignore this post then, she may well have always been a bomb-them-back-to-the-stone-age kinda gal for all I know.

  3. RS

    Either way it's a great song...from a brilliant band!

    Oh and thank you for the original post. It bugged me no end not knowing who was speaking in the clip.

    "A passing interest in the past..."

  4. Patrick Taggart

    I produced a film in the mid 70's for the BBC which I called WONDERFUL AMY. She did say those words on her arrival in Australia. The 'indistinct' word is 'greetings'

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