Personal papers of Delphine Reynolds relating to her attempted London to Cape Town fight of 1931 and other flying activities

Scope and Content

Inspired by an a trip to Africa in 1929, Delphine Reynolds made a failed attempt to fly from London to Cape Town in 1931. The collection concentrates on the build-up and afermouth of the flight, together with information about the flight itself.

The collection also contains a small amount of information relating to a return trip to Sierra Leone that Miss Reynolds made in 1978, photographs and documentation relating to her flying career and a small amount of family documentation.

Administrative / Biographical History

Delphine Reynolds was born in 1907, the daughter of Sir James Philip Reynolds, 1st Bt, a cotton merchant and a Member of Parliament for Liverpool Exchange between 1929 and 1932.

She first flew in 1927, though it was not until an accident coursed her to stop horse riding for a year, that she decided to learn to fly. Her lessons started in Kent but were soon transferred to a site near Crawley and she became one of the first people to use, what was to become, Gatwick Airport. Her first solo flight was on 28 September 1930 and before the end of October she had obtained her pilots licence.

Thinking back to a tour of Western Africa she undertook in 1929, she saw how the aeroplane could be used on the continent and, with the practical support of the Master of Sempill and the financial support of her father, she set out to break the London to Cape Town record. She left Hanworth Aerodrome in her Blackburn Bluebird IV on 1 March with co-pilot W. G. Pudney. Both pilots reached Sierra Leone, however engine vibration coursed the pair to pause their trip and, whilst waiting for the arrival of delayed spare parts, the weather turned, and the attempt had to be abandoned. Though the pair did not return with the record, Miss Reynolds brought back a snake which she reportedly took, much to the surprise of fellow diners and, on one occasion, her dance partner. She continued to fly until at least 1934.

Though a romantic attachment to the Master of Sempill did not end with marriage, she married Ernst Polak in 1944 and then John Trinick in 1963. She died in 1993.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Custodial History

The collection was donated by Miss Reynolds' family to the National Aerospace Library in February 2020.