This amazing sight greeted Knysna residents on 28th March 1928 as Sir Alan Cobham landed the seaplane, on loan to him from the Air Ministry, in the main channel of the Knysna lagoon. He was on a 20,000 mile journey round Africa to explore the potential of air travel from the U.K.

The Singapore was en route from Durban and was the largest all metal flying boat in the world, weighing in at 10 tons with a wing span of 100 foot. Sir Cobham was accompanied by his wife, also a trained pilot, and four crew. They stayed overnight in the Royal Hotel after several functions and took off the next day at 7am, in a northerly direction from Brenton on Lake.


Of interest are the boats that tendered to her. In 1928 I’m assuming they were either private builds or products of Thesen Industries. The clinker rowboat has fenders over the sides, possibly filled with sand, but she’s very stable with four crew. The sharp bow of the rowboat behind shows a different design, also four up, with one man to each of the two oars.


And here is a handsome looking inboard launch that must have turned heads in her day. Her stern flag isn’t clear, but judging by their dress, the gentlemen aboard are possible dignitaries. It’s 92 years later, but anyone with any information on these boats, please write in.


1928 was also the year the railway bridge was constructed and proved a promising viewpoint for take off the next day. Railway access to Cape Town would be the end of the steamship transport business between Cape Town and Knysna, just as steam had replaced sail.

There is a report of another flying boat visiting Knysna in May 1934, however it’s not clear how regular these visits became.

Sunderland flying boats were to play an important role in WW II hunting for submarines on the surface and reporting on enemy shipping. This story caught my attention a while back, source unknown.

A full account of Sir and Lady Cobham’s visit can be found in the excellent book entitled ‘Knysna the Forgotten Port’ by Margaret Parkes and Vicky Williams.