This Day In London’s History
1937: A Japanese aircraft lands at Croydon Airport, setting a world record for the fastest flight from Tokyo to London.
In the 1930s there had been considerable interest in establishing records for long distance flights, and a prize had been offered for the first flight between Paris and Tokyo to take less than 100 hours. However nobody had yet won this prize, despite many attempts, including one that failed when the French pilot’s aircraft crashed into a mountain in the south of Japan.
In April 1937 the Asahi Shimbun newspaper sponsored a Mitsubishi Ki-15 aircraft (nicknamed Kamikaze, meaning ‘Divine Wind’) to fly from Tokyo’s Tachikawa airport to London, to “celebrate the coronation of Britain’s George VI” (which was due to take place in May). The flight was manned by Masaaki Iinuma (pilot) and Kenji Tsukagoshi (serving as navigator and engineer), who were apparently both employees of the Asahi Shumbun newspaper at the time.
After several stops en-route (including Taiwan, Indochina, India, Iraq, Greece, Italy and France), the Kamikaze touched down at Croydon Airport at around 15:30 on 9th April with a landing that was likened to “the bounceless plop of a mashed potato”. The total time taken to cover the 9542 miles was 94 hours, 17 minutes and 56 seconds, of which 51 hours, 17 minutes and 23 seconds was spent in flight.
There was considerable surprise at this achievement, with some observers reluctant to believe that it could have been achieved by a Japanese pilot. To quote the ever-dubious Wikipedia:
Racism was still very prevalent in the West in 1937, and the Japanese achievement thus stunned many observers who believed that the Japanese people did not have adequate vision for the purposes of flying aircraft. Some observers even speculated that Masaaki Iinuma could not be genuinely Japanese, but was of mixed, partially Mediterranean descent.
Following the coronation of George VI, the aircraft was flown back to Japan (probably at a somewhat slower pace), carrying film of the coronation for use by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Several years later Masaaki Iinuma was killed when his warplane was shot by the R.A.F. during a battle in the South Pacific. It was reported that, whilst mortally wounded, he still managed to fly his aircraft back to its base before dieing.
Londoner(s) Of The Week
Good luck to the Manor Garden Allotments plot-holders, who (as we mentioned last week) are fighting to prevent these wonderful, historic and diverse allotments from being bulldozed to make way for a pedestrian concourse designed to be used for just 4 weeks over the duration of the 2012 Olympics.
Supporters of the allotments have cannily noted that the concourse does not need to take the currently planned route, and that a more sensible route could easily be followed, without the need to destroy the allotments. Here’s hoping that the London Development Agency can see sense and agree to preserve the allotments and the community that has been built around them. More information here.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
Over the last month we’ve been keeping a close eye on the National Film Theatre, known by most – until recently – as the NFT. We’ve noted its massive refit, its ‘Mediatheque’ (digital jukebox of films and clips), its silly re-branding as ‘BFI Southbank’, its swanky bar and restaurant, and its new gallery hosting the art installation ‘Tiny, Funny, Big and Sad’.
Well last weekend we managed to pop in for a quick nose around. And we were impressed. It looks pretty cool, with loads of space, marvellously ugly sofas, a well-stocked bar and a restaurant that looked appealing (even though we didn’t linger quite long enough to sample its culinary wares). The ‘Tiny, Funny, Big and Sad’ installation was also mildly entertaining, but only occupied us for about 10 minutes.
Our advice – check it out before everyone else notices it.