Practical Action - helping the world's poorest people to help themselves

Image: camel kano

Better on a Camel is currently inactive and no longer open to new input. It is still however available to read!


The website's title "Better on a Camel" was a popular and gently teasing nickname, as well as an acronym for BOAC - British Overseas Airways Corporation.

BOAC was the main long haul predecessor of British Airways, and joined with British European Airways (BEA) to form British Airways in 1975.

This is a collection of nearly a hundred stories (96 at last count) recording memories of events over the past 60 years or more, contributed by over 40 former (mainly overseas, but some flying) staff of BOAC, BSAA (British South American Airways), BEA and British Airways.

There is no single theme, only that of memory of a tale worth the telling.

There are recollections of events which have passed into history over the past half century. Stories both funny and serious, some with distinct elements of farce. Not only camels, but other unpredictable creatures feature from time to time.

The website is free of charge to all readers. The original plan was to publish it as a book, and any revenue from it was to go to the charity 'Practical Action', who help the poorest people on earth to take steps to improve their lives with appropriate "Intermediate Technology." This is a term coined by Dr.E F Schumacher in his iconic book "Small is Beautiful", first published in 1975,which was the basis for many of the principles followed by Practical Action in their charitable work.

However, in the end the book became a website - giving me the advantage of keeping the collection alive to add further tales over the years.

If you particularly enjoyed the stories, you may well want to follow the link (at the bottom of the page) to www.practicalaction.org to find out more about the excellent work they do worldwide, and, if you can, make a donation. Any amount, however small, will be gratefully received, and will be put to good use to relieve the effects of extreme poverty. If you do donate to Practical Action, it would be most helpful if you would mention that you have learned about them from this website.

If any overseas staff, past or present, of the British Airways family (and this includes airlines like British Caledonian, Cambrian and BMI which became part of the BA group over the years)  would like to contribute any experiences which they particularly remember, I'd be happy to have them contact me by e-mail at www.betteronacamel@hotmail.co.uk (link at top of page)

Any stories I am able to use will be fully credited, although I may need to make small editorial adjustments. Illustrations would also be welcome where they support the text.

If any readers would like to make comments - or indeed corrections - on the material or website, they may use the same e-mail address.

My grateful thanks are due to a number of people for their help and encouragement in producing this website:

Sir Ross Stainton, who was the Chairman of BOAC when it merged with BEA, has very kindly written a Foreword.

Ba Thompson gave me generous help with the proof reading and provided invaluable professional advice in the editorial process.

Annette Hedges kindly allowed me to reproduce the frontispiece picture; apparently the Emir of Kano's camelborne envoy used to blow his horn before the daily BOAC Argonaut arrived - to warn camel trains of its presence - or was it simply as a greeting to the flight - I've heard both explanations put forward! 

Mike Springate tells me the trumpeter blew for every international arrival; whereupon the baby camel by its side invariably vented!

Ian Beckett was able to recall in detail one of the tales of our Lagos days; various other colleagues and friends have offered help, advice and support as this website has taken shape.

I also owe a debt of thanks to the kind folk at the British Airways Archive and Museum Collection, who have allowed me to reproduce some of their collection of old aircraft prints to decorate the website, as well as sharing their own knowledge of the period. There is more information about the archive on their website www.bamuseum.com.

And of course, my especial thanks to the willing contributors who have generously shared their stories with me, and who made this website possible in the first place. I am most grateful to them all.

They are:

John Anderson
Brian Burgess
Roy Burnham
Brian Cannadine
Gerry Catling
John Cogger
Ron Colnbrook
Alan Douglas
Anthony Farnfield MBE
Peter Fieldhouse
Maurice Flanagan CBE
Don Ford OBE
Bruce Fry
Bernard Garvie
Ralph Glazer
Larry Gorton OBE
Howell Green
Alan Hillman
David Hogg
Taff Lark
Mike Lewin
Peter Liver
David McCormack
Mike McDonald
Anthony McLaughlan
Jim Mackison
Jonathan Martin
David Meyrick
Graham Moss
Nick Robertson
Pat Noujaim
Peter Richards
Tony Russell
C I 'Charlie Item' Smith
Dr William E (Bill) Smith
Steve Sturton-Davies
Doug Tester
Jamil Wafa
Simon Watts
Jack Wesson
Mike Wickings
James Wilson
Roddy Wilson
Peter Woodrow


Peter Jones


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