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Silver City

Wing Commander Taffy Powel set up the airline Silver City, named after a silver mine in Broken Hill, Australia, opening a fascinating and innovative chapter in British aviation. A keen and impatient traveller himself, Powel realised that by adapting the design of the Bristol 130 Bombay bomber, he could fly passengers with their cars from Britain to continental Europe. This would allow British holiday-makers to avoid lengthy waits for the ferries. So on the July 7, 1948, Powel made the first ever British flight with a car, from Lympne in Kent to Le Touquet on the northern coast of France. The service was a resounding success although it soon became apparent that another, more suitable, English departure point would have to be found. Silver City therefore transferred operations to Lydd, also in Kent, where the first new post-war airport in the United Kingdom was built, in under six months, and at a cost of 400,000. The site was better equipped than Lympne due to its paved runways. The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened Lydd airport on April 5, 1956 and his flight to Le Touquet exported two cars. For the very reasonable fare of 25 for a car, and 4 per passenger, one could fly across the English Channel to France on any of the regular flights between 7.30am and 11pm. Between 1953 and 1957 137,000 cars and 500,000 passengers flew with Silver City from Lydd Airport.

In 1962 Silver City was taken over by British United Airways who operated similar services to the continent from Rochford Airport near Southend in Essex. The last Bristol Aeroplane Company Mark 32 Superfreighter flew from Lydd in 1970. Today Lydd is believed to be the only English airport with a webcam.

Specialised trains, known as "Le Shuttle" perform a similar role for motorists wishing to cross the English Channel following the opening of the Channel Tunnel, meeting a demand that even Taffy Powel is unlikely to have foreseen. On their short journeys, these shuttle trains share tracks with the inter-city passenger Eurostars and dedicated, longer distance freight trains.