Pilot Sydney de Kantzow

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by bamboo43, Jan 24, 2018.

  1. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I've just finished writing up a very short biography of this most interesting character from the CBI theatre during WW2.


    Syd de Kantzow was born on the 9th November 1914 in New South Wales, Australia. He learned to fly whilst living in the suburbs of Sydney in 1934 and aviation would become the defining aspect of his relatively short life. As war clouds gathered in Europe, Syd along with several of his Australian contemporaries voyaged to England and joined No. 24 Communication Squadron RAF, which amongst other duties, was involved in transporting Bristol Bombers from the UK to destinations all over the European and North African theatres.

    After a number of other RAF postings, in late 1941 Syd was seconded to the China National Aviation Corporation, known as CNAC. Here he piloted civil aircraft travelling between the various Chinese cities and places such as Hong Kong, where in December 1941 he was involved in the evacuation of Chinese and European families in the face of the Japanese advance.

    From the book, Trek Back from Burma, by Australian journalist, Wilfred Burchett:

    Civilians were snatched away from Hong Kong under the very noses of the Japanese, by those tough and carefree pilots of CNAC. For four days and nights until the Japs were at the very edge of the Kai Tak Aerodrome, these pilots maintained a shuttle service between Hong Kong, Chungking and Namyung, the tungsten export aerodrome in Kwantung Province and the nearest airfield in Free China to Hong Kong. Australian pilot, Sydney de Kantzow made many trips during those times. He told me the story of one Chinese woman, who camped out at the field and attempted to stowaway in every plane before it took off. Several times she nearly got away with it, sitting quiet as a mouse in the darkest corner of the plane and mournfully unprotesting as she was inevitably turned out. He remarked that if she had simply stated that she belonged to one of the large families being evacuated, he would have let her stay on board.

    De Kantzow often piloted the Chinese premier, Chiang Kai-shek during this period of the war and it is possible that he was in charge of the plane in which Orde Wingate met the Chinese leader and his wife, Madame Chiang in the spring of 1942, just prior to him forming the Chindits.

    De Kantzow's most active role regarding the Chindits of 1943, was his involvement in flying the men from No. 7 Column back to India from the Chinese city of Kunming. 7 Column's commander, Major Kenneth Gilkes had decided to exit Burma via Yunnan Province and had marched his exhausted men northeast through the Kachin Hills and into China.

    From another book, Wingate Adventure, also written by Wilfred Burchett:

    On June 7th (1943), an American introduced himself to Major Gilkes as Major Clarke of the USAAF. He was astonished to find out that the British soldiers had marched out from Burma and offered them his transportation aircraft and a free flight back over the Hump to India. Within four hours of meeting Major Clarke, most of the men were back in India. The majority flew out in American Army planes, but Ken Gilkes travelled in a CNAC plane, piloted by Syd de Kantzow. The Australian pilot explained: When I heard about those signals and the British soldiers, I knew I just had to be in on whatever was going down.

    To read more about the war service of Syd de Kantzow and to view some wonderful photographs of his life in aviation, please click on the following links:



    Directly after WW2, Syd and his business partner, Roy C. Farrell, founded Cathay Pacific Airways on the 24th September 1946. Initially based in Shanghai, the two men eventually moved to Hong Kong and fully established the airline here. Legend has it that Farrell and a group of foreign correspondents thought up the airline's unique name in the bar of the Manila Hotel. The new company began to operate passenger flights to Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai. Expansion was fast and, in 1948, one of Hong Kong's leading trading companies, Butterfield & Swire took a 45% share in the company. Syd left the company at this time and never really settled down into any one job up until his death in a motor-car accident in November 1957.

    de Kantzow.jpg CNAC timetable 1940 2.jpg
  2. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    4jonboy, Tricky Dicky and bamboo43 like this.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Many thanks Dave, that is brilliant and so typical of the man too. :)

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