The following history was written by Jim Grant, a prolific researcher and writer of military, aviation and Western Australian history. He gave it to me as a text file many years ago and, so far as I have been able to determine, it has never been published. I think it is a draft because there are some obvious errors and omissions that Jim would have known about. My guess is that Jim was planning to complete the history and add photographs before publish it, but that does not appear to have happened.
Jim, along with another aviation historian, Ted Fletcher, were volunteer workers in the library of the RAAFA’s Aviation Heritage Museum at Bullcreek in Western Australia. They were fine company and it was there that I spent many happy days working and chatting with them and hearing their stories.
Jim was a meticulous researcher and enjoyed digging into the archives and telling stories of long forgotten events that he found there. Jim and his wife also traveled widely and visited museums of all types, but he took pictures of the aircraft he found at out of the way aviation museums and his photos and articles about them turned up in all kinds of aviation related magazines. I also understand he wrote a lot about his travel experiences that found their way to airline in-flight magazines.
Sadly Jim died unexpectedly some years ago and his legacy has been largely forgotten. When Jim died I was living back in the Eastern States and thus have no idea what has happened to his papers. It may be that this draft has survived completely by accident, which is often the way with history. In any event, I am pleased to be able to make it available now. It demonstrates Jim’s meticulous research and story telling abilities.
Although this history is clearly a draft I believe it is worth publishing because of the extensive detail Jim has included to tell the story of the beginnings of flying in Western Australia. Sadly Jim did not reference his work so many of his sources are now lost to us. But for Jim the important thing was the story, and this is a good one well told.
THE BEGINNINGS OF AVIATION IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The purpose of this book is to record the state’s earliest aviation activities, from the time of the first flights in a primitive hot air balloon to the introduction of the scheduled air mail service between Geraldton and Derby, a period of just twenty-one years.
The first manned flying machines to be seen in Western Australian skies were the hot air balloons of Professor Price and Miss Millie Viola, in 1891, and of the Bebee Balloon Company in 1910. Although a number of West Australians, both before and after the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903, applied themselves to producing a practical aeroplane the first aircraft to fly in the State was the Bristol Boxkite imported by J.J. Hammond in 1910. Although this fragile aircraft was flown only in conditions of almost totally calm air, it served to encourage further attempts by would be aviators.
Most of these ventures were stillborn, as in the case of Robert McMullins, or although actually built were unable to leave the ground and it was not until 1915 that the first Western Australian designed and built aircraft, the Kalgoorlie Biplane, was successfully flown. A.W. Jones visited the state in 1914 and made a few brief demonstration flights in a much rebuilt Caudron biplane but it was not until the return to Western Australia of Major Norman Brearley, after his wartime service with the Royal Flying Corps, in 1919 that any substantial progress was made. Brearley almost single handedly brought Western Australia into the aviation era when he first proved the concept of safe flying by barnstorming throughout the state for eighteen months giving pleasure flights wherever he could find passengers. He then went on to set up a regular mail and passenger service and his airline became an example of technical practicality and business management. His example encouraged others to enter the aviation field but he retained a dominant position in Western Australia until the middle of the 1930s.
What follows is the story of these courageous men and women.
THE PROFESSOR AND MISS MILLIE -1891
Human beings have probably always watched birds flying and wished that they could join them but it was not until the 18th century that it became possible.
While some continued to study birds in the vain hope of duplicating their actions others had discovered the properties of gasses. The Montgolfier Brothers of Annonay, France concluded that any vapour contained in a large light container should rise and experiments with bags of smoke confirmed this. On June 5,1783 they successfully launched their first, un-manned, balloon which travelled 2.5 km. The brothers’ methods were quickly copied and in November of the same year two Frenchmen, Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandis made the first manned ascent which lasted twenty five minutes.
The first successful parachute jump was carried out on October 22,1797 and so by 1858, when William Dean made the first parachute jump in Australia, some seventy years of practical experience had been gained.
In February 1891 Professor Price, an American citizen, and an aeronaut since 1878, arrived in Perth to commence a series of exhibitions. Price had made his first Australian jump at the Bondi Aquarium in Sydney and had visited a number of eastern states towns before coming to the west.
In 1891 equal rights and opportunities for women were still some time in the future however in the dangerous art of parachuting one at least was up there with the best of them. Millie Viola, a “Renowned Lady Balloonist” who had been accompanying Price on the tour joined him in Perth in April. Price was at pains to point out that he was no bogus showman, he had medals and trophies from many legitimate organisations and had always tried to give spectators value for money. A showman Professor Price may have been but considering the risks he took he certainly did not lack courage.
The state’s first aerial voyage was arranged for March 4 at Bullen’s Albion Hotel in Cottesloe. About 1000 spectators gathered at the area, which was regularly used for military training, to watch the inflation of the balloon. This was done by suspending the mass of material from tall poles and placing the mouth of the balloon over a funnel. A barrel was frequently used and this was connected to a trench at the bottom of which was a fire fed with kerosene. As hot air was forced up into the funnel it filled the balloon which presented a patched and well used appearance. Unfortunately when about three quarters full it burst and caught fire. The flames were quickly put out but the damage ruled out any further attempt that day. The crowd’s disappointment was alleviated somewhat by an offer from the railway company to refund the entrance fee of those who returned to Perth or Fremantle by rail. Most of the crowd dispersed quietly but a number of larrikins attacked Price and he was saved from serious injury only by the quick intervention of the police. Despite this, Price, wishing to restore his credibility, promised a free demonstration in Perth in the near future.
It was not until March 24 that Price was ready to give his next demonstration. By 5 pm between 1500 and 2000 people had arrived but due to the poor condition of the balloon it took until 7.30 pm to get it ready. With Price sitting on a trapeze which hung 12 metres below the balloon it rose to about 45 metres before losing buoyancy and gently settling onto a tree in Stirling Street.
While this has to be regarded as the first aerial ascent made in Western Australia the first true demonstration of Price’s ability occurred on March 30 when he returned to Bullen’s Hotel to take part in the “Olde Englyshe Fayre.” Using his original balloon, which was still plagued with leakage problems, he rose to 600 metres, then abandoning the balloon to its fate he took to his parachute. His initial high rate of descent caused the crowd some anxiety but as the parachute opened fully he dropped leisurely to land safely at the edge of the grounds. The next demonstration was held in the Horticultural Show Grounds in Perth on April 24. The balloon climbed to 1200 metres but Price was unable to jump as a rope became entangled in his parachute harness and he was unable to let go. Man and balloon drifted down to land undamaged.
Nothing daunted, a further exhibition was scheduled for April 25 when the star attraction for the “Grand Balloon Ascension” was Miss Millie Viola “The world renowned LADY BALLOONIST”. billed as having made over 100 parachute jumps in the United States and Australia.
The events of April 25 were unfortunately all too similar to those of the 22nd. Few of the large crowd paid to get in and as the balloon filled slowly it was not until late in the evening that it was able to rise. Once airborne it rose to 1100 metres and drifted over North Perth followed by the crowd who were puzzled by the fact that Millie did not jump. It was not until the balloon landed that she was able to explain that to her the ground appeared as one large dark mass and she could not see what she might land on if she jumped. Price once again harangued the crowd on its unwillingness to pay for their entertainment as he had had to sell his passage ticket for the United Kingdom to put on this demonstration. The next exhibition, held in the presence of His Excellency the Governor, was scheduled for May 2 but was postponed due to squally conditions and it took place three days later when Price jumped from a height of about 1600 metres. This appears to have been his last performance in the state as only Millie Viola is subsequently mentioned in the newspapers.
Lack of support did not stop Millie from continuing with the exhibitions. On May 13 she took off from the courtyard of the Federal Hotel in Fremantle and landed in the Parsonage grounds. Only about 50 people paid to get in but after the jump had been successfully completed a large number of people, who were by then satisfied that it was not a bogus entertainment, made donations. She returned to Fremantle five days later and before a much improved crowd of 2000 people came down on the roof of a house in Howard Street. Luckily she was able to hang on until someone fetched a ladder.
There is no record of any ascents between this date and July 11 when the aeronaut returned to Perth, and the Saint George’s Hall site, with a reputedly new balloon named “Westralia.” The balloon collapsed after rising only a few feet, as the neck had been made too wide, but this was quickly adjusted and she made a rapid ascent followed by an equally rapid descent into Gugieri’s stables, where she landed on the back of a horse. The animal bolted, terror stricken, but our intrepid aeronaut was rescued unharmed. Dressed in a heliotrope costume Millie’s next jump landed her in the river in about 1 metre of water.
An exhibition took place at Guildford in July and in 1960 Mr F.M. Read wrote to the West Australian newspaper describing how as a boy he had assisted in the inflation of the balloon on the only occasion it came to Guildford. Along with a friend he had stood, arms apart, within the neck of the balloon holding it open to allow the hot air to enter. For this task they had each been paid 2 shillings and six pence, a sum their mothers did not consider anything like adequate to cover the cost of the damage to their clothes. On this occasion the balloon descended, inverted and trailing black smoke, as soon as she jumped.
On August 1, outside Perth Railway Station, disaster struck as the balloon was being prepared. Sparks from the fire set light to the balloon and despite the efforts by the crew and members of the crowd the balloon was totally destroyed. One way or the other the crowd got its entertainment.
Millie Viola then acquired a new balloon and toured some of the country towns, visiting Toodyay, Northam, and Katanning where she was nearly killed. Descending from 760 metres she passed through an area of turbulence which partially deflated her parachute and caused her to descend all too rapidly into a dead tree. This only partially broke her fall and she was fortunate to escape with only bruising and severe shock. Millie made a rapid recovery on the way back to the local hotel but one bystander considered that despite the generous donations the financial rewards were insufficient for the risks taken.
She arrived in Albany about September 23 and made her first attempt to ascend from behind the Weld Hotel. A large crowd gathered to watch as the balloon rose to just 60 metres. Poor quality wood was blamed for failing to heat the air sufficiently. A second attempt was made on September 26 but failed and a third and last attempt was made on the 28th. However the balloon rose to only 122 metres and once again Miss Viola declined to jump.
This very courageous lady then sailed from Albany to India leaving Western Australians with many memories of her visit.
THE BEEBE BALLOON COMPANY
PERTH AND KALGOORLIE -1910
It was nineteen years before another person appeared in the skies of Western Australia. In 1910 the O.T. Company, manufacturers of hot and cold drink products, decided that a series of balloon exhibitions would be an excellent method of advertising its products. So they arranged for the Beebe Balloon Company, then touring Australia and New Zealand, to give a series of shows in Perth and Kalgoorlie.
The proprietor of this company was Mr Vincent Beebe, his two aeronauts were Christopher Sebphe, a Spaniard, and Albert Eastwood an Australian. Beebe was described as being of a robust, soldierly appearance, handsome, confident and capable. Eastwood had dark good looks and like Beebe had a flamboyant personality whereas Sebphe was a quiet, slightly built man who contrasted sharply with his two companions. The first, and unintentionally the most spectacular, exhibition was arranged for April 16, 1910 at the Cricket Association Grounds. Advertised as the O.T. Balloon Carnival sharing the billing with two football matches and a number of bands, the balloonists promised a “Grand balloon ascent and triple parachute jump.”
On the 16th several thousand gathered to see Christopher Sebphe ascend in a hot air balloon called the “City of Melbourne.” Prior to inflation the balloon was merely an uninspiring heap of cotton and silk but when fully inflated it was an imposing 26 metres high and 46 metres in diameter.
The usual method of inflation, which was employed this day, was by means of a trench and funnel. The trench, about 6 metres long was covered with iron sheeting. At one end a small circular open ended tube protruded from the trench. At the other end of the tube a fire was lit and fed with small quantities of kerosene. The hot air was forced along the trench, up the funnel, and into the balloon which was suspended from a rope slung between two poles. A number of men and boys were engaged to hold the sides out of the way of any flames which shot out of the trench.
If all went well, and this depended to a great extent on air temperature and wind strength, inflation usually took about twenty to thirty minutes. The process could be frightening for both participants, and onlookers, and the former were strictly warned not to let go until they heard a revolver shot. The most dangerous task performed was perhaps that of the man who stood inside the balloon spraying the interior with water to make it airtight. This entire process was closely supervised by Vincent Beebe who gave his instructions with a “sensational air.”
After about forty minutes the “City of Melbourne”, was ready to ascend, but just as Beebe was about to give the order to release it some of the helpers prematurely let go of the balloon allowing it to drift over the fire. The lower part was immediately engulfed in flames and as the balloon shot upwards the horrified crowd could see that Sebphe was hanging from a rope beneath the trapeze. He dragged himself up the rope to the trapeze bar, released the lowest parachute and descended speedily but safely to the ground. Narrowly missing a horse he made a hard, but successful landing behind the score board then received painful bruising when one of the other parachutes, which weighed 27 kg, landed on top of him.
Sebphe was greeted with tumultuous applause when he appeared in the grandstand shortly afterwards. He explained that he might possibly have been able to jump clear immediately but, as he had his aneroid which showed what height he was at, he had elected to stay with the balloon until he had reached a safe height but when one whole side of the balloon had burned out by the time he had reached 122 metres and the remainder was in danger of collapsing back upon him he decided to jump. He went on to say that he normally stayed with the balloon until at least 1220 metres and used three parachutes to descend. He hoped to demonstrate this technique at the next exhibition when he would use the company’s second and larger balloon. When the “City of Melbourne” was examined it was found to be repairable at a cost of approximately £200.
The hero of the occasion, Christopher Sebphe, was a 32 year old Spaniard who had made his first parachute jump at Calais, France, in 1896 when he was eighteen. He had made over 60 jumps during the Australian tour, the highest from 2590 metres above Petersburg in South Australia. When asked about accidents he stated that in the whole of his career he had had only two worth mentioning. The first had occurred in Switzerland when the balloon had burst and his companion had been killed, and the second had happened recently at Broken Hill, when in a similar accident to the one which had recently occurred in Perth, the balloon had been released in a partially filled state and he had been dragged along the ground for some distance.
The second O.T. Balloon Carnival was held at the same venue on April 20. The “Edward the VII” was a much larger balloon and Vincent Beebe exercised great caution in the inflation of this his last balloon.
When released the balloon shot to 300 metres then soared steadily to 1600 metres at which height Sebphe detached himself. At first he dropped rapidly, then as his parachute opened fully he slowed considerably. Casting adrift this parachute he repeated the sequence until at about 300 metres he took to the last one and landed out of sight behind some buildings. The parachutes were of course coloured red, white, and blue respectively.
Sebphe returned to the cricket ground thirty minutes later none the worse for an immersion in the Swan River. He had come down near the Bunbury Railway Bridge and had been pulled from the water by two men who had taken him to the river bank where Mr Williams, a passing motorist, had offered him a lift. The balloon freed from the weight of the aeronaut and the parachutes had tipped over, rapidly deflated, and had come back to earth in un-undamaged condition. The envelope and two parachutes were recovered immediately and the third was brought in about an hour later by a cyclist who happened upon it. The third and last exhibition was held on April23 and after an uneventful triple jump Sebphe landed near the Sandringham Hotel. The company then packed up and travelled the 644 km to Kalgoorlie where they held their next exhibition, on April 30, at the Kalgoorlie Recreation Ground.
From the newspaper accounts it seems that about half the population paid to get in while the remainder, who did not, occupied all the vantage points around the ground. The crowd remained very quiet throughout the inflation process and it was not until the balloon started to rise, with Albert Eastwood hanging from the trapeze, that they came to life. As the balloon ascended, black smoke visibly swirling inside, the crowd applauded loudly and Eastwood acknowledged them with a wave. He cast off at 1326 metres and made a classic triple parachute descent to land just north of the railway line. The crowd was most impressed by the heart stopping display and cheered enthusiastically when he returned to the recreation ground.
The company gave four more exhibitions, the first in Boulder on May 4, when Sebphe performed. Then back to Kalgoorlie on the 7th when Eastwood and Sebphe performed a double jump from 930 metres in an event billed as a race. Following final jumps, at Boulder on the 11th and at Kalgoorlie, on the 13th the company packed up, and departed on May 14, for the Eastern States.
Despite the disastrous start the aeronauts of the Beebe Balloon Company never failed to give excellent entertainment, and when the triple descent, with its delays in opening the parachutes was performed the effect upon a crowd, who had never seen the act, was electrifying.
Only eight months later the first powered aircraft flew in Western Australia.
THE FIRST POWERED FLIGHT
IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA -1911
Ballooning had been practised for 108 years before it was demonstrated in Western Australia but in 1910, just seven years after the Wright Brothers had flown the first successful aeroplane, two examples of these new wonders arrived in Fremantle.
The first aircraft to fly in Western Australia was a Bristol Boxkite, one of two brought to Australia in December 1910 on a sales tour by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company who traded under the name of Bristol.
The pilot, Joseph Hammond, arrived in Perth on board the R.M.S. Omrah on December 13, 1910. A few days later Sydney Smith, who was in charge of the tour, and two mechanics followed with the aircraft and the intention of commencing flying as soon as possible after Christmas.
ln the latter half of 1910 The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company had set up a flying school at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain and Joseph Hammond, a New Zealander, had been the first person to qualify as a pilot at this school when he was awarded British flying licence number 32 on November 22, 1910. He already held a French licence. Hammond, described as long and spare of build, had been born in Feilding, New Zealand, and had been educated at Wellington University before going overseas to see the world. He had been a goldminer and trapper in Alaska and had toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Circus for a short time.
Licenced production of the French “Zodiac” design had commenced early in 1910 but was abandoned after the first one refused to fly and the Bristol Standard Biplane, known as the Boxkite, was the first product of the company to successfully take to the air.
The Boxkite which was an improved version of the French design was powered by a 50 hp Gnome rotary engine. The two aircraft, numbers 10 and 11, belonged to the initial production batch which had equal span wings of 10.52 metres, a length of 11.72 metres and a height of 3.35 metres. To the eye it was a large aircraft but with empty and loaded weights of only 363 kg and 476 kg respectively it was extremely fragile and like all early aircraft hazardous to fly in all but calmest conditions. Later models of the Boxkite differed in having a longer upper wing which improved their flying ability. By the end of 1910 the company was turning out two aircraft per week. Number 10, which was the aircraft flown in Australia, was new but the spare aircraft, No 11, had been used as a training aircraft for a short time before being exported. No 10 in fact, was the only aircraft flown in Australia by the demonstration team.
On the last day of 1910 it was announced that a public demonstration would be held at the Belmont Park Racecourse at 3 pm on January 4. Hammond was confident that, weather permitting, passengers could be carried but conditions were never suitable during his stay. The public were promised a fine demonstration of the “aviator’s art” and special trains were laid on to take the expected crowds to the racetrack.
The first powered flight in Western Australia took place on January 3, 1911. Persistent high winds of 60 kph blew throughout the day and delayed the take off, originally scheduled for early morning, until about 7 pm when the wind had dropped to 24 kph. Hammond took the aircraft up in a wide spiral to 430 metres, however during the flight wind gusts increased considerably causing the aircraft to lurch wildly as it approached the landing ground. To the relief of those watching Hammond landed safely.
Upwards of 1000 people turned up at the racecourse on January 4 in response to the advertising but Hammond declined to fly the aircraft at the advertised time and ignored the comments of a section of the crowd as winds of up to 85 kph swept the course all day. The following morning he made a flight just before 9 am, around Bunbury Bridge and the Maylands area, to the delight of spectators who had already started to gather. However due to continuing high winds he was again unable to fly until 7 pm when he made a short flight.
Two flights were made on January 6, the first being a sweep of the racecourse and the second a flight over the city to Kings Park and return. This latter flight took 11 minutes and 35 seconds and caused the traffic in the streets to stop. Amongst the many spectators who gathered to watch was Hammond’s wife who had come to Perth to be with him. The following day a race meeting was to be held at Belmont Park and it was arranged that Hammond would fly at some suitable point during the meeting. Unfortunately high winds again intervened and the only time flying was possible clashed with a race which the stewards refused to delay. A section of the crowd was extremely abusive at his refusal to fly and Hammond felt obliged to give a lengthy explanation in the West Australian on the 9th. He declared that due to the fragility of the aircraft it could fly only in suitable weather conditions and it was accepted world wide that only the pilot concerned was capable of making the decision…he, and not those who stayed safely on the ground, was the final judge.
No further public demonstrations were made but on the 9th the Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland, accompanied by a party which including the Military Commandant, inspected the aircraft before watching two flights. During the second Hammond coaxed the aircraft to 1220 metres in a 45 minutes flight, by far the longest made in the State. Once airborne Hammond was distressed to find that large patches of mist were covering the city and he became lost at one stage but eventually he identified a landmark which gave him his bearings and brought him home. A final flight of 11 minutes duration took place on January 12 after which the aircraft was dismantled and crated for shipment to Melbourne. The show was over and Perth had to wait three and a half years to see another aircraft over the city.
By the end of the Australian tour, in May 1911, the aircraft had made 72 flights and covered 1200 km without a single bolt or flying wire having been replaced. The aircraft was then dismantled and left Australia with the demonstration team. The second aircraft, still in the crate in which it had arrived was sold for the then enormous sum of £1300, to Mr William Hart of Penrith, New South Wales, along with all the unused spares.
Hart taught himself to fly and gained the first Australian pilots licence. He became very well known in the years before the Great War and later served in Egypt with No I Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. Injuries, which he had received in pre war flying accidents, prevented him from flying in combat and he was restricted to training others to fly.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company had achieved little with this sales tour but they went on to supply Norman Brearley’s Western Australian Airways with Bristol Tourers when he started the mail service from Geraldton to Derby in December 1921. In World War Two two of the company’s attack aircraft, the Beaufort and the Beaufighter were produced in Australia for the R.A.A.F. so perhaps the tour paid long term dividends after all.
THE KALGOORLIE BIPLANE -1915
As previously recounted the first aircraft to fly in the state was the Bristol Boxkite flown by Joseph J Hammond from Belmont Park Racecourse. After his demonstration flights in Perth, Hammond had taken his aircraft to Melbourne and Sydney subsequently selling number 11, which had never been out of its crate, to Mr W E Hart. Hart taught himself to fly in this aircraft and obtained, in December 1911, the first pilot’s licence issued in Australia. Hart flew the Boxkite extensively until it was finally destroyed in the last of a series of crashes. The engine survived and it is believed that this was subsequently purchased, in 1914, by four young men in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, who had dreams of building their own aircraft. These were Roy Burton, Paul Ghents, Stan Parker and Frank Oldfield. Western Australia was not technically advanced in the early part of this century but there was a centre of technical knowledge in the mining town of Kalgoorlie, some 600 km from Perth. Kalgoorlie, since the 1890’s had been a major centre of goldmining and a School of Mines had been functioning there since 1903.
The catalyst to their plans seems to have been the arrival of Arthur Geere. Geere was born on October 18, 1887 in Bromley, Kent and is reputed to have worked in the Vickers aircraft factory prior to obtaining his pilot’s licence, number 310, in a Vickers Monoplane at Brooklands on October 1, 1912. He then became an instructor at the Avro School of Flying at Shoreham where he was involved in the attempted rescue of Richard Norton Wright who crashed in an Avro Biplane on June 29,1913. Wright had gained his licence, number 462, on April 22 and was therefore relatively inexperienced at the time of his death. On the day of the crash Geere had warned him not to fly circuits as the engine was not giving full power, but Wright ignored the advice. The aircraft stalled, crashed on the field and burst into flames. The pilot was unable to free one of his feet from the wreckage and was trapped. Despite desperate attempts by Geere and others to free him he was burned to death. The exact date and reasons for Arthur Geere’s departure from the United Kingdom are not known but he is recorded as being in Kalgoorlie at the end of 1913.
Geere and the four young men previously mentioned formed, with some eleven others the “Kalgoorlie Aeroplane Syndicate” with twenty shares of £25 each. They sent to the United Kingdom for a set of Royal Aircraft Factory specifications and an engine was purchased. Geere was one of an elite group of British aviators who not only gained their licences before the First World War but also built and flew an aircraft of their own.
They began construction of the components in Wellsman’s Furniture Factory in Boulder Road, which was owned by one of the syndicate, and when more space was required the work was transferred to premises in Egan St.
When the engine arrived in Kalgoorlie in January 1915 it was found to have two cracked pistons and replacements for these were cast at the Kalgoorlie Foundry by Roy Burton. It was reported that a new engine at a cost of £225 had been ordered from the United Kingdom but “that this had been requisitioned by the Home Authorities” resulting in the purchase of Hart’s engine. If this is in fact true it was most unfortunate as the engine was a constant source of trouble.
In January 1915 the construction of the aircraft was sufficiently advanced for the Western Argus to report that it was a two bay tractor biplane “which bore a close resemblance to a type being developed by the British War Office”. It was powered by a 50 h.p. Gnome rotary engine, which was expected to give a duration of about three hours on twelve gallons of petrol. The span of the upper wing, which had a small degree of dihedral, was 10.36 metres and the lower 9.14 metres chord, was 1.83 metres and the total wing area measured 35.3 sq metres. The length was exactly 7.32 metres. Empty weight was estimated at 386 kgs and all up weight at 522 kgs. The fuselage and landing gear were made of Hickory as English Ash was unobtainable at the time construction commenced, however a supply of Ash became available before the wings were started and the spars were made of this material, while the ribs were formed from three ply veneer and yellow Pine. The tail plane and rudder were manufactured in clear Pine and supported by four tubular steel tension braces. Two rubber tyred, steel wired wheels were attached to a tubular steel axle. All appropriate parts were wire braced. The workmanship of the hand beaten metal cowling attracted much favourable comment. The fuel tank was placed, on the centre of gravity, directly under the passenger’s seat and fuel conveyed by a pump to a small tank just behind the engine. Alongside this tank was one containing lubricating oil. The propeller, which was laminated from Italian walnut had a diameter of 2.44 metres and a pitch of 1.4 metres and it was estimated that 89 kph could be achieved. The highest recorded speed subsequently achieved by the aircraft was 102 kph. Apart from the engine the only parts not manufactured in Kalgoorlie were the standard wire braces which were imported from the United Kingdom.
It was “confidently expected” that only a few more weeks work were required for completion but it was not until the middle of April that the aircraft was sufficiently advanced to go on display in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall. Construction had been under way for almost a year, consuming all the spare time of the builders. Costs of materials had been higher than expected and the syndicate gratefully acknowledged the generosity of local businesses in supplying parts and services. Major costs to date had included: wood, bolts, fabric, dope, brass, copper and other metal work, lighting and power and of course the engine. The total expenditure to date had exceeded £400. The syndicate encouraged visitors and in true public relations fashion always took time to talk to them. Photographs were taken at all stages of construction and these as well as the aircraft were soon to be displayed in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall.
From the 16th to the 23rd of April the aircraft, together with a selection of photographs of its construction, was displayed to the public. Three hundred people attended on the first night and it was on this occasion that the design was attributed to Paul Jaentch raising doubts as to the extent of the specification reputedly requested from the Royal Aircraft Factory. Roy Burton received praise for his ability to raise money for the project and lectures and lantern slide shows were given on succeeding evenings.
Immediately following this exhibition the aircraft was transported forty kilometres to Coolgardie for final preparation for its first flight. This took place on May 26,1915 when, piloted by Arthur Geere, it rose to a height of about 9 metres during a short flight across the racecourse. Geere must have been happy with the flight characteristics for he immediately made three more such short flights, each time carrying a passenger. Mr. C. Mason had the privilege of being the first. On the fifth and last flight of the day, with Geere flying solo, he took the aircraft up to 61 metres and made a wide circuit of the surrounding area. Flying took place on June 3 and again on the 6th. On the latter occasion three passengers were given short hops before the aircraft was more fully tested. The following day Geere took off from Bowes Paddock, some three miles from the town centre and landed in the main street to be met by members of the syndicate. The aircraft averaged 76 kph on this flight. Confidence was such that the flight to Kalgoorlie was to be attempted the following week.
On June 10 Geere took off and flew for about 12 km in the direction of Kalgoorlie before the engine cut out. Unable to restart it he made a successful landing at the nine mile peg with the aircraft sustaining only minor damage to the lower wings. It was decided not to try repairing the aircraft on the spot but to take it back to Coolgardie and so it was loaded onto a horse drawn lorry. At this point, tragically, one of the horses bolted and dragged the aircraft into a telegraph pole before finishing up fifty yards into the bush. The fuselage and the lower right wing were badly broken, possibly beyond repair.
Arthur Geere remained with the aircraft overnight at the crash site and brought it into the town the following day to be deposited in Tangye’s warehouse. Repairs seem to have taken until October when the aircraft was again reported to be flying. The next attempt to fly to Kalgoorlie was made on October 11. Geere took off at 3 pm. but due to turbulence which he called “remous” or “sunbumps” he returned to the racecourse until it was cooler. Taking off again at 5 pm. he made two circuits of Bowes Paddock and then headed north-east towards Kalgoorlie at a height of 366 metres. As he approached Kurrawang, some ten miles from Kalgoorlie, vibrations caused the filler cap of his “naphtha tank” to fall off. With fuel splashing into the aircraft Geere considered it safer to land than risk a fire so he touched down immediately in front of the Kurrawang Hotel and spent the night there.
Next morning he took off at 6 am. and was approaching Binduli Station when an exhaust cam broke off and he again decided it was more prudent to land. The field in which he chose to land proved to be somewhat small and he buckled a wheel rim when the “Kalgoorlie” struck a sapling. The rim was straightened but it collapsed during take off and the aircraft finished up on its nose. Damage was slight but the replacement rim had to be brought from Perth and it was not until the 18th that Geere was able to complete his flight, bringing his eight day, forty kilometre odyssey to a successful conclusion on the Kalgoorlie Racecourse shortly after 6 pm.
On October 24, 1915 a fund raising demonstration was held at the Kalgoorlie Racecourse. The aircraft was on static display in front of the Leger Stand from about mid-afternoon and just prior to its first flight of the day it was christened “Kalgoorlie” by Mrs. Davidson, the Mayor’s wife, who smashed a bottle of champagne over the engine cowling. The neck of the bottle was retained as a souvenir. The colour of the aircraft is unknown but it was dark overall with K A S on the rudder in a lighter colour. Before a crowd of 3000 people who had paid to get in, and a like number, “who were not prepared to the extent of a shilling or two to support the syndicate of young men who for many months past made many sacrifices to give Kalgoorlie the honour of a successful locally built aeroplane. Outside the racecourse Geere took off after a run of only 91 metres. He climbed to a height of 305 metres and made three wide sweeps of the area. On landing he stated that from that height he could have landed safely at any point around the town had his engine failed.
On the second flight it was proposed to carry aloft a “lady passenger” and an auction was held to select the one to be honoured. Mr J.J. Brown was successful with a bid of thirteen guineas and his seventeen year old daughter dressed, perhaps appropriately, in black, was helped into the passenger’s seat. After a short delay in starting the engine, which apparently did nothing for Miss Brown’s state of mind, the “Kalgoorlie” again took off. Geere subsequently stated that she showed early signs of nervousness and was soon heard screaming “Let me outl” over the noise of the engine. This caused the pilot some concern which increased when the lady tried to stand up as the aircraft was struck by a gust of wind. Geere’s attention to flying was distracted as he endeavoured to keep her in her seat and he commenced his descent a little too late. Touching down too far across the landing area his speed carried him into the fence around the track. Fortunately the aircraft had been almost stopped when it struck the fence and damage was restricted to a propeller blade, axle bar and three or four ribs on the trailing edge of one wing. Replacement cost was estimated at about £10. Miss Brown subsequently denied that she had stood up or had tried to climb out.
Repairs were speedily carried out and on November 29 two further flights were carried out to raise funds to send “local aviators” to the United Kingdom so that they could enlist in the Royal Flying Corps. Following the two flights ground hops were given to two ladies and two gentlemen. The “Kalgoorlie” was then taken by rail to Northam and on December 1 Geere made two flights from the racecourse. Both flights were greeted with great enthusiasm by a large crowd. A further flight of some twenty minutes duration was made from the golf links on December 5, after which the aircraft was transported to Perth by rail. It arrived there on the 6th and was re-assembled at Belmont Park in preparation for a series of demonstration flights later in the month.
The aircraft was test flown on the 10th in preparation for the exhibition on the following day. The “West Australian” carried an advertisement for “Plume Benzine Light as a feather, strong as an ox.” which promised that the “Gnome engine will perform its exacting and heavy duty” on this product. In comparison with the large attendances at the country townships the flight from Belmont Park Racecourse attracted only three hundred people, but amongst those who did attend were Sir Harry Barron, Governor, Mr. Scadden, State Premier, Mr Collier, Minister of Lands, and the Mayor of Perth. After some difficulty in starting the engine the aircraft gave an extensive demonstration of its capabilities, keeping well away from the city as it was believed that many people hoped to see the aircraft fly without having to pay to do so.
On the following Saturday, the 18th, a further exhibition flight from the Perth Oval was arranged and the aircraft flew over the city on its positioning flight from Belmont Park. Shops and offices rapidly emptied as people rushed to see what for many was their first sight of an aircraft in flight. There is a report that this flight was made to advertise a “well known goldfields beverage.” Despite, or perhaps because of this free sighting, the crowd at the Oval was again disappointing with a mere four hundred turning up.
The Western Argus interviewed Geere in Kalgoorlie shortly after Christmas and he made a number of interesting statements. There was disappointment at the poor support which they had received “on the coast” but they were hopeful that the next exhibition would be better attended. The syndicate had arranged, in conjunction with the Red Cross Society, and with the approval of the Post Master General’s Department to operate the first “aerial post” in Western Australia, between Perth and Fremantle, a distance of twelve miles, at a rate of 6d per letter. In addition a further flight would be carried out to help raise funds for the Perth Childrens’ Hospital. Finally he stated that H.W. Davidson, the Mayor of Kalgoorlie, would be taken up for a flight on his arrival in Perth a few days hence. There is however no record of any of this happening.
Despite an enthusiastic interest in the aircraft’s future activities Geere told the press that he was going to enlist in the Australian Army early in the new year and apply to join the Flying Corps.
The “Kalgoorlie” was again flown on January 12, 1916 when Mr. Don Pedro paid for a flight. As the aircraft had been parked un-attended at Belmont Park for some weeks it required about an hour’s work before it was airworthy again. Geere seemed reluctant to take his passenger up without a test flight so he took off solo just after 1 o’clock, flew over the city and landed on the Esplanade adjacent to the Governor’s House. If it was his intention to escape from Mr. Pedro he was unsuccessful as the gentleman followed him by car and persuaded Geere to take him up. Pedro’s persistence was rewarded by a fifteen minute flight.
This seems to have been the aircraft’s last flight. There is a report that it was grounded after a cylinder head was found to have been irreparably cracked and this may have started to show up during the preparations for this flight.
Following his association with the Kalgoorlie project Geere travelled to Victoria and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force on January 25, 1916. He sailed on H.M.A.T. Orsova from Melbourne on March 16, 1916 for the Middle East as a member of “A” Flight, No I Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (No 67 (Australian) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps). The squadron had a strength of 28 officers and 195 other ranks and was the first complete squadron to be sent from Australia. He was promoted to Captain, and Flight-Commander, on the April 20, 1917 and transferred, in May 1917, to No 71 (Australian) Squadron R.F.C. (No 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps) then under training in the United Kingdom. It is not known if Geere went to France with No 71 Squadron when the unit transferred to the Western Front on December 18, 1917, however he is shown in the A.l.F. lists as being on its strength in January 1918. Geere’s final posting was to No I Wing Aircraft Repair Depot.
He returned to Australia on September 9, 1918 and was discharged from the service on the 4th October. He was appointed to the Reserve of Officers on October 1,1920 and remained on this until 1929.
The aircraft was then put into storage in the premises of the Union Brewery and survived relatively intact until 1929 when it was acquired by the Flying Corps Association in August of that year and renovated for the Centenary Pageant. At the time the Association received the aircraft it was intact but totally devoid of fabric, but over one weekend members recovered the wings and fuselage with signwriters calico, instead of high quality doped linen, as an economy measure. The aircraft was then painted in a “bizarre” pattern of whitewash, red ochre and calamine. After the Pageant the aircraft was donated to the Perth Museum for preservation. Although the aircraft had been complete when the Flying Corps Association worked on it, the Traffic Department had insisted on the wings being removed before it was allowed in the pageant and it was in this partially dismantled state that it was subsequently handed over to the Museum and Art Gallery in the expectation that it would be put on display. In July 1930 Art Gallery staff were packing some paintings for return to Melbourne when a heavy shower of rain occurred. It was subsequently reported that “a caretaker covered them with the only material available, part of the wing of an aircraft.” In connection with this incident a letter appeared the following day in a local newspaper describing the condition of the aircraft. The fuselage, minus wings, was “reposing unprotected like so much junk” in a corner of an open courtyard.
The derelict airframe apparently survived until after the end of World War 2 when it was removed and destroyed. Today the only known remains of Western Australia’s first locally built aircraft are a propeller in the Golden Mile Museum in Kalgoorlie and a few engine components in the Air Force Association Museum in Bullcreek, Perth.
NORMAN BREARLEY’S ONE MAN FLYING CIRCUS
1919 – 1920
This chapter is devoted to the early flying days of Sir Norman Brearley, Major, Royal Flying Corps, Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1965), Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, Air Force Cross, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and recipient of the Oswald Watt medal for 1973, who introduced Western Australians to the utility and reliability of air transport and founded an airline that pre-dated Qantas. Brearley was born in Geelong on December 12, 1890 and moved to Perth with his family in 1906. Intent on an engineering career he enrolled at the Perth Technical College and joined No 4 Electric Company of the Australian Engineers (Militia) to acquire such knowledge as they could impart. After completing his studies at the college he took up an apprenticeship at Hoskin’s Foundry. When war broke out in 1914 he was in the last year of this apprenticeship and decided to complete his training before enlisting. He arrived in the United Kingdom in June 1915, having worked his passage as a junior engineer on a slow cargo vessel, and managed to get himself accepted for officer training.
On completion of this course he was commissioned into the Liverpool Regiment and then immediately transferred to the Royal Flying Corps for pilot training. After graduating as a pilot, and with a mere twenty-six flying hours to his credit, he was appointed as a flying instructor before being posted to an operational squadron in France. In June 1916 he moved first to No 6 Squadron then No 29 Squadron both of which were based at Abeele. During the following winter he was shot down and seriously injured and only reluctantly allowed to return to “light flying duties, no stunting and nothing over 5000 feet.” He was then posted to the Gosport School of Special flying and following training in the advanced methods of this school was given command of a new School of Special Flying at Lilibourne, near Rugby. Brearley was still commanding this school when the war ended and on demobilisation he invested his savings, £700, in two new but now surplus Avro 504 trainers which had been based at his own airfield. Both aircraft were in excellent condition and had been brought up to the latest standard by his ground staff prior to being crated for shipment.
Major Norman Brearley arrived back in Fremantle on the S.S. Nestor on July 13,1919. The two aircraft followed several days later on the S.S. Port Napier. He came home with precious little money but with the only two aircraft in the State and a clear vision of what he intended to achieve. Permission was obtained to erect a small hangar at Belmont Park Racecourse and to use an area of 155 metres by 45 metres as an airfield. The aircraft were immediately assembled by H. Peter Hansen and Harry Critchly, both ex Australian Flying Corps mechanics. The Avro 504s were covered in clear doped linen, which gave them a creamy appearance, the metal engine cowling was painted black, the fuselage and wings retained their red, white and blue roundels; reminders of their Royal Air Force service.
In an interview given shortly after his return to Western Australia Brearley stated that he intended to give a series of stunt flying exhibitions, demonstrating all the latest in aerobatics, and to carry passengers. He could offer a ten minute flight for the sum of £5 which was a lower fare than was then being charged in the Eastern States. This fare was based on the short life, only 400 to 500 flying hours, for which the aircraft had been constructed. All being well the two aircraft would be ready to fly at the end of the month.
His first flight in Western Australia took place on August 1, 1919 when a passenger called Brooklyn was taken up. He commented favourably on the “suitable accommodation” that had been built for the aircraft.
On the following day, the 2nd, the official launch of his commercial flying career, rain fell heavily prior to the exhibition but only one shower was encountered during the actual flying. “The sodden turf of the Western Australian Cricket Association ground, where the flights took place, did not make for easy going” but a very large crowd, of over 4000, attended. As was common on such occasions many more took the opportunity to watch the flying from outside the grounds. The limited space available for take off and landing and the mass of electric wires around the ground were to cause problems.
One of the aircraft was parked on the ground for examination by the public and at 2.30 pm the first passenger, Mr W.F. Lathlam the Mayor of Perth, was taken for a flight over the city at a height of 610 metres much to his subsequently expressed satisfaction. On landing however the front skids of the aircraft came into contact with some of the surrounding wires and tore down about 62 metres of cable. The effect of the extra weight and drag upon the aircraft at this crucial stage of landing could have been fatal, as it was they caused the Avro to swing to one side as it rolled to a stop damaging its propeller and the front skids. It was not capable of flying again that afternoon so in order not to disappoint the crowd Brearley returned by car to Belmont Park and flew back in his second aircraft. He then gave a spectacular display of aerobatics before landing. It must be remembered that this was the first time that the people of Perth had seen any aircraft fly in other than a sedate fashion, thus far had aircraft progressed in the four years since the “Kalgoorlie” had been demonstrated over the city.
The next two flights carried paying passengers, Miss Vera Dent and Mm Harry Seeligson, and neither were troubled by mishaps but as Brearley took off on what was to be the last flight of the day the aircraft, slowed by the waterlogged ground, failed to gain sufficient height after take off and passed through a mass of wires. It looked like disaster, the Avro momentarily hesitated but then flew on and gave a further stunt flying demonstration before returning to Belmont Park. The first aircraft was repaired and flown back to Belmont that same evening.
The following day, the 3rd, Mr C. Arnott, a well known contractor paid for a flight over the city. Then on the 4th, Childrens’ Peace Day, when activities were being held in the city to celebrate the end of the war, Charles Moore, the owner of a city drapery store, contracted with Brearley to put on a demonstration over the childrens’ rally on the foreshore. Between 3.30 and 4 pm the aircraft was flown along the river front to the Esplanade, up to Kings Park and then back distributing thousands of Peace Day souvenirs some 260 of which could be exchanged for cash prizes at Moore’s store.
The Swan Brewery Company then arranged for pamphlets, exchangeable for cash, to be dropped from the sky. On August 9 at 12.30 pm, when city workers would be in the streets during their lunch break, large quantities of these leaflets were dropped over the city. After completing this job Brearley flew to Subiaco where he carried a number of passengers as well as giving the customary aerobatic display. On the following Saturday, August 16, the aircraft operated from the Claremont Showgrounds and unhindered by obstructions on the perimeter of the ground Brearley was able to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities to the fullest. Regrettably he was unable to carry passengers as the aircraft sustained slight damage when it struck a fence while landing. This did not prevent Brearley from making further flights during the afternoon but he was unwilling to risk the lives of others. It was reported that “at all times he was thoroughly graceful and full of the easiest confidences.” At the end of each flight the crowd cheered loudly.
He flew to Northam on August 27th and returned the same day bringing with him a setting of Black Orpington hen eggs, which had been donated by Mr S.G. Meares, to be sold on behalf of the Childrens’ Hospital.
The West Australian of August 28 carried an item which stated that Major Brearley intended leaving Perth the following Monday, September 1, for a short country trip after which he would resume flying in Perth. Intending passengers were urged to book as soon as possible as a further tour, to Northam and York, was scheduled. In addition southern districts were anxious for him to visit them. Brearley intended to operate scheduled passenger services as soon as practical and he wanted to increase the public’s acceptance of flying as quickly as possible.
The flight on the 1st was to Moora, with a landing en route at Bullsbrook. Brearley took off from Perth at 10.10 am and arrived at Bullsbrook thirty minutes later. After a short delay, while they picked up a passenger, they took off and some way north of Muchea, at about 11.20 am, they overtook the train which had left Perth at 6.40 am. Arriving over Moora at 12.15 pm Brearley first dropped a bundle of Peace Loan leaflets over the town before landing on the property of Mr J. Roberts, where he and Hansen were well looked after during their stay. A bundle of 150 West Australian newspapers was handed over to the local newsagent, Mr S.G. Snell and these were eagerly purchased as souvenirs of the occasion. Brearley also brought a consignment of millinery for Thomas Keany and Coy. These items were advertised as the “event of the year” and were in fact the first commercial cargo flown in Western Australia.
Passenger flying commenced at 2.45 pm and eleven people were carried that afternoon. Over forty passengers were taken up during the three day visit including some who made two and three flights. Mr M.T. Pad bury had booked to fly back to Perth but as he had to leave a day earlier than expected he was unable to do so. They returned to Perth on the 3rd at 12.20 pm after a flying time of 1 hour 20 minutes, and distributed a number of copies of the Moora Herald from the aircraft as it flew over the city.
Brearley’s next display was at the West Australian Motor Cycle Club’s Gala Day at Loton Park on September 6, when he took a female passenger, Miss Margorie Armstrong, with him during his aerobatic display. On landing he was immediately surrounded by a mass of small boys who kept the mounted police busy trying to round them up. A second, solo, flight was then made. A gate prize of two free flights was one of the incentives offered to encourage attendance. Several days later the winning numbers, 957 and 1841, were announced and the holders could claim their flights when he next appeared at Subiaco.
Brearley returned to Northam on September 20,1919 when he carried Mr B. Burch and a package of ladies’ fancy handkerchiefs and gents’ silk ties for delivery to Carter and Coy, drapers. The aircraft departed from Perth at 2 pm and arrived in Northam forty minutes later. Over Spencer’s Brook Brearley cut the engine and “volplaned’, that is glided, in to a landing in Elder Smith’s Sale Yard to start a six day visit to the town. In addition to the clothing he had also carried a box of North Coast butter consigned to Mr Jones of the Avon Butter and Bacon Factory who reciprocated by giving Brearley a box of Avon brand butter to take to Perth.
This visit was timed to co-incide with the Northam Agricultural Show and many flights were made during the week. The exact number of the townspeople who took the opportunity to fly is not known, however at least twenty townspeople had pre-booked flights and Mrs C. Williams was the first female passenger from the town. Carter and Coy, drapers arranged for Brearley to drop numbered promotional leaflets, three of which would bring the bearer a prize. Presentation of the other leaflets would entitle the bearer to discount of a half crown in the pound on goods purchased during the following seven days.
The handkerchiefs and ties were inaccurately offered for sale as the first commercial goods to be delivered anywhere in Western Australia by air. The prize winning numbers, 13, 843 and 1671 were found by Master W. Butler, Mrs H. Lynes and Victor Golan respectively. As a method of advertising it was extremely successful as people could be seen rushing about the town to collect the leaflets as they fluttered to the ground.
A special exhibition for the school children took place on Monday September 22 and, despite a heavy programme of pleasure flights, Brearley found time to visit Grass Valley and Greenhills.
The aircraft was flown back to Perth on the 26th with Mr Cecil Dent, as a passenger, along with a consignment of chickens from Mr T. Parkinson of the Colony Poultry Farm and the previously mentioned box of the butter.
On September 27 Brearley flew, with George Auburn, from Belmont Park to Fremantle Oval in response to public demand for flights. A number of passengers have been recorded as having flown that day including “Paul down from Northam.” After the customary exhibition of stunt flying Brearley was able to return to Belmont Park with two passengers, Miss Alice Auburn and Mr Henry Rhodes, as the rear cockpit of the aircraft had been modified to enable the carriage of two people. This not only allowed Brearley a greater profit but reduced the cost of a flight. Although only a fair attendance was reported at the oval thousands occupied all the surrounding high ground and no doubt enjoyed the performance of the Fremantle Brass Band which played throughout the show.
His next public appearance was at York on October 1 and 2 and this trip was financially very satisfying, one passenger paid £15 to go to 1829 metres and a second paid out £20 to be taken to 2438 metres. Brearley returned to Subiaco Oval on October 4 and the holders of the prize winning tickets were given their free flights. Flights were also offered throughout Royal Show Week, and advance bookings were taken at the South British Chambers. With the Royal Show over he once again returned to the country.
On October 19 he arrived in Kalgoorlie, by train, with his two aircraft. These were immediately taken to the racecourse and assembled. On the morning of October 22 Brearley took S.F.C. Cook for a flight around the area. They travelled across Kalgoorlie towards Parkston, on to East Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile, Boulder and then back to the racecourse. Thousands of spectators flocked to the racecourse in the afternoon where one of the Avros was on display in the Stewards’ enclosure. This attracted much attention from a knowledgeable crowd, some of whom had witnessed the flights of both the Caudron of A.W. Jones and the locally built Kalgoorlie aircraft. The other aircraft carried out the flying programme to the sound of the Kalgoorlie Brass Band. Mr Thomas Allen was the first passenger followed by M. C. Zowe. Charles Cutbush paid for an aerobatic flight including side-slipping, cartwheeling and spiral nose dives. At the conclusion of the flight Cutbush said that “he had at last reached the dizzy limit.”
That evening strong winds blew across the racecourse and Major Brearley and his party had a busy time preventing the aircraft from being blown away.
Brearley was guest of honour at a civic reception on the morning of the 24th at which he was hailed as the pioneer of West Australian aviation. To this he replied that he considered that Geere and the syndicate which had built the Kalgoorlie Biplane in 1915 were the true pioneers as they had, with the exception of the engine and a few minor components, designed and built every part of their aeroplane. While in Kalgoorlie Brearley met some of the members of this syndicate.
Boulder was visited on the 25th. An advertisement in the Kalgoorlie Miner described the event as “A Sensational Exhibition of Stunting and Passenger Flying” and printed the following timetable:
3 pm Passenger flying commences.
3.30pm Flying exhibition of track flying, stalling, rolling, side step flying and the falling leaf.
4 pm Passenger flying recommences.
4.30 pm Flying Exhibition of looping the loop, side-slipping, Immelman turns, cartwheeling and spiral nose diving.
4.45 pm Passenger flying till dusk.
A charge of £5 per passenger was made, more expensive than in some other areas but necessary to cover the expense of bringing the aircraft by rail.
On September 28 Brearley took up G.H. Hallam for the express purpose of photographing Kalgoorlie, the racecourse and surrounding areas from the air. Photographs were taken from a height of 762 metres and included a “faithful picture of a spinning nose dive.” The results were displayed at the Classic Studio and copies were offered for sale.
There is also a report of Charlie Webb, a local prospector, making a trip to Broad Arrow. Enroute an aerobatic display was performed at 915 metres over the Old Reward Mine where the first gold had been discovered. Then flowers and lollies were dropped for the local kiddies followed by letters and papers for the womenfolk and finally bottles of beer for the “hard cases.” After the flight Webb commented that if he was the Minister of Mines he would provide flights for miners to “top up their geological and auriferous knowledge, aeroplaning was as easy as breasting the bar for a pot of beer and the sensation in mid air was akin to smoodging with your best girl. I specked a colour but Brearley wouldn’t land to let me pick it up.” The Goldfields tour was completed on October 31,1919 and Brearley returned to Perth the following day.
About this time Brearley announced his plans to make a career of flying in Western Australia. There were many who had believed that there would be no demand for either joy rides or any other forms of aerial activity but in only two months it had been proven to all that the advantages of flying were appreciated by many West Australians. Country centres in particular were anxious to be visited and it was reported that Brearley had received Federal authority to form a company to further the advancement of aviation in the West. Quite what this meant is not clear as there were no regulations controlling civil flying at this time.
Vice Regal recognition was given on November 20 when the State Governor, Sir William Ellison-Macartney, and his wife and daughter were taken for flights over the City of Perth. A carrier pigeon was loaned by Mr J. Scadden, the Minister of Mines, and bearing a message to the Premier was released at 915 metres. This message was subsequently given to the Ugly Mens’ Association to be auctioned for charity.
Brearley then commenced an extended country tour on December 2,1919 when he departed for Northam at 11.30 am. He arrived forty four minutes later and after obliging those who wanted a flight he transported Mr H.M. Edwards and Mrs Jordan to York. He then remained in York on the 3rd and 4th operating his customary passenger flights and associated commercial activities. The next port of call was Brookton and then on to Beverley on the 6th December where he gave a demonstration over Brockman’s field before commencing passenger flying at 3.30 pm. A collection was taken up, for the Returned Serviceman’s Association, from the spectators. Brearley remained at Beverley until the 8th, establishing his booking office at the Freemasonts Hotel and it was reported in the Beverley Times that he had done “fairly good business among the possessors of the required fee.”
Pingelly was visited by one of the Avros on December 10 and 11,1919. This was apparently flown by “Aviator Hicks” representing Major Brearley and on the following day he was kept busy giving flights to the many townspeople who flocked to the landing field. Many of these purchased flights, and aerobatic demonstrations delighted those who remained on the ground. This is the only known occasion during this period that Brearley allowed another pilot to fly one of his aircraft. Brearley himself arrived in Pingelly on December 13, 1919 after a one hour flight from Perth and delivered a parcel of West Australian newspapers. He then flew George Murdoch to Narrogin. As the aircraft flew over Narrogin its appearance was described as resembling a huge dragonfly. He landed, a short distance outside the town, near the Cuballing road to collect passengers G.F. Parsons and Geo Bouney the first Narrogin residents to take to the air. The latter took the opportunity to drop some dodgers, pamphlets advertising his business, but unfortunately these missed their intended target area and their effect was largely lost. Some twenty flights were made and a total of thirty four passengers were reportedly carried on December 13 and 14.
On the 15th, at 7 am, he flew Dan Kelliher to No Man’s Lake Farm in a twenty minute flight which passed over Yilliminning Rock. From a height of 915 metres the rock “looked like a fair sized pebble.” Kelliher also reported that he could see Charlie Caldwell cutting oats in a paddock. After breakfast at the farmhouse Bill Kelliher flew back with Brearley to Narrogin.
The following morning, December 16, Brearley departed with Mr and Mrs Myers and took them to Wagin in time for the couple to catch the train back to their departure point. A civic reception had been laid on for Brearley for not only was he the first aviator to visit Wagin but he was also a returned war service veteran. During his speech Brearley explained his plans to operate air services throughout the state. His aircraft were new and he had chosen these in preference to ones which had been in service as they would have a longer life and spares were still available for them. When flying commenced in the afternoon many of the townspeople took the opportunity to go up and all the remainder watched.
Brearley had a very busy two days at Wagin as, in addition to giving local flights, he took Mr Austin Piesse to Arthur River and visited, by air, Dumbleyung Lake and other local beauty spots. He left for Perth at 10.07 am on December 18 with Mr Butterich and en route decided to land and refuel before crossing the Darling Ranges. He touched down at a property near West Dale and had a meal with the farmer while petrol was being obtained. They departed at 6.10 pm and landed in Perth just as darkness fell.
He returned from his tour of the Great Southern Division having carried a total of 186 passengers and only one incident, which had occurred at Pingelly, marred the tour. Part of the crowd had rushed into the path of the aircraft as it was landing. Faced with the choice of inflicting injury or death on some of the approaching mass of people the pilot, believed to have been Hicks, swung the aircraft sharply to the side and came to rest against some small trees causing some damage to the undercarriage and port wing.
When the train pulled into Albany railway station in January 29, 1920 amongst the passengers and freight it carried were Major Brearley and one of his Avros. The aircraft was quickly transferred to the Ulster Road Reserve and made ready for flying. This started on January 31 with the customary aerobatic demonstration. Passenger flying initially took place from Middleton Beach but as this proved too soft operations were transferred to Shelly Beach or alternatively Town Beach, near the locomotive sheds.
Brearley and his booking clerk, Cyril Pilley, based themselves in the Royal George Hotel. Not only could flights be booked at the hotel but transport to the beach could be obtained nearby. Forty-two people are known to have flown but in view of the time spent in the town many others must also have taken the opportunity to do so.
Never one to miss a good promotional opportunity Brearley gave the newly arrived Governor, Sir Francis Newdegate, and his Aide, Major Kerr Pearse a twenty minute flight over Albany on February 20. As neither man had flown before the flight was much appreciated. That same day an Albany Advertiser journalist was given an aerobatic demonstration and wrote a most enthusiastic account of his flight and of the ability of the pilot. Brearley is last mentioned in Albany on the 25th and is known to have returned to Perth by the end of the month.
Between August 1919 and April 1920 Major Norman Brearley had flown 12875 km during which time his aircraft had suffered only three minor mishaps. These being the minor incidents at the W.A.C.A., Subiaco Oval and at Pingelly.
Up to this point Brearley had avoided visiting the towns around Bunbury because of the lack of suitable landing grounds amongst the hills and forests of the region. However he reconsidered his objections when the Bunbury Returned Servicemen’s League contacted him and asked him to take part in their Anzac Sports Day on April 25. In reply they were advised that he required 30 acres of flat ground and a guarantee of twenty four passengers. If this minimum number could be achieved he would put on an aerobatic display free of charge. He was also willing to carry passengers from Perth to Bunbury or vice versa for a fee of £30. The R.S.L. agreed to meet these conditions and it was arranged for their Secretary to act as Brearley’s booking agent.
A ground reconnaissance of the area was carried out prior to the commencement of the tour and although the landing grounds chosen were barely up to the required standard they were the only ones that were available.
Brearley with two passengers, Messers Marsh and Hardwick and a bundle of West Australian newspapers, departed from Perth at 9 am on April 24. They passed over Pinjarra exactly at 10 am and distributed advertising pamphlets from the aircraft “for one of the State’s progressive firms.” From Pinjarra they followed the railway line to Waroona, Yarloop and Harvey, dropping pamphlets at each town. They landed in Bunbury at Mill Point, close to the birthplace of Lord Forrest, at 10.38 am having dropped some numbered circulars over the town. Lucky 79 provided Teddy Parker of Picton Hill with a free flight.
On landing the Avro’s undercarriage was slightly damaged and repairs to this delayed the business of the day, however Brearley was entertained to a civic reception by Mr J.G. Baldock, the town’s Mayor. It was not therefore until 5 pm that the first passengers, the Resident Magistrate, Mr Owen and the Mayor were taken aloft. As each passenger, the oldest being eighty-one years old, climbed aboard the aircraft they were handed a flying helmet, goggles and gauntlets by Brearley’s assistant. Following two busy days at Bunbury Brearley flew on to Donnybrook on April 27 and as he passed over Harvey he dropped some pamphlets of his own advertising his forthcoming visit. He landed at Trigwell’s field, within easy reach of Donnybrook, where people had been waiting for hours to see him arrive. Despite some rain around lunchtime he did good business, some forty people taking the opportunity to take to the air including many women. Messers W. Hill and S. Trigwell were the lucky winners of an Art Union prize draw for a free flight.
Next day Major Brearley flew into Bridgetown, accompanied by two passengers one of whom was Mr J. C. Kerr of the Timber Corporation of Greenbushes. This gentleman enclosed a shilling in an envelope, addressed it to a friend, and dropped it as they passed over Greenbushes with the request that he have a drink on him. When Kerr arrived at the Freemason’s Hotel in Brookton he was given a message that his friend had already had the drink. Brearley landed at Giblett’s paddock where about 300 people were waiting for him. The Mayor, accompanied by Master J. Ryan, was entertained to a “stunting flight.” After two days in the township Brearley returned to Bunbury on the 30th with Robert Crawford, proprietor of the Freemasons Hotel. The flight took just forty minutes and as they flew over Bridgetown Crawford dropped sixty pennies, in small packets, over the school to the delight of the children. He repeated …
JOHN COWE MCINTOSH -1921
The next pilot in the skies of Western Australia was one who had risen to national fame as the result of his participation in the second flight from the United Kingdom to Australia. John Cowe McIntosh was born in the Scottish village of Lumsden on February 24 1896. He was educated in Crieff and Inverness, then worked at a number of different jobs. As these had no appeal he emigrated to Australia, about 1913, on the RMS Ormus. Mcintosh took up employment as a sleeper cutter in Bridgetown and following the outbreak of the Great War enlisted in the 4th Field Ambulance, A.l.F. on September 4,1914. He served for five months on Gallipoli before being transferred to Lemnos and then the United Kingdom. During his time in England he often watched training aircraft flying overhead and when the opportunity arose in August 1917 he applied for training as a pilot. After much delay, during which time he fought in France, he was accepted but had only started training when the Armistice was signed.
He teamed up with Lieut. Ray Parer to try for the £10,000 prize for the first Australian crew to fly from the United Kingdom to Australia. Mcintosh approached Peter Dawson, a Scottish whisky distiller, to finance the attempt and with the £1,000 Dawson gave them they purchased an Airco DH-9, a single engined biplane bomber which had seen hard service during the war. In this aircraft, registered G-EAQM, he and Parer left Hounslow on January 8, 1920, too late to win the government prize but still game to complete the trip. The aircraft’s fuselage was boldly emblazoned with Dawson’s trade mark, the letters “PD”, in appreciation of his support. Dawson made only one stipulation when he agreed to finance them, and that was that they had to deliver a bottle of his whisky to Billy Hughes, then Prime Minister of Australia. They arrived in Darwin on the August 2, 1920 after an epic flight of 206 days in which every possible delay and problem was encountered and overcome; the whisky was safely delivered. Both airmen were awarded the Air Force Cross for their contribution to the advancement of aviation.
After some four months in the Eastern States Mcintosh decided to return home to Western Australia and drove over to Perth on an “Indian” motorcycle and side-car partly as a publicity trip for the marque and partly to give himself time to think about his future. He was accompanied part of the way by Mr H Harrison of the Rhodes Motorcycle Company, the Australian agents for the marque.
He left Melbourne on December 8,1920, travelled to Adelaide and then followed the track of the transcontinental rail line westwards. He arrived, bruised and travel stained, at the Savoy Hotel, Perth at 8.40 pm on the 12th having briefly encountered the de Garis party at Cook. Mcintosh told the press that he had been unsettled since his return to Australia and wanted to come back to Western Australia, which he now regarded as home. The transcontinental crossing had appealed to him as it would be a complete change, it would gain publicity for the motorcycle agency and he could provide the Defence Department with a first hand account of potential landing grounds across the Nullarbor. He had received a number of offers connected with flying. but was undecided as to his future direction.
He finally decided to follow in the footsteps of Norman Brearley and in the latter half of January 1921 entered into an agreement to purchase Brearley’s two Avro 504s, with all the spares and associated equipment. Mcintosh had had a considerable amount of experience flying the DH 9 on the flight out to Australia but lacked practice in take offs and landings. He received further flying instruction in January from Norman Brearley who considered him to be a good pilot.
Mcintosh went back to the Eastern States, by train, for a three week period, at the end of January. On March 19, 1920 he commenced a country tour and departed for Toodyay with an un-named lady passenger.
From Toodyay he visited Bolgart, Goomalling and Ballidu. He flew out of this latter township on Easter Monday, March 28,1921, with a Mrs Gurney and his mechanic, C.W. Pearn, and arrived in Pithara, a flight of about 32 km, at about 5 pm. He took up two passengers, Henry Cousins and Mr Leahy, on a trouble free flight then prepared to take off again. The passengers on this flight were Albert James Loughim, a wheat lumper, and Alfred Hilary Joy, a clearing contractor. After some delay Mcintosh took off and climbed to about 150 metres. At this point the Avro was seen to fall from the sky and, before a crowd of about one hundred people, crashed into Brown’s Paddock. When the first of the onlookers reached the aircraft Mcintosh and Joy were dead in the wreckage. Loughlm was still alive but unconscious and suffering from multiple fractures and was taken to Northam District Hospital for treatment.
Pearn brought McIntosh’s body back to Perth, by train, on the 29th and was very non committal about the cause of the accident. All he would say to the press was “the pilot was all right, the machine was all right, the engine was all right.”
Mcintosh’s death so soon after his triumphant flight to Australia was widely reported in the newspapers and the Prime Minister, Mr Billy Hughes, expressed sincere regrets at his death. The funeral service commenced at 1.45 pm on the 30th and was held in Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saint George’s Terrace. It was attended by the State Premier, senior members of the civil and military establishment, and many who knew and respected him. Thousands lined the streets as the cortege made its way to the cemetery at Karrakatta and over one thousand mourners, including his mechanics, C.W. Pearn and H. Critchly. were at the graveside. Mcintosh had been not only a national figure but he had served with the Australian Imperial Force since September 1914, and this counted for much in the years immediately following the war.
Alfred Joy, also an ex-serviceman, was interred in the cemetery at Daiwailinu by his family and friends that same day.
Over Melbourne, on April 1 Capt G.C. Mathews and Lieut W. Warner, both former members of the Australian Flying Corps, dropped several wreaths in McIntosh’s memory.
The inquest into the tragedy commenced at Pithara on March 29, with A.T. Jones JP as acting Coroner. As the inquest commenced C.W. Pearn stated that he had seen one of the men standing up in the rear cockpit after the aircraft had taken off and that he considered that they were both under the influence of drink. He had twice delayed the start of the flight because the two passengers were drinking from what appeared to be a beer bottle. The next witness, Mcintosh’s business manager William Lilley, considered that the pilot had been interfered with as the controls were still intact when the wreckage was inspected. Henry Cousins stated that he had seen Loughim standing up on the starboard side of the aircraft. The inquest was then adjourned until April 22.
When it re-commenced the first witness was Dr McDonald Allen, who had flown, possibly in the same aircraft, with Brearley at Goomalling on August 22,1920, revealed that he had found slight traces of disease in the deceased’s liver and kidneys but this would not in any way have contributed to the accident. He also said that Mcintosh was suffering from Bright’s disease, but this was not sufficiently advanced to have caused the deceased to collapse. Mcintosh, however, had had a life expectancy of only about two years. Following Dr Allen’s evidence Stan Brearley, Norman Brearley’s brother and a pilot himself, gave evidence of a technical nature and an account of the accident as he had witnessed it. At this point a telegram was received from the Crown Law Department requesting a further adjournment. The Coroner then set April 25 1921 as the date for the next hearing.
When the inquest re-opened Capt A.T. Cole MC DFC represented the Air Board. Evidence was then given by Dr K.G.M. Aberdeen, the District Medical Officer at Northam Hospital, that Loughlm’s injuries were consistent with him being on his feet at the time the aircraft hit the ground. Both of his ankles were broken, having taken the full force of the impact, and his lower ribs had been fractured when he had been thrown forward against the edge of the cockpit. Loughim admitted in evidence that he had had a drink before the flight but denied that either he or Joy had stood up or had interfered with the pilot during the flight. With the conflicting evidence before him the coroner returned the only verdict available to him, that of “accidental death.”
His estate consisted of an aeroplane, the DH 9 in which he had flown to Australia, and some spare parts, valued at £1550.
That and an entry on the pages of history.
THE AIR MAIL SERVICE COMMENCES -1921-1922
On May 18, 1921 the Australian Government called for tenders to operate an air mail service between Geraldton, the most northerly point on the railway line, and Derby, with stops at Carnarvon, Onslow, Roebourne, Port Hedland and Broome. Norman Brearley gave the operation a considerable amount of thought before putting together a tender which required the payment of the full subsidy of £25,000 for a weekly service supported by six aircraft. Brearley based his tender on what proved to be a realistic assessment of the operational requirements of the service and not just the cheapest quote.
Western Australian Airways was formed and at the same time he submitted his tender Brearley cabled the Bristol Aeroplane Company, in the United Kingdom, and provisionally ordered six Bristol Type 28 Tourers.
Brearley flew the remaining Avro 504 over Perth at the end of May. This seems to have been the first occasion that he had flown for some time as the event was co-incidently reported in the West Australian along with an interview on his submission for the air mail contract. He expected that not only would there be a number of tenders, from pilots in the Eastern States, but also from consortiums in Western Australia.
In fact only one other tender, based on using only three aircraft, was submitted, and that was from two Perth based men. A.G. Simpson and F.E. Tregilies.
On August 2, 1922 Brearley was advised that he had been the successful tenderer, whereupon he confirmed his previously placed order for six Bristol Tourers and commenced arranging agencies and building hangars in the towns along the route. He had won the contract on two points, that the aircraft which he had specified were of greater defence potential than those of the opposition and secondly the Government believed that it would be impossible to maintain the service with only three aircraft. This was confirmed by W.A.A. during subsequent operations when they experienced difficulties in maintaining the service with only five aircraft.
In September 1921 Simpson and Tregelles registered Air Transport Limited and commenced operations with a single engined Armstrong-Whitworth FK-8 biplane, registered G-AUDE, which was capable of carrying two passengers. This was in use for only a few months before it was badly damaged on October 2, 1921 while landing at their aerodrome in South Perth. This 40 acre site had been established on the South Perth foreshore close to the causeway. The aircraft was rebuilt and operated by the company until August 1922 when it was sold to Q.A.N.T.A.S.
During the summer of 1921 F.S. Briggs, who had been de Garis’s pilot, worked with Air Transport Ltd. and is known to have visited Bunbury between Boxing Day 1921 and January 3, 1922. This is one of the few mentions of the firms activities.
When first established the firm advertised that they were planning weekend tours to local holiday centres, a daily flight to Rottnest Island and excursions to the Great Southern Region. As details of their activities are now largely lost it is not known how successful they were in these operations. Although the firm concentrated on the South West of the state, away from the operational area of Western Australian Airways, it did provide W.A.A. with some competition in the charter field but they were never a major force in the state. The firm survived until 1926 when it was wound up.
On November 20,1921 the Tourers were unloaded from the SS Sussex at Fremantle and the Governor of Western Australia officially launched the airline on December 4, 1921. Three aircraft, G-AUDG, G-AUDI and G-AUDK set off for Geraidton the following morning to be in position for the start of the service on the 5th. They landed at a temporary airfield due to the unsuitability of the one prepared by the government contractors.
Early on December 5 the three Bristols took off and climbed towards the north. The intention was to fly all three aircraft through to Derby and then leave one at designated bases on the return flight. Forty4ive minutes out from Geraldton Taplin’s aircraft was noticed to be descending. Despite a loss of power from the engine he made a safe landing, near the Murchison River, causing only slight damage to the aircraft. Brearley landed his aircraft about 2.4 km from Taplin and started to walk over to the downed aircraft. Meantime as Robert Fawcett, in G-AUDI, flew slowly over Taplin his airspeed must have fallen below the safe minimum, for his aircraft fell out of the sky from about fifty feet, and killed both occupants.
Robert Fawcett and Edward Broad were buried that evening at Murchison House Station alongside earlier pioneers.
Brearley was all for continuing the service but was persuaded by M.P. Durack, who well understood the workings of the Government mind, that it would be better to return to Perth and wait until the government fulfilled its part of the contract and prepared proper airfields and emergency landing grounds. Taplin and his mechanic remained with their aircraft to make repairs.
Colonel Horace C. Brinsmead MC, the Controller of Civil Aviation, who had intended to be present for the start of the service, finally arrived in Perth on December 9,1921. His aircraft, a Bristol Tourer, G-AUCA, the same type as that being flown by West Australian Airways, was flown by Lieut. E.J. Jones and Air Mechanic G.L. Gottschalk. They had left Melbourne on November 28 but were delayed for five days by “boisterous winds” at Balakiava S.A. and again, briefly, near Merredin when the aircraft had to make an emergency landing outside the town on December 8. The problem was quickly rectified and Brinsmead’s party arrived in the western capital early on December 9 having been met as they approached Perth by Charles Kingsford Smith in Avro 504 G-AUCL and led to the Esplanade aerodrome, in order perhaps to ensure that they did not land at Air Transport’s airfield.
The management of W.A.A. and Brinsmead had a number of discussions before the 14th December when Major Brearley, Charles Kingsford Smith and H.P. Hansen, accompanied by Col. Brinsmead and his crew, departed from Perth to undertake a survey of the airfields and emergency landing grounds from Geraldton to Derby. Also taken along was a quantity of mail for delivery en route. The two aircraft left Perth at 8.05 am on December 14,1921 and touched down at Geraldton at 11.10 am. Shortly afterwards the W.A.A. aircraft departed for Murchison House Station where the crew spent the night. The following morning they took off for Carnarvon where they received an enthusiastic reception and Brearley took the opportunity to give thirty people joy rides. They also received the information that Brinsmead’s aircraft had had to put down in the bush but that all was well.
On the 16th they continued on their journey. Onslow, the next port of call was reached in two hours and fifty4ive minutes flying time. En route the aircraft passed over Minilya Station, Lyndon River, Winning Pool and Yanrey Station, to land at the foot of the main street of the town. The temperature in the town was 42 celsius and a storm was brewing. As a consequence of this they decided not to continue on to Roebourne that day but to tie the aircraft down for the night and let the storm pass. They had been met by the now customary large crowd and a reception and dance were held in their honour.
Next day the flight continued, via Roebourne, to Port Hedland and they overtook the SS Bambra which was carrying the mail from the first flight. Thus the second batch of air mail despatched reached its destination before the first. The survey party continued to Broome on December 18, 1921 and as they were the first aircraft to land in the town they were given another civic reception. Brearley managed to fit in seventeen joy riding flights that afternoon. On the 19th they flew on to Derby, the end of the line, and after a two hour examination of the airfield returned to Broome.
The state of the official airfields along the route had proved to be, in the main, unsatisfactory, many had been badly prepared and some sites had been chosen in spite of the fact that they were known, to the locals at least, to be unusable in the wet season. In addition to the main purpose the flight had been an interesting one for Norman Brearley as he had gained, at first hand, an accurate knowledge that flights to the towns of the North-West would be strongly supported by the residents. During the stop overs at each town many enquiries were made regarding booking seats.
The return flight to Perth departed very early on the 20th, at 2.10 am to be precise, but instead of making the hoped for excellent progress the aircraft’s engine developed an oil leak and the party were forced to make a night landing at Cape Latouche Treville, on Ninety Mile Beach, about an hour after take off. They had landed 22 km from the nearest telegraph station and Hansen volunteered to walk there and report their circumstances. The aircraft was stuck on the beach below the high water mark and resisted all attempts to move it until the engine was briefly restarted and the limited power it provided assisted them in getting it clear of the incoming tide. Sometime after 2 pm Peter Hansen returned in company with station owner Dave Edgar whom he had met when several miles into his journey. Edgar had provided horses and they had ridden to the telegraph station at La Grange Bay and sent messages explaining what had happened.
Word having reached Broome of their predicament Mr J.A. McDonald loaded a supply of oil and provisions into a launch and headed off down the coast. By the time he arrived the airmen had decided that there was no possibility of flying the aircraft out and the launch took them back to Broome where they boarded the SS Bambra. Next morning this vessel stood offshore and the aircraft was dismantled and brought on board. The ship arrived in Perth at 2.30pm on December 30 and the shipping notices recorded the fact that it carried the aircraft as cargo.
Meantime Taplin and J.R. Trestrall had repaired their aircraft after the emergency landing on the 5th and with Ken Haley, the overseer of Murchison House Station they flew into Geraldton, on December 20. Brearley wired them to leave the aircraft in the hangar at Geraldton and return to Perth by train to save the cost of re-positioning the aircraft at a later date. When Taplin landed at Geraldton he found that Colonel Brinsmead and his party had arrived the previous day and were working on their aircraft in the hope of being able continue their flight north. Brinsmead’s aircraft had left Geraldton on December 15 and was observed flying over Northampton. Some time later, however, it was forced to land a short distance from the telegraph line. Lacking a portable telephone, as carried by all W.A.A. aircraft, they were obliged to cut the wire in order to attract attention.
Mr H. Drage, accompanied by Constable Triatt, with ample supplies of food and water, went out by car and found Brinsmead’s crew alive and well, at post number 1297, at about midnight. They had taken shelter from the sun in a rain shed about 20 km north of Trevenson. The aircraft had come down 13 km north of the rain shed. Drage brought Gottschalk back to Trevenson to obtain tools and to enlist some assistance in clearing an adequate strip for take off. The aircraft was only slightly damaged having burst a tyre and damaged a shock absorber on landing.
Brinsmead was delayed for several days at Geraditon awaiting spare parts, however he eventually got away and worked his way up the line, arriving in Derby on the 29th. He returned to Geraldton on January 6, 1922 and then flew on to Perth. Amongst the conclusions he came to during his flight was that West Australians had not been discouraged from flying by the crash at Murchison River, at each and every stop he was pestered by people of all ages for a flight. The inhabitants of Broome were apparently particularly insistent in this respect. He had hoped to fly back to Melbourne but his mechanic took ill and Brinsmead had to catch the train instead. Jones flew out of Perth on the 15th and made the first non stop flight to Kaigoorlie before continuing on to Melbourne where he arrived on January 20.