First Flight


wpeD.jpg (58210 bytes)



wpe11.jpg (50892 bytes)

Reverse of above card -back stamped Sydney

Our first official aerial mail carried in Australia - July 16-18, 1914. It was flown from Melbourne to Sydney by the French aviator Maurice Guillaux. Souvenir cards were issued, as illustrated, and the post office provided a special cachet for articles carried by the plane. The cards sold for 1/- each and postage required was 1d and all mail was cancelled at Melbourne with the oval violet cachet Australia, Melbourne, 16th July 1914 via Aerial mail .

The Commonwealth Postal Department did not take any responsibility for the safe delivery of the mail. Back stamped Sydney 18th July 1914 the total mail weighed 40 lbs, approximately 2,500 items. This flight was the most important in Australian aviation prior to World War I.

The Australian Airmail Catalogue mentions that some forgeries of the cards and a few letters exist.

The story of this remarkable flight, organised by a Sydney entrepreneur Arthur Rickard, was certainly an epoch in Australian history worth reporting.

Guillaux's Time Table: Melbourne depart 912am. This was 12 minutes later than he intended hut the mail from the General Post Office was late in arriving. Guillaux was waiting beside the cab of his machine on the oval at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds at Flemington and the mechanical staff had given the plane a thorough overhaul and it was ready to start. Wandong, 34 miles out, was passed at 925am. The press of the day reported - The Aviator passed over Wandong at an altitude of 300 feet causing plenty of wonderment amongst the people and consternation amongst the farm animals. Dogs barked, fowls cackled, horses neighed and pranced about and with a final stare, kicked up their heels.

The Aviator could be plainly seen, comfortably seated. He followed the railway line from Seymour to Wangaratta where he arrived at 1140am and was greeted by people and left at 1215pm. The Flour Mill blew its whistle to notify the people at Chiltern he was coming. The streets were lined with spectators. The airman was travelling about fifty miles an hour and it was bitterly cold. Approaching the racecourse at Albury, he made a steep descent from about 2,000 feet and made a perfect landing in front of the grandstand. He refuelled and oiled the machine and then went to lunch.

Wagga was the next destination, 268 miles from Melbourne and he left in a strong wind and covered the 84 miles to Harden in sixty minutes, his best speed from

place to place. The roughest journey he had ever experienced was between Harden and Goulburn. He was tossed about until he was very airsick and decided to return to Harden before dark. His wrists were aching from tugging at the controls. He was beset with perils. The news from Goulburn was not good as there was no sign of the storm abating.

He left Harden at 715am on the Saturday morning and into terrible head winds. It was difficult to keep the plane steady and impractical to follow the railway line so he steered across country over two big lakes, George and Bathurst. On the whole 94 miles to Goulburn there was not an inch of clear ground and had the engine failed the flight would have been at an end. As it was the journey occupied two hours.

A big fire had been lit at Goulburn on the racecourse and Guillaux was glad to warm his frozen limbs. Leaving Goulburn at 1105am, he found as he was approaching Yass, he had to climb to 10,000 feet. Soon again, he was in heavy cloud and had to steer by compass. He rarely saw the railway line hut mountain peaks were always in view. -

He was not due in Sydney until after 300pm and his maps did not carry him any nearer to Sydney than fifty miles but he saw a township in his path and open ground, so Guillaux alighted and found he was at Liverpool at 23 minutes to 100pm. The wind was still squally and he was carried at tremendous pace over the Sydney suburbs approaching the football ground. People were cheering and he waved his acknowledgment and landed in a blinding storm. He was cold and very happy - he had delivered the mail.

The sense of wonder and admiration his journey created was captured in the newspapers of the day that published his story. Much was made of the fact that the flight was made in mid winter, over the most mountainous part of the continent and he was flying over country unfamiliar to him with maps designed for surface travellers.

Guillaux left Australia in August 1914 to join his country's air service. He was attached for a short time in 1917 to No.5 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps as an instructor, then stationed in England. He was killed in a crash on May 22, 1917 at Villacouhlay, France.