Air Mail Centenary Commemoration Group
Newsletter 4: March 27, 2014
For those who do not know the story: In mid-July 1914, French aviator Maurice Guillaux flew from Melbourne to Sydney seated on his Bleriot XI aircraft. The journey took 2 days, 5 hours and 45 minutes, and he carried Australia’s first air mail and air freight. However two weeks later, World War I broke out, and Guillaux’ epic feat was largely lost to historic memory. The Aviation Historical Society of Australia, NSW (inc) is co-ordinating a re-enactment flight which will occur on 12-14 July next year. Now read on...
You are invited to come to the next meeting of the
Aviation Historical Society of Australia, to be held at The
North Ryde RSL Club, corner of Pittwater Road and Magdala
Roads, North Ryde, next Wednesday, 2 April, at 7 45 pm. The project’s
historical background will be explored, and the re-enactment plans will be
discussed. Apologies for the late notice of this meeting:
the venue was in doubt until yesterday, because of the uncertain position
of the PowerHouse Museum, which, having Guillaux’ Bleriot on display, would
have been the ideal venue. However, building and construction projects, and
the present difficulties of the PowerHouse Museum, have necessitated the
use of this venue.
You are invited to come to the next meeting of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia, to be held at The North Ryde RSL Club, corner of Pittwater Road and Magdala Roads, North Ryde, next Wednesday, 2 April, at 7 45 pm. The project’s historical background will be explored, and the re-enactment plans will be discussed.
Apologies for the late notice of this meeting: the venue was in doubt until yesterday, because of the uncertain position of the PowerHouse Museum, which, having Guillaux’ Bleriot on display, would have been the ideal venue. However, building and construction projects, and the present difficulties of the PowerHouse Museum, have necessitated the use of this venue.
Over the past eight months our aviation experts have been considering various options for a support plane and the choice has now been made. We needed an aircraft that is fully equipped for instrument flying, with the latest avionic and navigational equipment, and the abilty to land on any airstrip under the worst conditions.
More important than the aircraft is the pilot, and we are delighted to announce that the lead support aircraft will be flown by Aminta Hennessy, AOM, one of the most capable light aircraft pilots in the country.
In 1978 she became the first Australian woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was also the first woman to fly solo back-to-back crossings of the Pacific Ocean in 1994. She has flown Pacific Ocean solo more than 20 times and has flown throughout the Indian Ocean and Asia many times, delivering aircraft. With over 40 years of pilot experience, Aminta’s feats are the stuff of legend.
She has also been active in other aviation areas, such as establishing the ‘Fear of Flying’ clinics on behalf of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association, in conjunction with QANTAS. She established the Australia Association of Flight Instructors and was President for more than five years.
We asked her to select, from the fleet of her (and husband Ray’s) company Clamback and Hennessy, the aircraft best suited to handling the worst conditions we could encounter in this project, and she suggested a Cessna 182 which is comprehensively equipped with the latest instrumentation and the best available undercarriage and tyres for handling any conditions.
The re-enactment flight will not just consist of two aircraft. Indeed the participating aircraft numbers are increasing day by day, and our next newsletter will list some of these. If you would like to join in, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org .
However we are about to embark on a major advertising program, through email and direct mail to stamp clubs and aero clubs, and also by advertisements in Australian and UK stamp magazines. Also work is being done on the ‘user interface’ of the website so that anyone attracted by the advertisements will find it easier to use. The work on the website will be complete in a fortnight, before our major advertising campaign gets under way.
The advertisements have been designed by Juanita Franzi, with the assistance of our philatelic manager Christine Ewoldt who wrote the ‘copy’.
The sale of the postcards is what pays the basic expenses of the project. There is no doubt that they will be sold: this is the most exciting project of its type in Australia, and indeed in the world, and the signs are that all will indeed be sold.
However, many people are holding off in making their purchase. We are handicapped by the fact that the stamps will not be released until July 1, so the cards must be sold in advance, and many people are obviously not going to make their purchases until the last moment.
There are still some very good ‘low number’ postcards available, and this is a good inducement for people to buy early. And also, purchasers will have the knowledge that they have assisted the running of the project in the best possible way.
So, if you have not yet bought your postcards, please do so as soon as you can.
And especially, spread the word to all the philatelists and historical collectors that you know.
There are several big gaps in our knowledge of Maurice Guillaux, and one of these is his family life. Guillaux is not a common name, and so we sent letters to all people with that surname whose addresses were listed in the French telephone directory. This week we received a package of information from Michel Guillaux, 81 years old, and the grandson of Maurice. He sent a considerable amount of information, and this very interesting photograph. It shows Maurice and his son Bernard in a Morane-Saulnier Parasol P, which was used both by France and Britain in 1916-17. This photo was obviously taken before Maurice’s death, May 21 1917!
Michel also sent an obituary notice for his grandfather. His funeral was attended by the Morane brothers, owners of the firm, by M Caudron, his former employer, M Marlin from the Rhône engine company, and many famous aviators such as Audemars and Guynemer, himself to die later in the year. Many British officers also attended,.
25 April 1914 was not Anzac Day, for obvious reasons. But it was a very important day for Newcastle and for Australian aviation. Maurice Guillaux conducted a flying display at Newcastle Showground: his Bleriot was the first aircraft to be seen in Newcastle.
On 25 April this year the Newcastle Aero Club intends to conduct a flypast of a group of Tiger Moth aircraft over both Sydney and Newcastle. The flight will be led by Bill Purdy, a distinguished, and still very active, World War II veteran.
As well as being an appropriate feature of Anzac Day, and a well-deserved recognition of Bill Purdy, the flypast operation is also very relevant to the story of Maurice Guillaux in Australia.
The following is an extract from the journal of the Seaplane Pilots Association of Australia (SPAA). The event that is described will be a major item in the lead-up to the mail flight re-enactment.
As is well known, the Bleriot XI that is held in the PowerHouse Museum is the very aircraft used by Maurice Guillaux. Genuine pre-World War I aircraft are very rare, and the fact that our machine performed such a remarkable historic flight makes it a real treasure. It is not so well known that the machine was sold to Graeme Carey, a remarkable early aircraft operator. He carried airmail from Adelaide to Gawler on November 23, 1917, and this was the first such event in South Australia.
This envelope, signed by (Robert) Graham Carey was carried on a commemorative flight made by a DC-3 on the 40th anniversary of the original flight. This flight was arranged by the famed philatelist and historian Nelson Eustis. Graham Carey died in 1959, aged 85.
In the current issue of PowerLines, PowerHouse museum curator of aviation and Space, Ms Kerrie Dougherty, has written an article on the acquisition of the aircraft. This, and some blog posts, are part of the contribution of PowerHouse to the commemoration of Guillaux’ activities. We will seek permission to put the article on our website.