A .- L .-.. B -… U ..- R .-. Y -.- –

Flight of the Uiver – 80th Anniversary  (24 October 2014)

See also

24th October 2014

Today the 24th October 2014 is Albury’s day.

Today is the 8oth Anniversary of the most unusual and extraordinary  flight of a DC-2 (named “Uiver” for “stork” and pronounced “iver” in English or “oover”  in Dutch)) that landed at Albury’s Race Course, New South Wales, Australia at 1:20 am during a thunderstorm on 24 October 1934.

The story of the Flight of the Uiver reminds us of our humanity, that goodwill and teamwork exists between nations, companies and people.   In our new media hyped environment where every stranger is a potential terrorist, the Uiver story reminds us that we are kind and honourable, that  we can all be leaders, team members and supporters to work together to solve any crisis.

The Uiver anniversary reminds us that  intrepid people who make courageous decisions create intrepid teams that achieve remarkable outcomes.

Lost in Space (Painting Jaak de Koninck - www.jaakdekoninck.be)

Lost in Space – Found by Albury (Painting Jaak de Koninck – http://www.jaakdekoninck.be)

Uiver_3Today, Friday 24th October 2014 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Uiver landing at Albury when

  • KLM’s Douglas DC-2 registered PH-­AJU and named “Uiver” was just behind the leader (a de Havilland DH.88 Comet) and a contender to win the famous 1934 race from Mildenhall (UK) to Melbourne (Australia) Air Race.   The Uiver carried a crew of four (Pilot, CoPilot, Radio/Navigator, Mechanic) and three paying passengers.  The Uiver’s three passengers were the FIRST COMMERCIAL PASSENGERS TO FLY FROM LONDON TO AUSTRALIA!
  • The Uiver’s final planned course from Charleville to Melbourne did not come close to the town of Albury.
  • The Navigation Officer became lost on the black and thundery final leg .   Massive thunderstorms produced static electricity that cut most radio communications and interfered with signals from ground based radio navigation aids.   It was impossible to use radio direction finders to calculate a position fix.
  • Uiver Crew, Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

    Uiver Crew Left->Right:  H. Van Brugge (Radio/Navigator, K.D. Parmentier (Captain), Johannes Moll, 34 years old (Co-Pilot), Bo Prinz (Mechanic and Steward)

    Captain Koene Parmentier flew over Albury many times, each time trying to identify the town, his position and then plot a new course to Melbourne.   He kept underneath low cloud amongst embedded thunderstorms, flashing landing lights to signal for help from people in their homes.

  • With the Uiver’s landing lights illuminating the ground, Parmentier flew low level under cloud up the Kiwa Valley.  He turned back before colliding with the Great Dividing Range, heading back  towards towards the last overflown town (Albury).   He then flew up along another low stretch of land to Corryong before turning back and then on another course towards Goulburn before returning with even less fuel remaining.    Climbing to height was not an option – ice weighed down the aircraft and reduced the wings’ lift.  He then had insufficient fuel to make Melbourne.   He had to land – ASAP!
  • (Painting Jaak de Koninck - www.jaakdekoninck.be)

    (Painting Jaak de Koninck – http://www.jaakdekoninck.be)

    Dutchman H. Van Brugge the Uiver’s Radio Officer frantically radioed to anyone who could DF (direction find) their transmission and help them establish their position.   Radios in 1934 were weak, only operated on a few  (300-500 KHz HF) frequenencies.  The closest help was from station “VIM” in Melbourne.

  • Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

    Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

    Clifton Mott (local newspaper editor of the Border Mail) ran outside to see the Uiver circling overhead Albury.  He knew of the Air Race.  He saw the Uiver flashing his landing lights asking for help.   He knew that the Uiver was lost.  He knew that the Uiver crew would be able to reorient themselves once they identify Albury below them.   What happened next is now embedded in aviation folklore.

  • Clifton Mott called Lyle Ferris (town councilor and electrical engineer) and Mr Reg  F.  Turner (Deputy Postal Inspector).   Together they rushed to the Albury’s Keiwa St power station where they  flashed all of Albury’s TOWN street lights to signal “.-   .-..  -…  ..-  .-.  -.–” the Morse Code for “ALBURY”.
  • Uiver_5

    (Picture Peter Merkesteyn)

    The rest of the town was called to action.  Albury did not have an airfield in 1934 so the town had to improvise for the rescue.  Arthur Newnham, a courageous 36 year old announcer on ABC 2 CO (Corowa transmitting from Albury), interrupted the retransmitted radio program broadcast from Melbourne and asked the town’s residents to help.  (36 minutes).   Not everyone owned cars in 1934, so it was a major feat that residents in 80 cars raced to the Albury Race Course where they lit a crescent emergency landing area for the circling, lost and more desperate Uiver.   In a communications effort that could not be matched with the worlds social media today, only 22 minutes elapsed between the time that Arthur requested cars to race to the race course to time that the landing strip was illuminated!

  • Uiver_7

    (Picture: Albury Library Museum)

    Underneath a stormy black sky, Parmentier landed the Uiver on the makeshift soaked landing strip landed at 1:20 am, stopping (similar to QF32) just 100m from the end of the race-course’s inner fence.   The crew and passengers were now safe but not out of strife.

  • Uiver_6

    (Picture: Albury Library Museum)

    The Uiver’s wheels then sank into the soaked, thick and black Albury mud.    They were out of the race! Or were they?

  • Albury Mayor Alfred Waugh woke the next morning.  He amassed 300 town’s people who then arrived at the airport, used shovels to dig the Uiver out of the mud then ropes to pull the 8 tonne DC-2 up onto firmer ground.  The 3 passengers looked on with disbelief.
  • Uiver_12

    (Photo: Albury Library Museum)

    Having being rescued by the people of Albury, the Uiver took off at 09:54 am (seven and a half hours after it landed) and continued to finish the great race at 11:04 am, taking the second place  (and winning the handicap).

The Most Exciting Times for Aviation

1934 was a year amidst the greatest times for aviation.

Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

Those who lived to see the preceding seven years witnessed:

Bert Hinkler

  • Charles Lindbergh fly the first non stop Atlantic crossing from the USA (New York) to Europe (Paris – Le Bourget) (1927).   Remarkably, Captain John Alcock and his navigator Lieutenant Arthur Brown completed the first (16 hour) non-stop crossing of the Atlantic from Canada (St Johns, Newfoundland) to Europe (Clifden, Ireland) eight years earlier in 1919.
  • Bert Hinkler fly from England to  Australia in just 16 days (1928).   Bert achieved that alone,  without radios or any ground support.   Bert died in another England-Australia record attempt in 1933, just one year before the flight of the Uiver.
  • Charles  Kingsford Smith & Charles Ulm be the first to fly across the Pacific Ocean when they flew 7,500 nm from Oakland (USA) to Australia in 1928.   15,000 Australians greeted them in Brisbane on their arrival.  300,000 welcomed them into Sydney.  Incredibly, Australians were the first to aviate across most of the major oceans (with the exception of the Atlantic):
    • Smithy and Ulm– The Pacific
      P G Taylor – South Pacific
      Smithy – The Tasman
      P G Taylor — Indian Ocean
      Harry Hawker almost made it across the Atlantic in 1919

If aeronautics developed today as rapidly today as it did back in the 1930s, then we would have commercial passengers travelling to Mars.   Consider the expansion in aviation from 1927 when Hinkler and Smithy broke world records to the Great Race of 1934 (just seven years later). NASA’s Apollo 11 put the first man onto the moon in 1969. Manned space exploration has been stalled for the 42 years since the last moon landing (Apollo 17 of 1972).

Donald Douglas built the most iconic aircraft of the 1930s:

  • Uiver_17

    (Photo: David Thorpe)

    Douglas build the DC-1, a 12 seater passenger plane that first flew in 1933.

  • The DC-2 came soon afterwards.  The DC-2 was a 14 passenger upgrade to the DC-1.    The DC-2 was the first all-metal transport aircraft and the first to provide a separate cockpit and food galley. The DC-2 first flew on 1th May 1934.   Just 200 DC-2s were built, all between 1934 and 1939.     KLM acquired 18 DC-2s.   The Uiver DC-2 launched for the Great Race only five months after the first DC-2 took to the air!
  • Uiver_19

    (Photo: Simon Dallinger)

    The DC-3 was a stretched replacement of the DC-2.  The DC-3 is one of the most iconic, successful and resilient aircraft ever produced.  World War II created an extraordinary market for the DC-3.  10,655 were built.   It was rumoured that the DC-3’s fuselage strength was so strong that the aircraft had an unlimited fatigue life.

  • The aviation corridors are aflood with stories of the DC-3.    I put Trixy and Bubbles stories into my book QF32 at page 77.    My other DC-3 stories (one humourous story of a mutiny by armed passengers) did not survive the editor’s final cut)
  • Click here to see one of the few remaining flying DC-2s,  aptly called “Uiver”

 Bravo KLM!

The Flight of the Uiver is an example of how a value added airline with exceptionally well trained and experienced crew (like KLM’s Captain Parmentier) are resilient and able to survive unexpected events.

Bravo Captain Parmentier

Capt. Parmentier, taken shortly before his tragic loss in the crash of his Lockeed Constellation (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

Capt. Parmentier, taken shortly before his tragic loss in the crash of his Lockeed Constellation (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

Captain Koene Parmentier displayed exemplary command and piloting skills.

Many pilots die every year flying their aircraft under clouds along rising valleys.  The Kilmore Gap in Victoria is one example of a region that has claimed many lives for this reason.    Unwise pilots who extend flight up along valleys beyond their safe point of return,  feel the valley floor rising towards the cloud, and see the width of the valley narrow ahead.   The valley’s sides and floor converge to the point where the ground meets the cloud.


Capt. Parmentier and Co-Pilot J. j. Moll

Extend too far up the valley and you will put your aircraft into a “coffin corner” situation where the valley is narrower than your aircraft’s turn diameter.

Pilots who fly in valleys under cloud must know their aircraft’s turning performance and what configuration is best at speed and altitude. They have either prepared for this contingency and know it or they don’t!  Prepared pilots know the ideal propeller RPM, engine mixture, manoeuvring flap setting and manoeuvring speed.  Pilots who first think about this when they are first caught under cloud in a rising valley, generally make their “bugout” decision too late to survive the inevitable outcome.   These pilots normally only realise their predicament just before they crash.

Average pilots put in a situation similar to the predicament that faced Captain Parmentier would probably have crashed.   The average pilot probably would have extended up the valleys too far then flown into cloud and crashed into the valley wall, or pulled too tightly into a reversal turn and stalled the aircraft down to the ground.

Captain Parmentier clearly understood these issues.   He exhibited extraordinary skills.   He had the right stuff.  He showed he had the  ability to fly the Uiver in a precautionary configuration to turn tightly and navigate along valleys at night beneath the cloud and icing layers and embedded thunderstorms, constantly evaluating escape plans, sometimes executing the plans, whilst all the time leading his Co-Pilot,  Radio Engineer and Navigator.

(Painting Jaak de Koninck - www.jaakdekoninck.be)

DC-3 (Painting Jaak de Koninck – http://www.jaakdekoninck.be)

We Salute you Albury!

300 Alburians turn up to un-bog the Uiver 25Oct1934 (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

300 Alburians turn up to un-bog the Uiver 25Oct1934 (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

The Uiver rescue put Albury on the world map.

The flight of the Uiver is a ripping yarn that shows how the inhabitants of the city of Albury, Australia came to rescue the KLM DC-2, its crew and 3 passengers on that stormy night.

This event demonstrated the power of radio in those days to reach people and muster them into action to illuminate a crude landing strip at night in a country town in just 22 minutes.  At a time when not everyone owned a car, it was also a master feat to assemble so many cars in minimal time.

Nancy-Bird Walton at opening of Albury Airport -14 Sep 1964

Nancy-Bird Walton arrives at Albury for the opening of Albury Airport -14 Sep 1964 (Newspaper: Border Morning Mail)

On 14 September 1964, Nancy Bird Walton came to Albury for the opening of the Albury Airport.

The QF32 event demonstrated that the social media that reported on the events on the 4th November 2010 was inferior (informing the public and coordinating a response) to that which was achieved by an Albury radio announcer 76 years earlier!

The Dutch were grateful.  KLM was grateful.    The people of Albury were called heroes.

Captain Permentier overflew Albury on the first leg of his flight home after the race.   He air-dropped a silver cigarette case.  Inside was a small Dutch flag and the message signed by all the crew and passengers:

“To all our good friends in Albury, we salute you and say farewell.”


(Photo: Mark Dallinger)

The Uiver first flew on 16th August 1934.   Sadly, the aircraft crashed in Iraq just four months later on 20th December 1934   when flying from Cairo to Baghdad.  The aircraft flew through a sandstorm 16 km south of Rutbah Wells.  Four crew and three passengers perished.

Captain Parmentier died on 21st October 1948 in a Lockheed Constellation during an approach to Prestwick airport (UK) as part of a flight  from Amsterdam to New York.   The wireless operator Van Brugge was killed in 1943 when his DC-3 was shot down by Germans over the Bay of Biscay.


Yhe “Uiver” crashed in Iraq, killing all 7 on board

For their appreciation to the people of Albury, KLM purchased and gifted a replacement DC-2 aircraft to Albury.  This aircraft was also named the Uiver.  Originally built as an Eastern Air Lines passenger airliner (registration PH-AJU), it was purchased and modified by the RAAF to serve as a transport aircraft A30-11 in 36 Squadron.

After years in storage after WWII, the Uiver was restored to mimic the original KLM Uiver. The Uiver (MSN 1286) is Australia’s oldest surviving military transport aircraft.  It is the oldest of the eight surviving DC-2s and one of the most historically significant aircraft in the world.


(Photo: Albury Library Museum)

In 1984 this (new) Uiver was restored and mounted on a pylon at the entrance to Albury Airport.

The Governor General Sir Zelman Cowan (I was his Aide-de-Camp in 1983 (QF32 p47)) unveiled the replacement Uiver on it’s plinth at Albury Airport on Sunday, 2 March 1980.  Sir Zelman said:

“I am glad that Rotary, in this, its seventy-fifth year, has cooperated with the Albury City Council in planning and establishing this memorial n this distinctive and highly appropriate form. When people see it, I hope that they will ask why, and I hope that they will be told. Those who conceived this idea have captured a good moment in our history, and there are many, certainly in my generation, who will be grateful to them.” 



(Photo: David Thorpe)

The Flight of the Uiver proved Albury’s resilience.

The actions of the engineers, radio announcer and Mayor to think outside the square and to rapidly muster extraordinary support from the locals is part of Albury’s folklore.   That the the radio announcer  could muster 80 scarce cars to the racecourse at 1:20 am within 22 minutes from the callout, is an achievement that we have not seen, nor perhaps likely to see today.


(Photo: Simon Dallinger)

The Flight of the Uiver is a defining point for the people of Albury.   Their examples of leadership, teamwork and camaraderie put Albury on the world map 80 years ago.   These standards must not be forgotten.    This is why Sir Zelman Cowan the Governor-General unveiled the original Uiver back in 1980.    This is why the Ambassador for the Netherlands travelled to Albury this weekend to thank and honour the people of Albury.   This is why I am privileged to be a Patron of and launch the UMCT.    This is why almost every Albury citizen today knows of the Flight of the Uiver.


(Photo: Simon Dallinger)

The story of the Flight of the Uiver gives us an insight into values and beliefs shared by the people of Albury in 1934, and how those values translated into actions that rescued the Uiver’s seven crew and passengers.

In a strange twist, understanding how the people of Albury achieved the almost impossible to recover a lost aeroplane back in the 1930s, gives us insight into why large aircraft can disappear today.

Uiver 45th Anniversary

HighFlyingHerosAlbury celebrated the 45th Anniversary of the Uiver on 24th October 1979.   In a spectacular recreation of the incident, cars lined up again to light up a makeshift runway.  Pilot John Lowe landed his Lockheed 12 “Silver City” on the wet field and again became bogged!   Once again the town’s folk turned up the next morning to dig out the aircraft and pull it up onto firmer ground.  John Lowe will present his extensive archives of Uiver memorabilia at the special event tomorrow night.

Uiver Memorial Community Trust  (UMCT)

The Uiver suffered when exposed to the extremes of the Albury climate.   It began to looked haggard.   It became a hazard.  It was finally  dismounted in 2002 and moved to a hangar for restoration where it sits today.

(photo: Richard de Crespigny)

(photo: Richard de Crespigny)

I am a Patron of the DC-2 Uiver Memorial Community Trust (UMCT).

UMCT’s mission is to restore the Uiver DC-2 at Albury Airport and to put it back on proud display.

My mission is to establish the Uiver as a timeless tribute to Captain Parmentier, KLM and the people of Albury.  I hope the Uiver will stand proud in the centre of the Albury Airport passenger terminal.

80th Uiver Anniversary

I spoke (Saturday 25th August 2014) at a function in Albury to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Uiver’s landing at Albury.

Peter 1943 Touched (245x340)

Peter de Crespigny, Benalla Airport, Victoria, 1944

In attendance were:

Her Excellency Mrs Annemieke Ruigrok, Ambassador for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Patron of the UMCT;

Councillor Kevin Mack, the Mayor of Albury;

Mr Simon Spinks, General Manager Pacific, Air France KLM;

Pieter Mol, the Co-Founder and Chairman – UMCT

Nicole Thomas, Heritage Consultant – UMCT

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

My legendary father Peter and wicked step mother Mariea de Crespigny joined  many of the local people at this Anniversary event  who were in Albury in 1934 and who drove to the race track that night and helped un-bog the aircraft the following morning.   Interestingly, Mariea’s father Les Dew was 21 years old in 1934 and one of the many to respond to the radio call, drive to the race course then illuminated the landing strip.

Peter de Crespigny - Spitfire Pilot in 2013

Peter de Crespigny – Spitfire Pilot in 2013

The hall was full of over a hundred Albury heroes and their descendants.  Everyone enjoyed sharing their stories of where they or their relatives were when the Uiver flew to town.  One guest reminisced that she remembered driving past the race course the next morning to see scores of people pulling on a rope to drag the Uiver up-out of the mud.   The rope snapped, sending everyone flat into the mud!

For those who could not attend the event, you can see and read the Uiver story that is presented in the cafe at Albury Airport.

 Border Mail:   The Uiver project takes flight

Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport

Uiver Cafe, Albury Airport


81st Uiver Anniversary  (24th October 2015)

The Uiver that awaits restoration at Albury Airport (MSN 1286) is an iconic aircraft that must be restored and preserved:

  • The Uiver is Australia’s oldest surviving military transport aircraft.
  • The Uiver is the oldest of the eight surviving DC-2s and one of the most historically significant aircraft in the world.

In my position as Patron of the UMCT, I ask the Federal and State Members of Parliament, Councils, corporations and  the community to support efforts to restore the Uiver and to put it on public display inside the Albury Airport terminal.  We will get it there with the help of:

Update March 2016

Work on the Uiver Memorial DC-2 has started.  The aircraft will be moved soon to a restoration hangar at the Albury Airport.    After 14 years of debate, delays and deterioration, the 82 year old airframe is in its first stages of refurbishment with the disassembly of the major components due for completion by the end of March.

Click here to read the BorderMail restoration story

Contact UMCT

For more information about the UMCT please contact:  Mr Pieter Mol | Co-Founder and Chairman, UMCT | e: Pieter.Mol@smartair.com.au |  m: +61 (0)438 339 611

They Said it …

Rort Air (Painting by Jaak de Koninck www.jaakdekoninck.be)

Rort Air DC-4 (Painting by Jaak de Koninck http://www.jaakdekoninck.be)

Patricia Strachan

Witness to the Uiver recovery

the rope broke and all the men fell SPLAT!! in the mud. It was SO funny! I laughed and said, “Isn’t that funny?” Dad didn’t think it was funny.

Patricia Strachan

Patricia Strachan at about 4 years old when she saw the Uiver. (Photo : Rosemary Strachan (Patricia’s daughter))

It was the morning of the 24th October 1934.

My sister Peggy, aged seven, and I were hustled away from the breakfast table and told to get our raincoats on and put our galoshes on over our shoes. For me, that was easier said than done. My galoshes were a size smaller than my shoes!

Uiver_6Normally my mother would have helped me because I was not quite three and a half years old.

When I asked her for help that morning, she said that she didn’t have time, she was too busy getting ready herself to have any time to help me. I had to struggle with the galoshes on my own. My fingers were too small and I cried as my cold fingers were hurt. I don’t remember who finally helped me.

We were whisked into Dad’s big rectangular old Chrysler sedan and off we went, through the pouring rain. I was sitting in the back seat, behind our Mother, who was holding her treasured camera. It was quite a large camera and, looking back over the years from 2014, it was probably a gift from our bachelor Uncle Geo when she visited him in Chicago in 1926.

I couldn’t see where we were going. I couldn’t see clearly out of the window on my left because the rain was so heavy. However the rain eased considerably as Dad drove the car into a place where the road became two muddy wheel tracks interspersed with green grass. Dad swung the car to the left and pulled up, saying “This will do us”.


(Picture: Albury Library Museum)

We started getting out of the car. I was probably the slowest because, as I looked forward through the windscreen, I saw the biggest most beautiful silver aeroplane I had ever seen. It was side on to me, being pulled along by a rope past the end of a building on our right. I know now that the building was probably the racecourse grandstand.Uiver_7

There appeared to be just one rope attached to somewhere near the wheels of the aeroplane and there must have been between a dozen and twenty men pulling as hard as they could. Dad said, “They’ve got the Diggers here”. I thought that was an odd thing to say.

Just as I had got out of the car, the rope broke and all the men fell SPLAT!! in the mud. It was SO funny! I laughed and said, “Isn’t that funny?” Dad didn’t think it was funny.

I have never forgotten.

Dad had made himself a radio and listened to the reports of the Race whenever he could. He was listening when his friend Arthur Newnham interrupted the radio report, to ask locals to take their cars out to the racecourse to provide landing lights for the Uiver. He immediately drove out to help.

The Uiver has been part of the lives of the Angel family ever since and Dad had an unusual reminder twenty years later when he had to go to Hobart on business. As he filled out the registration card at his Hotel the receptionist watched as he printed : ” Harold Angel, 426 Bellevue Street, Albury, NSW.” The receptionist said, “Albury NSW? There’s an Albury in Victoria. That’s where the Dutch plane landed during the London to Melbourne air race.”

Dad said, “It’s in NSW. That’s where I live. I drove out to the racecourse that night and helped bring the plane down.”

From that moment, Dad was VIP No. 1 in the Hotel. The receptionist was a Dutch migrant. In 1934 he was a schoolboy in Holland and teachers had allowed the children to listen to reports of the Race.

When it was announced that the Uiver had landed safely in Albury, Albury was just the most wonderful place in the world.

Steve Creedy


(Photo: Albury Library Museum)

Steve Creedy is one of the most respected aviation reporters.  Steve  wrote the following 10 years ago about the earliest years of aviation and the Uiver:

ROGER Pullen is close to despair. After two years of planning and hard work, his hopes of flying his 1943 biplane in the first great air race of the new millennium are fading.

Pullen’s sense of derring-do, once a hallmark of commonwealth aviators, appears not to be shared by the wimpish bean counters of modern Britain.

He fears indifference by potential sponsors will send his ambition to take his de Havilland Tiger Moth into next year’s 22,000km London-Sydney Centenary Air Race spinning into a stall.

The loss of his Tiger Moth would be a blow to organisers. They have been touting the machine as one of the race’s more colourful entries, for it is the aircraft closest to the planes that battled enormous odds to compete in the great air races on which the 2001 event is modelled.

If he does miss the race, he won’t be the only one — one entrant had a heart attack and another committed suicide — but organisers say they are quickly replaced.

They currently have 46 entrants and are confident a full field of 50 will take off from England’s famous World War II fighter base at Biggin Hill in Kent on March 11 in an aerial celebration of Australia’s centenary of Federation.

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

It was to have been the trip of a lifetime for Pullen, who is from Andover in southern England. “For some probably misplaced romantic reason I thought that if you were going to do this sort of race then you had to get as close to the original air pioneers — Hinkler and so on — as you could. I just felt this was the right sort of aeroplane to do it in.

`But I think we’ve been defeated by a certain amount of naivety on my part in thinking that a lot of people would see such an entry as an interesting thing and would be clamouring to sponsor it. In fact, the reverse has been true.”

Pullen thinks he has until mid-November before he has to consign his dream of entering the race to the scrap heap. He says he has already sunk about pound stg. 65,000 into the venture but needs up to pound stg. 55,000 more to pay the balance of race entry fees and install new equipment.

The races of 1919 and 1934 were pioneering adventures that paved the way for what would come to be known as the kangaroo route. Entrants in the 1919 race vied for a pound stg. 10,000 purse, offered by the Australian government for the first flight from England to Australia.

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

Adventurers set off independently in primitive planes with the aim of completing the arduous journey in less than 720 hours. Some couldn’t quite make that sort of deadline:

Australian entrants Ray Parer and John McIntosh were fully nine months on the course.

The race was won by Ross and Keith Smith, who started the race with true gung-ho spirit as they flew their twin-engine Vickers Vimy bomber from Hounslow, near London, in foggy weather deemed “totally unfit for flying”. The Smiths took 27 days and 20 hours, arriving at Darwin’s Fanny Bay airstrip on December 10 after almost 136 hours in the air.

As well as proving a landmark in aviation, the 1919 event played a role in the creation of Qantas. The airline’s founder, Hudson Fysh, saw the potential of air travel after he was assigned to survey the race route across Australia.

But it was “The Great Race” of 1934 that drew huge crowds and set the world’s imagination on fire with its eclectic collection of aircraft and aviators. That event, with 20 competing aircraft, was organised by Australian businessman Sir Macpherson Robertson to celebrate the centenary of the founding of Melbourne. It again offered a pound stg.

300 Alburians turn up to un-bog the Uiver 25Oct1934 (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

300 Alburians turn up to un-bog the Uiver 25Oct1934 (Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

10,000 first prize and gold cup.

Stunning postwar advances in aviation allowed winners C.W. Scott and Campbell Black to cross the finish line at Flemington Racecourse in their twin-engine Comet after just 71 hours.

The race was not without drama. A DC2 entered by Dutch airline KLM ran into a violent electrical storm hours from the finish. Albury residents, alerted by a radio broadcast, used their cars to illuminate the local race course so the Dutch aircraft could make an emergency landing.

Locals turned out again the next day to help pull the aircraft out of the mud and wave it off as it narrowly missed nearby trees and headed for the finish line.
The 1934 race was so popular that 60,000 people waved off the competitors in London and 50,000 Aussies greeted the Smith brothers at the finish.

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

Jim Eames

Jim Eames comes from Albury stock.   Indeed his journalist career started at the Albury Border Morning Mail before he moved to the Melbourne Sun.  Jim’s resume includes:

  • Director Public Affairs Department Civil Aviation; 
  • Press secretary and Aviation Adviser to two Federal Ministers of Civil Aviation; 
  • Director Public Affairs Qantas; and
  • Author of “The Flying Kangaroo” (great untold stories of Qantas) and five other books.

Many wonderful memories!

The Great Race received massive worldwide coverage in an exciting era of aviation.  The race fronted a host of airmen who were household words in their own right.

The Uiver rescue was probably the most dramatic incident during the entire race.  It  put Albury on the world aviation map and focused world attention on the wonderful response by its people.

My father was one of those who raced to Albury airport that night to shine his car lights on the “runway”.

The Uiver rescue also established long standing ties between Holland and an Australian township that continues today.”

John Edwards

John Edwards is a former manager at Qantas

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

(Photo: AlburyUiver.com)

My father’s uncle was the owner of the winner of the great race: the DH.88 Comet,  called ’Grosvenor House’.   The crew was C.W.A. Scott and Tom Black.

“Grosvenor House” is on display in the Shuttleworth Collection in the UK.    The Comet’s designs evolved into the remarkable “Mosquito” that was used in WWII and the Royal Australian Air Force from 1943 to 1965.

John Fysh

Qantas A380 VH-OQB

Qantas A380 VH-OQB “Hudson Fysh” (Photo RDC)

John is a former traffic and catering manager at Qantas and son of the legendary Hudson Fysh (Qantas’ founder and first managing director)

A great event!

I remember that KLM/KNILM DC-2 arriving into Archerfield airfield, Brisbane after the great race.

I was eight. I had not seen an all-metal aircraft before and as it pulled up before me in the Queensland heat it began to make a sustained crinkling noise. It was the metal expanding in the heat.

Qantas A380 VH-OQB

Qantas A380 VH-OQB “Hudson Fysh” (Photo RDC)

At home we had a world map pinned to the wall, and pins for each competitor were moved as their position was reported.

Mildenhall to Melbourne, won by Charles W A Scott (previously a Qantas pilot) and Campbell Black in a DH Comet. The DC 2 won the handicap prize.

The DC2 had serious icing problems, so much so that C R Smith of American Airlines bipassed the DC-2 and delayed introduction until the DC-3.

KLM/KNILM when operating a service to Australia in the 1930s did not use DC2s but a Lockheed.

I remember  learning to fly Tiger Moths in 1944 at the RAAF ( 8 EFTS Narrandera):

  • We had to keep clear of the regular DC-2 that called there;
  • The cold mornings with fog rolling off the Murrumbidgee!!

Brian Wild

Brian is a former manager Sales Manager, Field Services Manager then General Manager Passenger Services at Qantas

I was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales and grew up in Henty just north of Albury.

My grandparent lived in Albury and I can still remember my grandfather telling me the story of that night,  he was one of the lucky ones with a car!

Both my wife and I still have brothers in Henty so the next time we are down we will pay a visit to the old machine.

Qantas Uniform 1940s (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Qantas Uniform 1940s (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Jaak de Koninck

(Image: Richard de Crespigny)

(QF32 for RDC by Jaak de Koninck) (www.jaakdekoninck.be)

Thank you to Jaak de Koninck for permitting me to show three of his images in this blog.

I think Jaak de Koninck is one of the best aviation artists in the world.   His paintings of aircraft and flight crew are the most passionate, emotional and provocative ever produced.

Jaak de Koninck

Jaak de Koninck

Just as the human condition is attracted to semi clad images of beautiful human bodies, so Jaak beautifully presents equally authentic and beautiful old DC-2/3 and Constellation aircraft in hangars disassembled for servicing and rebuilding.

Unfortunately, Jaak does not share my passion for the look of the new big jets (including the A380 and composites).    Nevertheless Jaak kindly painted “Nancy Bird-Walton” as a tribute to Airbus, the A380, and the QF32 passengers and crew.

I will be displaying Jaak’s other masterpieces at my presentations in Albury on Saturday and at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on the 11th and 12th November.

Heidi and Jaak de Konink and Coral in Belgium

Heidi and Jaak de Koninck and Coral in Belgium

If you like this  “tasting menu” of  Jaak’s images, then you will love his new compenduium of his best art that you can order at www.jaakdekoninck.be/


I thank the following for their contributions to this posting:

  • Albury City Council
  • Government House Canberra
  • Steve Creedy
  • Jim Eames
  • John Edwards
  • John Fysh
  • Allison Jess


  1. Pamela Anderson · · Reply

    I have just read the book” STAND UP AND CHEER”.
    Although categorised as a book for young people I found it enthralling. It started an internet search for the facts which are as written in the book.
    The Captain on the return journey diverted to overfly Albury and threw out a silver cigarette case engraved with his thanks. Attached to a small self made parachute of course.
    I have read it is on display somewhere in Albury.
    Have you seen it Captain deCrespigny?

    1. Hi Pamela, I have heard of it but have not read it. Thank you for promoting the book!
      Best wishes, Rich

  2. Susan Feteris · · Reply

    1. Great site. My father followed the race as a schoolboy in the Netherlands and that was the reason he came to Australia. “Those Australians seem like nice people; I’ll go there!
    2. “Uiver” translates as “stork”, not “stalk”! This makes much more sense, doesn’t it? Please change it in your second paragraph.

    1. Thanks Susan. All fixed. Rich

  3. […] My name is Jack Woodman, I met you at the Uiver Memorial Presentation in Albury last year. […]

  4. Robert Scott · · Reply

    Absolutely wonderful story of bravery and the Australian spirit.

    I recall flying in a DC 2-1/2!! up in New Guinea in the mid sixties. One wing 10 feet shorter than the other! The two aircraft (one DC3 the other aDC2) collided on Wau airstrip towards the end of WWII, damaging the alternate wingtips on both aircraft. Pilots experienced there was no difference in performance!

    We all felt sad when all the DC 3’s were pulled and replaced by Fokker 27s.

  5. I helped restore an ex RAAF DC2 in the 1980’s in Melbourne.

    Alas, a lack of funds made the task impossible. The aircraft now sits slowly rotting at Moorabbin.

    I still have the “Wright Cyclone” etched aluminium plates (no stickers in those days!) from each of the nacelles …………..

    1. Dear Rob,
      This is significant because I am told that there are only 8 DC-2s of 200 remaining in the world. The UMCT would love to look after your plates if you ever run out of space to store them. Rich

      1. Richard,
        The plates are mounted on my garage wall.
        Who is the UMCT? How may I get in touch.
        As a side note, the DC 2 that I worked on was flown in the RAAF by Frank Ball, ex TAA General Manager. Frank was also responsible for ditching another DC 2 from the same squadron (I think it was 36 Sqn) when an engine failed somewhere over the Pacific……….

      2. Rob,
        Click here to see information about the UMCT.
        Click here to contact the UMCT
        Kind Regards

  6. Thanks for the story. Nitpick: shouldn’t the mentioned frequency range 300 .. 500 MHz be in the kHz range?

    1. You are correct Uwe! Thank you. Fixed. Rich

  7. Cyril Mannion · · Reply

    Dear Richard,

    In your Blog, you state the following about Charles Lindbergh: “Charles Lindbergh fly the first non stop Atlantic crossing (1927) (Incredibly, Australians were the first to aviate across all major oceans (with the exception of Lindberg crossing the Atlantic).”

    Please note that this statement is not correct.

    The first Non-stop crossing of the Atlantic was flown in a Vickers Vimy converted bomber from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada to Clifden, County Galway, Ireland. The flight took off on the afternoon of 14th June 1919 and landed on the morning of 15th June after a flight time of 16 hours. The pilot of the flight was Captain John Alcock and the navigator was Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown. On the subject of Charles Lindbergh, he did it in a heated enclosed cockpit, specially designed aircraft with blind flying instruments and he flew from New York to Paris with enough fuel left to continue on the Berlin.

    What has made Lindbergh more famous is the fact that a Hollywood film was made about his flight. He is also remembered because he lived on to become an international celebrity and became a significant player in the development of international air transport routes, particularly in league with Juan Trippe chief of Pan Am.

    On the other hand, Alcock and Brown’s achievement is arguably greater because they flew in an open cockpit adapted WW1 bomber, and most significantly without an artificial horizon. Their aircraft was well over design weight and takeoff was from a rudimentary airstrip excavated from a few paddocks. Worst of all, their landing site which seemed like pasture land from the air turned out to be a swampy peat bog and the aircraft broke its back as it nosed over into the peat.

    Worst of all, three days after Sir John Alcock had presented their aircraft to the Science Museum in Kensington London on Friday 15th December 1919, he was killed while delivering a Vickers amphibian aircraft to the Paris Air Show on Monday 18th December. Had he lived longer, I expect we would be in no doubt who flew the first trains Atlantic Non-stop crossing by aircraft.

    Their Vimy is still on display in the aircraft section of the Science Museum in Kensington London. I encourage you to go and see it for yourself. I am a retired 777 captain and I lecture on aviation topics including the subject of Alcock and Brown. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about their flight.

    Best wishes, Cyril Mannion

    1. Dear Cyril,
      Thank you for your correction. Of course you are correct and I should have been more exact with my words. I have observed the tall statues of Alcock and Brown at Heathrow Airport.
      I have updated the text accordingly.
      Kind Regards

  8. Jennifer Nichols · · Reply

    Hello Richard,

    I so enjoy these stories you email out every now and then, and I particularly enjoyed this one.

    We are travelling through Albury at Christmas and I shall make sure we go to see what is there to celebrate the Flight of the Uiver.

    I’d like to tell you this little story: I love aircraft.

    My father was a pilot in the Air Force and flew Catalinas in the war. He had always told my mother never to worry if the plane went down, it would take 4 hours to sink. Such a comfort to her I’m sure!

    My father died when I was 5.

    When I was a little girl I used to play with plasticine (or as they would call it now, play-dough). I only ever made aerodromes ( as we called them then), and the little planes to go inside them. I was never interested in anything else.

    Well after my father died, my mother said she never remembered him making aerodromes out of plasticine even when I was small. So the aviation bug must have been in my genes even then.

    I inherited Dad’s love of planes and can’t get enough of them. Its like music – its in your blood (he gave me that too…). But I so love military jets the most – they are incredibly exciting and my husband says ‘Jennifer, they are objects of terror!’ “Not for me”, I reply, “they are objects of desire and pulse-quickening excitement!”

    My son has inherited his grandfather’s love of aircraft and is learning to be a pilot.

    Thanks again – I don’t understand the technical stuff but I love reading it!

    Cheers, Jennifer Nichols.

    1. Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you for your story from your heart.
      I am delighted that I can pass on my excitement for aviation to others even if sometimes it appears too technical.
      We share a special bond bound by the smell of old aircraft, the sight of a propeller and the touch of a wing.
      The passion, beauty, ingenuity and esprit-de-corps I see in our professionals and supporters also makes me very proud to be an aviator.
      Best Regards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: