February marks the anniversary of the very first solo flight between England and Australia made by Bundaberg born aviator, Bert Hinkler, in 1928.
Obsessed with flying since he was a little boy, Hinkler’s record flight was completed in just over 15 days, smashing the previous England-Australia record of 28 days. His arrival in Darwin on 22 February caused a media sensation, with the Queenslander achieving celebrity status. The Brisbane Courier newspaper voiced the opinions of its readers when it proclaimed, “Well done, Mr Hinkler! Australia is proud of you”.
On 27 February, Hinkler made a triumphant return to his hometown of Bundaberg to an enthusiastic welcome by a large crowd. The Brisbane Courier reported in detail the excitement as Hinkler’s plane came in view –
“When seen first the machine was coming through a V-shaped break in the clouds, flying high and the crowd went mad with enthusiasm… The speck grew larger, and then the plane came through the clouds, making a great picture with the sun in the background. Then Hinkler stunted, soaring then spiral diving, while the thrilled crowd cheered themselves hoarse. He half circled the arena, then the wings dipped, and he coasted downward, with great glide, the wheels touching the earth well inside the area… The crowd immediately got out of hand and surged forward in mad enthusiasm. With difficulty a space was made through the crowd for Mrs Hinkler and the members of the family to greet the aviator on the side of the machine. Bert leaned out of the cockpit and there was an affecting scene of reunion. Then the crowd took possession of the intrepid aviator, and carried him shoulder high to the high-decked lorry”. (Brisbane Courier, 28 February 1928, p.13)
These enthusiastic scenes were repeated in Brisbane on 6 March 1928 as Hinkler arrived by plane and landed on the Ascot Racetrack where there was an estimated 12,000 spectators to greet the hero airman. After being paraded through the streets of Brisbane a civic reception was held at the Brisbane Town Hall. SLQ holds a number of photographs documenting this momentous occasion.
The State Library of Queensland holds some of Bert Hinkler’s personal papers in its collections (OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932). Amongst these papers are 52 telegrams of congratulation sent to Hinkler in 1928, including one from opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. Many of the telegrams have a handwritten reply noted at the bottom, possibly annotated by Hinkler himself.
Myles Sinnamon – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland