Bert Hinkler’s record flight (1928) – this month in Queensland’s history

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“.

Bert Hinkler, aviator. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 185071    Bert Hinkler arriving in Bundaberg, ca. 1928. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 166556   Commemoration of Bert Hinkler’s solo flight from England to Australia. Caption: Australia Advances. The Kangaroo (to His Hero) ‘Hinkle Hinkle, little star: Sixteen days, and here you are !’ With Mr Punch’s warm congratulations on a great solo performance. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 65643    Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, March 8, 1928. Bert Hinkler flies his Avro Avian aircraft with the registration of G-EBOV, over cheering crowds after completing his historic flight from London to Australia. The image possibly captures his arrival in Brisbane. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 69436

On 27 February Hinkler made a triumphant return to his hometown of Bundaberg to an ethustastic welcome by a large crowd. The Brisbane Courier reported in detail the excitment 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 diffiiculty 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. The State Library of Queensland holds a number of photographs documenting this momentous occasion.

Bert Hinkler returning to Brisbane after his solo flight London to Brisbane, February 1928. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 69438   Procession for Bert Hinkler and his plane in Queen Street, Brisbane, 1928. State Library of Queensland. Negative number 69440   Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, March 1, 1928. A woman (possibly a representation of the goddess Athena, a companion of heroes and the goddess of heroic endeavour) places a laurel wreath on the head of a kneeling aviator, Bert Hinkler, after his historic flight in a light aeroplane from London to Australia. Large aviator wings appear in the background. State Library of Queensland.  Image number: 702692-19280301-s001b

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 congratulations sent to Hinkler in 1928. Many of the telegrams have a handwritten reply noted at the bottom, possibly annotated by Hinkler himself.

Selection of telegrams sent to Bert Hinkler. OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932 . State Library of Queensland

The telegrams pictured below are from opera singer Dame Nellie Melba; the Express and Star newspapers in Wolverhampton, England; his wife Nancy and someone called Machinkerski

Telegram sent to Bert Hinkler from opera singer Nellie Melba on 25 February 1928. From OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932. State Library of Queensland  Telegram sent to Bert Hinkler from the Evening and Star newspaper in Wolverhampton, England on 23 February 1928. From OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932. State Library of Queensland  Telegram sent to Bert Hinkler from his wife Nancy on 25 February 1928. From OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932. State Library of Queensland  Telegram sent to Bert Hinkler from Machinkerski on 22 February 1928. From OM68-24 Bert Hinkler Papers ca. 1909-1932. State Library of Queensland

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland