A tale of fear and coughing fits on a book tour
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In November 1919, this advertisement appeared in the pages of The Statesman in Calcutta. A telegram from Woking informed the public that a Martinsyde Type A aeroplane would be flying from London to Australia in the first week of December, “as soon as weather permits.”
But it was no ordinary passenger flight. In early 1919, the Australian government had offered a massive prize of 10,000 Australian pounds for a maiden Britain to Australia flight with an all-Australian crew.
Between late October 1919 and early January 1920, six different aircraft took off for Darwin. The Martinsyde flight, as per the advertisement, took off on 5th December, 1919, with Captain Cedric E. Howell and Lieutenant George Henry Fraser manning the aircraft. World War I veterans both, this was to be their shot at aviation glory. However, tragedy struck four days after take-off, when the crew were forced to crash-land the plane in the sea near Corfu. Both men drowned.
Of the six planes, only two reached Australia, with the winners being the MacPherson Smith brothers who flew a converted Vickers Vimy bomber. Its registration number was G-EAOU, an acronym for ‘God ‘elp All Of Us’.
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