On This Day …

Sunday 16th November, 1919

I love aeroplanes. I love to fly. I bet I’d love to pilot one of these incredible machines if I had the chance. You never know one day …

Anyway, on this day in 1919, the first trans-continental flight in Australia began. Captain Henry Wrigley and Sergeant Arthur Murphy boarded a B.E.2E at Point Cook, Victoria — the airforce base — and headed for Darwin in the Northern Territory. What is now a four hour flight, took the pair almost a month, arriving in Darwin on the 12th of December.

The courageous fliers transversed unmapped territory — 4,500 kms (2,800 miles) — without a radio, and some of the terrain was hazardous for landing. They spent forty-seven hours in the air, which equates to less than two hours and less than 200 kms per day on average. Who knows, perhaps they stayed in one place for more than a day.

So dangerous was this expedition that the two were not allowed to make the return flight, instead dismantling the plane and having it shipped back. But they were awarded the Air Force Cross, which is awarded for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy.” An honourable achievement any way you look at it.

If you had the chance to be in one of those early planes, would you take it?

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