Compiled by Ron Cuskelly


Brisbane, Australia is home to one of the most famous aeroplanes in the world. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's Fokker F.VIIb-3m Southern Cross is preserved in a purpose-built display building across the road from the Brisbane International Terminal. It is not the purpose of this page to list the remarkable achievements of this aeroplane, for these are well established. The purpose of this page is to document the aeroplane's history since it was retired in 1935. What follows is predominantly a summary of the contents of the National Archives of Australia file shown as Source 2.

 

INDEX

 

1935
Smithy flew the Southern Cross for the last time on 18 July 1935 when he delivered the aeroplane to RAAF Richmond where it was handed over with due ceremony to Archdale Parkhill, Minister of Defence. As described so eloquently by aviation historian Ted Wixted; "From that moment it became the property, and the obligation, of the Australian nation."

That the Southern Cross survives at all is nothing short of miraculuous given what the aeroplane endured in ten years of crossing oceans and circling the globe. That it does survive is in no small measure due to the skill of her pilot who is generally regarded as one of the greatest 'stick and rudder' pilots of all time. Without that special empathy between man and machine there is little doubt that the aeroplane would not have survived the aborted trans-Tasman Jubilee mail flight of 1935. Probably no other pilot could have saved the aeroplane and her three occupants on that night.

Smithy is usually portrayed as a knockabout larrikin type so it may surprise many that he had a softer side. Indeed, the retirement of his beloved aeroplane moved the great man to poetry.

 

 

Old faithful friend - a long adieu!
These are poor words with which to tell
Of all my pride, my joy in you.
True to the end, you've served me well.

I pity those who cannot see
That heart and soul are housed within
This thing of steel and wood - to me
You live in every bolt and pin.

And so, my staunch and steadfast steed,
Your deep and mighty voice must cease.
Faithful to death. If God will heed
My prayer, dear pal, you'll rest in peace.

 

On 18th July 1935, the day of Smithy's last flight in the Southern Cross, an article appeared in Sydney's The Sun under the headline Smithy Bids Adieu. The article was "Specially written for The Sun by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith."

Smithy concluded the article with a wish that he could put his own "Plaque of Memory" in the Southern Cross. Sadly, Smithy departed Australia that same day, never to return and leaving his last wish unfulfilled. Smithy envisaged that the plaque might read something like ...

 

This is a retrospective mock-up of what the plaque
might have looked like, because it doesn't exist — yet.

 

Read Smithy's article in The Sun

 

This flown cover was carried on Smithy's last flight in the Southern Cross on 18 July 1935. The signatures are Charles Kingsford Smith, P.G. Taylor, Beau Sheil, C.G. Scrimgeour, Mary Kingsford Smith, John Stannage and John Ulm. Colin Graham Scrimgeour was a friend of Smithy who had flown the Southern Cross and at the time was a radio announcer on Sydney's 2UE. John Ulm was the late Charles Ulm's fourteen year-old son.Source: Phil Vabre Collection

 


Smithy had agreed to sell the aircraft to the Australian government for £3,000 but payment had not been forthcoming when Smithy sailed for New Zealand later the same day for discussions with the N.Z. government concerning the establishment of a trans-Tasman airline. Again in the words of Ted Wixted; "The trifling matter of payment for the aircraft had yet to be attended to. Unfortunately this became a squalid matter and reached finality only after Smithy was dead." (A cheque for £3,000 was handed to Lady Kingsford Smith on 24 December 1935.)

After attending to business in New Zealand, Smithy sailed for California to collect the Lockheed Altair Lady Southern Cross with which he intended to undertake a record flight from England to Australia. Smithy flew the Altair from Burbank via Chicago to New York from where the aircraft was shipped to England. By this time Smithy's health had deteriorated significantly and he was strongly encouraged by family and friends to abandon the record attempt and sail home to Australia. Had the payment for the Southern Cross been forthcoming, Smithy may have been able to do this and indeed he asked the Australian government to expedite payment for this purpose but it was not forthcoming. Consequently, Smithy decided to fly home in the Altair accompanied by engineer and pilot Tommy Pethybridge. Sadly, history records that they never made it home to Australia. The Altair is believed to have crashed in the vicinity of Aye Island in the Bay of Bengal claiming the lives of Smithy and Tommy Pethybridge.

1937
The RAAF unit at Richmond that was responsible for the Southern Cross was No. 2 Aircraft Depot. Their Operations Record Book records that VH-USU was issued to No. 4 Squadron for maintenance and storage on 25 May 1937. No. 4 Squadron was a fighter unit equipped with Hawker Demons and also located at Richmond so it is presumed that this unit had hangar space available.

1939
The Southern Cross languished in storage at RAAF Richmond until 17 February 1939 when, no doubt due to "the crisis in Europe", the aircraft was moved by road from Richmond to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot where custody of the aeroplane was handed over to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) for storage in the Butler Air Transport hangar. On the same day, the Brisbane Telegraph reported that the Kingsford Smith Memorial Committee would be issuing 5,000 circulars requesting donations to a fund to honour Smithy with the creation of a memorial library at Archerfield and "if possible a statue". At this stage there was no mention of incorporating the Southern Cross into such a memorial. On 20 February, it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that the aircraft had been transported to Mascot on RAAF trucks to be stored until it could be displayed in the new administration building planned for Kingsford Smith Airport. It was reported that while the aircraft was capable of being flown to Mascot, this was not done to honour an agreement with Smithy that it would not be flown again. On 22 May, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Empire Air Day had been celebrated with an air display at Mascot on 20 May and that the Southern Cross had been an attraction.

1941
The war dictated another move on 10 July 1941 when the aircraft was handed over by the DCA to No. 2 Aircraft Depot (RAAF Richmond) for the purpose of road transportation from Mascot to Canberra "to be reassembled in a rigged condition in the Civic Administration hangar at Fairbairn for the duration of the war." The only stipulated maintenance requirements were that the exterior of the aeroplane be kept clean and washed with soap and water if necessary and that the airscrews be turned once weekly. This move does not feature in the 2AD Operations Record Book but the DCA file contains a handwritten note by a 2AD Flight Sergeant (name illegible) accepting the aircraft from DCA on 10 July.

On 9 July, the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser reported that; "Following the official announcement that the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's famous aeroplane, Southern Cross, is to be placed in the National War Memorial Museum at Canberra, a start has been made to dismantle the machine." The Goulburn Evening Post of Friday 11 July reported that; "Much interest was created by the arrival in Goulburn this morning of the fuselage and engine of the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's famous monoplane Southern Cross. A Commonwealth truck carrying the famous plane stopped at the Post Office en route to Canberra and it was not long before a curious crowd had gathered. The wing and other parts of the machine passed through Goulburn last Tuesday morning on their way to Canberra where the historic plane will be re-assembled and given a permanent resting place in the new Australian War Museum."

1944
The aircraft was next inspected in detail on 30 May 1944 by which time the wing and engines had been removed. On 5 July, a Squadron Leader Chaseling of RAAF HQ Eastern Area wrote to DCA Mascot requesting that the Southern Cross be made available for use in a "War Film featuring the life of the Late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith". A response from the Director-General in Melbourne one week later peremptorily suggested that the Squadron Leader apply through channels via the Department of Air!

On 24 November, a handwritten note in the DCA file appears to state that; "Chaseling rang. Acceptance of welded dummy generator filled. Good job." To this day the aircraft is fitted with two dummy wind-driven generators.

 

Engines

For the Pacific flight in 1928, the aircraft was fitted with three new Wright Whirlwind J.5.A engines with the consecutive serial numbers 7416, 7417 and 7418. When it was decided in 1945 that the aeroplane was to fly again, it underwent considerable maintenance for the issue of a Certificate of Airworthiness. When inspected on 21 May 1945, the aircraft was fitted with three Wright Whirlwinds as shown in the following table.

Engines
Port
Centre
Starboard
Manufacturer's Number
7418
B9221
7416
Hours run since built
No Record
No Record
No Record
Hours run since overhaul
4 hrs 30 mins
5 hrs 0 mins
4 hrs 30 mins
Date of last overhaul
14-11-44
7-12-44
1-12-44

The engines were overhauled by Ansett Airways at Essendon on the dates shown.

Propellers

When the aircraft was received for storage by 2AD on 7 July 1941, a list of components shows only one three-bladed propeller, serial number 1645. There is no mention of the two wooden propellers. When the aircraft was inspected at Canberra on 30 May 1944, there were two wooden two-bladed propellers said to have been manufactured by Cockatoo Dockyard (Note: 1) and one Hamilton Standard three-bladed, variable pitch propeller. On 26 January 1945, during the overhaul for the film, the two wooden propellers were overhauled as follows:

Cockatoo Dockyard - Both tips splice repaired, refabriced and resheathed.

Unmarked - Refabriced and resheathed.

There is no mention of the three-bladed metal propeller.

On 21 May 1945, the DCA file records that the aircraft was fitted with two wooden propellers. One was stamped "Cockatoo Dockyard" and the other was stamped "Unserviceable" on the boss face. Both were repaired and refitted.

On 5 September 1945, during the course of the filming, Jim Collopy, Divisional Aircraft Surveyor, DCA NSW Region, inspected the starboard propeller branded "Cockatoo Dockyard" (Note: 2) and arranged for a further examination by propeller builder George Adams who found it to be sufficiently defective to justify condemning it. A replacement propeller was ordered from George Adams.

Refer to Harry Purvis' account of how the aeroplane came to be flying with an unserviceable propeller!

Note: 1
It emerges later that one is branded "Cockatoo Dockyard" and the other is branded "Unserviceable". Probably the observer has assumed that the manufacturer was the same as one carried no maker's name (for good reason!).

Note: 2
Harry Purvis claims that the "Unserviceable" propeller was fitted to the starboard engine but the DCA file indicates that the "Cockatoo Dockyard" propeller was fitted to the starboard engine.


1945
Details of the proposed film became clearer on 28 February 1945 when the famed cinematographer Ken G. Hall of Cinesound Productions wrote to the Director-General of Civil Aviation on behalf of Columbia Pictures indicating that approximately 20-30 hours of flying would be required in addition to static shots at various aerodromes. As a reminder that the nation was still at war, Cinesound forewarned that a possible impediment to the commencement of filming was the non-arrival of film stocks which had been on order for six months!

On 5 April, the Department of Air advised the DGCA that one of Smithy's contemporaries, Wing Commander Harry Purvis AFC, would be available to test fly the Southern Cross. On 18 May, it was reported in several newspapers that Wing Commander Jack Kingsford Smith (Smithy's nephew) planned to arrive in Canberra on 21 May with the intention of flying the Southern Cross, but on 21 May it was Harry Purvis who flew the aeroplane at Canberra and certified it as airworthy. A photograph of the "test crew" was published in Sydney's The Farmer and Settler on 8 June with a caption listing the crew as; Flight Sergeant R. Savage, Warrant Officer M.J. Burt, Mr. H. Affleck (DCA), Wing Commander G.H. Purvis (pilot) and Wing Commander John Kingsford Smith (co-pilot). A Certificate of Airworthiness was issued valid to 20 August 1945 with provision for further extensions if required.

The next day, 22 May, Harry Purvis flew the aircraft to Mascot where airport workers were reported to have stopped work to cheer the aeroplane on arrival. Present at Mascot was Smithy's brother Leofric who was overcome with emotion stating; "Smithy never intended that she should be flown again, but I know that he would be happy that she is being used for this historic film."

On Tuesday 29 May, Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that Wing Commander Jack Kingsford Smith was flying an RAAF Avro Anson as the camera aircraft for flying sequences in the film. It was stated that the Anson was the only modern aircraft roomy enough for the cameraman while being slow enough to fly beside the Southern Cross. Even so, it was necessary for the Anson to fly with flaps and undercarriage down to reduce speed. Most sequences were being filmed over the sea but the Southern Cross would fly over the city at one o'clock on Thursday.



Read Harry Purvis' recollections of flying the Southern Cross

 

The RAAF "Status Card"

With RAAF involvement in an operational aeroplane, it was deemed necessary to raise an RAAF Record Card (Form E/E.88) for the Southern Cross VH-USU. The card opened on 31 May 1945 when the aircraft was allotted from Station Head Quarters RAAF Canberra to No. 3 Communications Unit (3CU) at Mascot for filming duties. The next entry is 22 June when it is recorded that "Aircraft departed from Mascot for Richmond before notification of allotment received." This implies a subsequent allotment from Mascot to Richmond which is not recorded but in all probability the aeroplane flew between the two airfields on multiple occasions during filming. There are no further entries until 9 January 1946 when it is stated that the aircraft was no longer required by Cinesound and that "instructions have been given for a/c to be returned to your Department and handed over to representative at Mascot." This clearly refers to the aircraft's return to the Department of Civil Aviation. An entry on the same date shows the aircraft "allotted Mascot ex Canberra". On 12 February 1946, the aircraft was "issued Civil Aviation Mascot." The final of only six entries on the card is 19 February 1946 which shows; "Hrs flown whilst on loan to RAAF 36 hours 35 minutes."



The Sydney Morning Herald of 1 June reported that the Southern Cross had flown over Sydney for one hour from 1pm on 31 May piloted by Harry Purvis and Jack Kingsford Smith. It was noted that the aircraft flew low enough for observers in Hyde Park to be able to read the name on the aircraft.

On 6 June, The Herald (Melbourne) published a correction to its earlier report that the engines of the Southern Cross had been overhauled by the RAAF. The newspaper had been advised by "Mr. W.S. Roberts, president of the shop committee of the engine overhaul department of Ansett Airways at Essendon" that their organisation had overhauled and tested the engines and that the RAAF had merely installed them in the aircraft.

On 22 June, Cinesound wrote to DCA at Mascot requesting permission to use various areas of Mascot for filming which was expected to commence within the next two weeks. In his letter, Ken G. Hall indicated a desire to film "in a portion of the unused section of the drome abutting on to the swamp at the northern end." It was proposed to use this area to represent the "Coffee Royal" sequence of the film. Cinesound later advised DCA that it was possible that Harry Purvis might not be available for all of the filming, leading to a discussion of alternative pilots, Wing Commander John Kingsford Smith and DAP test pilot Mr. T. R. Young. Subsequently it emerged that Harry Purvis would be available after all so further discussion was unnecessary. In the interim it had been established that Mr Young's experience was on the Avro X equivalent type and Wing Commander Kingsford Smith had only 2 hours 30 minutes experience on the Southern Cross. Helpfully, DCA advised Cinesound that it "was understood that P.G. Taylor is in Australia." DCA subsequently approved P.G. Taylor as the alternate pilot subject to a medical for renewal of his licence which was formalised on 3 July.

Ken Hall of Cinesound wrote to DCA at Mascot on 13 July to advise that filming at Mascot was scheduled to take place from 5 August to 4 October subject to weather. By the end of July, a DCA memo records that the Southern Cross had flown for only eight hours since the CofA was issued and that P.G. Taylor had test flown the aircraft. It also emerged that Cinesound had engaged P.G. Taylor for the remainder of the flying estimated to be thirty hours. The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 July reported that Captain P.G. Taylor, who was playing himself in the film, would on this day fly the Southern Cross for the first time since the Jubilee mail flight of 1935. The Sun (Sydney) of 2 August 1945 reported that five year-old David Kingsford-Smith had flown in the Southern Cross with his father Wing Commander John Kingsford-Smith.

Four days after filming was due to commence, Cinesound advised DCA that filming would now commence on 12 August. With the CofA due to expire on 20 August it was renewed until 19 November.

 

This still from the movie appears on the cover of a later video release and shows Ron Randell as Smithy and P.G. Taylor playing himself on the wing of a CAC Boomerang representing the Lockheed Altair Lady Southern Cross in which Smithy lost his life. The film was released in the United States on 25 November 1947 under the name Pacific Adventure.

 

The filming makes its first appearance in the Operations Record Book of No. 3 Communications Unit at Mascot on 30 May 1945 with the first of a series of photographic flights "in support of the Kingsford Smith film". These flights are listed in the following table. Flights by the Southern Cross itself are not recorded in the ORB although the aircraft does appear "on strength" to 3CU at the end of September and every subsequent month until February 1946 when the ORB ends. However, it should be noted that the pages for June to August are seemingly missing.

 

3CU FLIGHTS IN SUPPORT OF FILMING SMITHY
Date
Aircraft
Pilot
Time Up
Time Down
30MAY45
Dragon A34-50 F/L Cotterrill
1400
1445
20AUG45
Anson DJ113 F/O Murrell
1015
1200
04OCT45
Beaufort A9-139 W/O Henderson
1105
1250
16OCT45
Tiger Moth A17-256 F/S Donovan
1445
1645
18OCT45
Tiger Moth A17-256 W/O Charlier
1130
1230
18OCT45
Anson AX576 W/O Bigg
1000
1200
19OCT45
Anson AX576 W/O Bigg
1100
1240
29OCT45
Anson AX576 F/L Murrell
1145
1330
30OCT45
Beaufort A9-499 F/L Mitchell
1130
1330
30OCT45
Beaufort A9-636 F/L Mitchell
1400
1545

 

By 1 November, Cinesound had advised DCA that they required a further ten hours of flying so the validity of the CofA was extended to 19 February 1946 after P.G. Taylor performed a test flight on 18 November.

On 6 December, DCA at Mascot wrote to the DGCA in Melbourne to advise that Cinesound desired to return the aeroplane "early next week" and enquiring where was the aircraft to be housed. Despite several requests, a reply was not forthcoming, leading eventually to a terse response from the DGCA; "What is reason for your persistent enquiry this subject." Clearly the custody of this national treasure had become burdensome and even though loved and revered, everyone wanted it off their books! On 21 December, the DGCA suggested to DCA at Mascot that the aeroplane could be housed in the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) hangar at Mascot and by implication - unless they had a better suggestion! The same day, a teleprinter message advised the DGCA that arrangements had been made to store the aircraft in the DAP hangar at Mascot and further advising that the RAAF wanted the aircraft off their charge.

The Kiama Independent of 22 December reported that the Southern Cross circled over Kiama on Thursday 20 December and had flown over Seven Mile Beach at Gerringong from where the aeroplane had taken-off for New Zealand in 1933.

1946
On 31 January 1946, DCA Mascot advised DCA Melbourne that the DAP was requesting that the aircraft be removed from their hangar "at the earliest" and further advising that RAAF HQ had instructed 3CU at Mascot to formally hand the aircraft over to DCA. To further complicate matters, Cinesound had indicated that they may require the aircraft for further filming in February. On 12 February the aircraft was formally accepted by DCA from the RAAF although subsequent correspondence suggests that the aircraft arrived on 22 January.

On 14 February, the DAP advised DCA Melbourne that the Southern Cross was still stored in "the Butler Hangar No 83". On 25 February, the CofA was extended for three months to allow for further filming. On 12 June the DGCA enquired of DCA Mascot if the aircraft was still being used by Cinesound or if it "had been returned to the Australian War Museum Canberra." The memo also drew attention to the fact that the CofA had lapsed on 21 May. A terse handwritten note at the foot of the memo instructs that the DGCA be advised "that USU was never in the AWM and is not entitled to go there." Apparently DCA Mascot were presuming to invoke the AWM's collecting policy on its behalf! (The DGCA could be forgiven for believing this in light of the "official announcement" to this effect in the press back in 1941). A more diplomatic formal response to the DGCA on 25 June advised that the aircraft was returned to DCA on 22 January and was still stored in Hangar 83 at Mascot. The reply further stated; "Should it be decided at a later date to remove this aircraft to Canberra, it will be necessary to make other arrangements than the War Museum, as this aircraft was never at any time housed there. As the aircraft was not connected in any way with World War 1, it is assumed that it could not be housed in the Museum as an exhibit of war operations. ... It would be appreciated if an instruction could be issued regarding steps to be taken to keep this aircraft in a clean and presentable condition." On 18 July, the DGCA replied that; "The responsibility for keeping the aircraft in a clean and presentable condition will be undertaken by the staff at present being recruited to maintain and service Departmental aircraft."

1947
On 2 January 1947, an internal memo within DCA NSW Region stated that the aircraft was; "... being maintained in a clean and presentable condition in Hangar No 2 at Mascot. Inspection for airworthiness has been completed on the airframe and engines, and all necessary repairs and adjustments carried out. However the running of the engines has been deferred, as it would entail the fueling of the aircraft, and then draining the tanks after run-up. The draining is considered necessary, both from a safety point of view, and as a precaution against loss by theft. ... The hangar in which the aircraft is located, is open at all times, being used by Trans-Australia Airlines for servicing their aircraft. This means that there is no protection against theft from the aircraft."

The inevitable happened on 14 January when the Southern Cross suffered some hangar rash. The Department of Aircraft Production had engaged the services of Yellow Express Carriers Ltd to move some furniture from their hangar to Botany. Company driver Mr J. Wilson managed to drive his empty flat bed lorry, registration number TL 512, under the port wing of the aircraft to access the furniture. After loading said furniture he used the same route to leave the hangar, failing to appreciate that his vehicle was now higher than when it went in! The load damaged the trailing edge of the port wing and further damage resulted when the aircraft slewed around causing the tip of the port elevator to strike a mobile fire extinguisher. Further investigation of the accident was complicated by the fact that the driver, Mr Wilson, was now on extended sick leave. The DCA estimated the cost of repairs at £20/-/-. On 2 May, the DGCA wrote to Yellow Express Carriers advising; "As soon as the actual cost of repair is known a claim for the amount involved will be rendered on your Company."

 

The location and date of this photo of the Southern Cross is unknown but it is possible that it was taken in the DAP hangar at Mascot where the damage occurred. Certainly the open doorway appears to be inviting an attempt to drive under the port wing! What appear to be mudguards are not part of the undercarriage but are actually sitting on the tyres being solely to protect the tyres from oil drips in the hangar. (Picture: CAHS 919)

 

The Southern Cross in storage at Mascot. The DCA Tiger Moth in the background suggests that the location is the DCA Hangar (possibly Hangar 13). The date is unknown.
Picture: Alan Yee via John Hopton Collection (p2601-0128)

 

The Southern Cross stored inside what is believed to be DCA's Hangar at Mascot. The date is unknown.
Picture: Alan Yee via John Hopton Collection (p2601-0159)

 

The Southern Cross stored inside what is believed to be DCA's Hangar at Mascot. The date is unknown.
Picture: Alan Yee via John Hopton Collection (p2601-0160)

 


On 16 March 1947, the Minister for Air announced in The Sun (Sydney) newspaper, redevelopment plans for Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot while acknowledging that "because of shortages of materials" it might not be operational for three years. "In the oversea terminal, it is hoped to exhibit the Southern Cross."

On 22 September, Smithy's brother, Wilfrid Kingsford Smith, wrote to DCA at Mascot on letterhead of the College of Civil Aviation Ltd., George Street, Sydney expressing concern over reports that the Royal Aero Club of NSW intended to fly the Southern Cross in a pageant at Bankstown to celebrate the Club's 21st anniversary; "I enclose copy of a letter which I have addressed this day to the Royal Aero Club setting out personal reasons why my brothers and I think that the old aircraft should not be flown again." In the letter to the RACNSW, Wilfrid Kingsford Smith further stated; "The late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith mentioned to me, some months before he died, that he would not like his old aircraft to be flown again should anything happen to him. I also understand that when the Commonwealth Government purchased the Southern Cross from him that he also publicly stated that he would not like the 'old bus' to be flown again. I was approached by the Managing Director of Columbia Pictures, prior to the preparation of the recent 'Smithy' film to ascertain if the aircraft could be used in the film. In consultation with my brothers we agreed that as this picture was, in effect, a summary of Charles' life, and in order to make the film as complete in every way, we thought it should be used. ... My brothers and I do not think that the Southern Cross should ever take the air again. She is a national memorial and although the object of your Pageant may be a very worthy one, if the Government released her for this purpose, other bodies may also desire her use."

On 7 October, Wilfrid wrote again to the RACNSW advising that he and his brothers had been under the mistaken impression that the Southern Cross was to be flown during the proposed pageant but were now aware that it would be flown only from Mascot to Bankstown and return for static display at the pageant to save dismantling it for transportation through the streets of Sydney. "Under these circumstances we naturally withdraw any implied objection to the use of the aircraft."

Earlier, on 3 October, the DGCA had sent a telegram to DCA NSW approving the loan of the aircraft to the RACNSW for its display on 11 October, provided;

" (a)
(b)
(c)
Aircraft is not flown during course of display.
You are satisfied aircraft is safe for flight and suitably licensed pilot is employed and
Club insures aircraft for sum of five thousand pounds while in its possession.
Please advise Club accordingly and that any further requests for loan this aircraft will not be entertained."

These requirements were communicated to the RACNSW in a letter from DCA NSW on 9 October with the further condition that; "The aircraft is inspected by your Chief Engineer and a report submitted as to the airworthiness of the airframe and engines for the flight to and from Bankstown." The suitably licensed pilot was specified as Mr. H. Purvis. The aircraft was inspected at Mascot the same day and certified as safe for flight.

On 4 October, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the aircraft would be flown to the Bankstown pageant by Mr. H. Purvis, senior pilot of "The Sydney Morning Herald" flying staff. (Herald Flying Services operated Lockheed Hudsons and Douglas DC-3s delivering newspapers to country locations.)

An undated letter from DCA NSW to the RACNSW granted approval for the purchase from Shell Oil, Mascot of 60 gallons of 73 octane fuel and 10 gallons of 120 oil to ground test VH-USU. (Petrol rationing was still in effect).

On 10 October, the RACNSW performed the following work on the aircraft:

Labour (44 man hours) £8.10.8
Material £4.4.8
3/4 gallon red pigmented dope
24 sq ft 1/16" plywood
1 pound 3/8" brass brads
3 yards Madapolin
Total: £12.15.4

The Brisbane Courier-Mail of 11 October reported that the Southern Cross would appear at the pageant, after which "it will then be placed in the National Museum at Canberra."

 

The Southern Cross on static display at the Bankstown Air Pageant on 11 October 1947. The aircraft was flown in from Mascot at the beginning of the pageant and it flew back to Mascot at the end of the pageant, but it did not fly during the pageant! From other photographs taken on the same day, the RAAF Catalina in the background is believed to be A24-92. Picture: Ron Cuskelly Collection

 

 

The Sydney Morning Herald, of Monday 13 October 1947 reported on the pageant. Having the aircraft depart for Mascot at the end of the display was evidently intended to fulfil the requirement that it not be flown during the display.

 

Read Harry Purvis' recollections of flying the Southern Cross



After the pageant, the RACNSW presented its bill to DCA specifying £12.15.4 for the repairs to the wing and elevator which DCA noted was covered by a claim on the Employers Mutual Indemnity Association Ltd. An additional amount of £12.13.2 was claimed for servicing the engines, minor jobs on the airframe plus the supply of 14 KLG spark plugs and 36 safety pins. DCA NSW recommended to the DGCA that these expenses be paid as having "contributed significantly to the preservation of the aircraft which is a responsibility of this Department. It is considered that their claim is reasonable and a justifiable charge to the Department."

On 27 October, Qantas Empire Airways' new Lockheed 749 Constellation VH-EAD arrived in Sydney on delivery from the United States. The aircraft was named Charles Kingsford Smith and probably this photograph with the Southern Cross at Mascot was taken around this time.

 

Qantas Lockheed 749 Constellation VH-EAD Charles Kingsford Smith with the Southern Cross at Mascot, probably in October 1947. Picture: Qantas Heritage Collection

The Southern Cross was a popular backdrop for photos of new airliners. On 16 September 1948, TAA's first Convair 240 VH-TAQ John Forrest appeared in the daily newspapers in company with the Southern Cross. Exactly one year later on 16 September 1949, BCPA posed one of their new DC-6s with the Southern Cross (see below).

1948
With the aeroplane back in storage at Mascot, things went quiet for a while until 2 April 1948 when a letter from a private citizen appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph posing the question; "Is the Southern Cross to be a museum piece or isn't it?" This prompted DCA NSW to seek guidance from the DGCA in a memo of the same date. " ... this aircraft is stored in the Butler Hangar, No 83, and is not under constant supervision by members of this Department. It is therefore likely to suffer some minor depredation. Minor maintenance to the extent of keeping the machine relatively neat and clean is carried out by Departmental personnel on one day of each week, but it would be appreciated if some indication could be given as to the eventual disposal of the aircraft, as it is at present occupying valuable hangar space." Clearly the Old Bus was outliving her welcome at Mascot. The response on 7 April came from Jim Collopy, Divisional Aircraft Surveyor, NSW Region, addressed to the Chief Maintenance Engineer, Departmental Aircraft at Mascot, clearly under direction from the DGCA; " ... the Director-General has advised that responsibility for keeping VH-USU in a clean and presentable condition is that of the staff appointed for maintenance of Departmental aircraft. As it is possible this aircraft may be required to be flown to another location, it is desirable also that the aircraft be maintained in a condition of airworthiness which will enable such ferry flight to be undertaken. Certificate of Airworthiness, Log Books and Schedule may be obtained from the Divisional Aircraft Surveyor." (The "schedule" referred to is a listing of equipment fitted to the aircraft.)

Further correspondence came on 14 April from Edgar Johnston (on behalf of the DGCA) to the District Superintendent at Mascot; "It is advised that the plans for Mascot include suitable accommodation in the proposed administrative building for the housing of this aircraft. However, it will be some years before these plans are realised and, in the meantime, you are requested to make suitable arrangements for storage of the 'Southern Cross' in hangarage at Mascot and to continue to arrange such maintenance supervision as will ensure that the aircraft does not deteriorate unduly."

1949
On 5 April 1949, Jim Collopy, on behalf of the Regional Director, wrote to Butler Air Transport Pty Ltd at Mascot; "Receipt is acknowledged of Departmental Aircraft VH-USU (Southern Cross) delivered completed by your Company to Hangar No. 13, Mascot, on 29/3/1949." Presumably this is the same Hangar 13 that was occupied by Adastra Airways from about 1956 after it was relocated to the east.

The aircraft suffered further damage on 16 September when it was being towed for photographic purposes. DCA's Aircraft Maintenance Overseer reported to the Divisional Aircraft Surveyor, NSW region that: " ... damage was sustained to the front starboard radius rod of the undercarriage. It shall be necessary to re-new the damaged rod and until such repairs are completed photographic facilities shall not be available." This implies that use of the aircraft for photo opportunities was not unusual. It is possible that the front cover of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines' house journal of April 1950 depicts the occasion on which this damage was incurred.

 

The front cover of the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines house journal depicts one of their new DC-6s with the Southern Cross at Mascot. It was BCPA that named the trans-Pacific route the Southern Cross Route in honour of the aeroplane before Qantas flew such services.

 

This photograph from the Civil Aviation Historical Society is said to have been taken at Mascot on 16 September 1949 which is the date on which the Southern Cross was damaged while being towed for photographic purposes. This would tend to confirm that the photo on the cover of the BCPA house journal (above) was taken on the same day. The other aircraft is BCPA DC-6 VH-BPF Endeavour which also appears in the cover photo.Picture: CAHS

Pillar to Post at Mascot

This table attempts to summarise the various storage locations at Mascot.

Date
Location
17FEB39
Received from RAAF Richmond and stored in the Butler Hangar at Mascot.
10JUL41
To the Civic Administration Hangar at Fairbairn, Canberra.
22JAN46
To DAP Hangar at Mascot on completion of filming.
14FEB46
By this date the aircraft was back in Butler Hangar 83.
02JAN47
By this date the aircraft was in TAA Hangar 2.
14JAN47
On this date the aircraft was damaged in the DAP Hangar. Are the DAP Hangar and TAA Hangar 2 one and the same?
02APR48
On this date the aircraft was in Butler Hangar 83.
29MAR49
Delivered by Butlers to Hangar 13 (DCA?).
?
To TAA Hangar 2.
19OCT54
Moved from TAA Hangar 2 to Villawood.

 


1954
It would appear that the aeroplane was largely undisturbed for approximately four years. Then, on 31 August 1954 the Regional Director, DCA NSW issued a minute paper; "Last week I noted the Southern Cross Aircraft was still in No. 2 Hangar policed by T.A.A. In order to ensure the safety of this Aircraft and its various parts, it is desired that it be immediately removed to the Main Store at Villawood. A thorough check should be made of each item of the airframe and engines and should there be any missing items, such should be reported immediately. The airframe and engines are to be examined and placed into satisfactory condition for long storage at Villawood. It is also to be inspected from time to time, and maintained in sound condition." In March 1949 the aircraft was moved to Hangar 13 so clearly there was a further move from Hangar 13 to Hangar 2. This may have occurred around the time that Hangar 13 was moved to a more easterly location on the airport so that Adastra could move from Hangar 15 to Hangar 13 at the new location. This move was thought to have been around 1956 but may have been earlier.

On 13 October, DCA received a request from Aero Research Laboratories of Milwaukee, Wisconsin enclosing a questionnaire seeking precise dimensions of the Southern Cross to enable them to construct a model for the Smithsonian Institution. A request to physically measure the aircraft may be related to ongoing debate over the aeroplane's pedigree. Although there is internal DCA correspondence instructing the completion of the questionnaire there is no record of the outcome on the file.

On 19 October the aircraft was moved by the Department of Supply from "TAA Hangar" to No. 2 Main Store at Villawood as listed on a series of DCA Convoy Notes as follows:

Convoy Note
Vehicle Regn
Contents
45517
C65965
1 Port Oil Tank
14 Engine Cowlings
1 Dummy Generator *
1 Escape Hatch Wooden
1 Cane Seat
1 Crank Handle
2 Wheel & Brackets
1 Cockpit Windshield Assy
45518
C65822
1 Southern Cross Body VH-USU
Tailplane and Fin
45519
C65965
5 Undercarriage Struts & accessories
1 Pitot Mast
1 Steps
2 Nav. Lamps
1 Fuel Line & Filter
1 Tacho Drive (?)
3 Engine Brace Struts
1 Oil Line
1 Fuel Control Panel
3 Engines
2 Wheel Covers

* The two generators fitted to the aeroplane when it finally went on display are non-functioning replicas. One original is held in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum in the United States (Inventory Number A19310024000)

An attached Transfer Voucher shows a long list of instruments and fittings and identifies the three Wright Whirlwind engines by Serial Numbers 7418, 7416 & B9221. Curiously though, there is no mention of the one-piece wing so presumably a Convoy Note is missing from the file. A handwritten note dated 14 October 1955 shows the cost of the operation, including two Police escorts, as £116-8-3.

1955
The Southern Cross was back in the news on 30 March 1955 when the Australian Women's Weekly posed the question; "Remember the Southern Cross? ... The famous old plane has been moved from one obscure storage place in Sydney to another. ... When Smithy landed after one or other of his history making flights the wild enthusiasm of his welcomes out-raved even Johnnie Ray. It was as a result of this enormous popular enthusiasm that the Commonwealth Government bought the Southern Cross 20 years ago. Then it was stated that the plane would be placed on public exhibition so that Australians for generations to come could see it and pay tribute to the men who did so much to pioneer aviation. Fine words, and sincerely meant at the time, no doubt. But nothing has so far come of them. For 20 years the dismantled plane has lain hidden in store. Its recent removal to another store has done nothing more than renew the Government promise that the Southern Cross will be publicly displayed. Just when is not stated. But there are many who hope another 20 years will not elapse before this promise is carried out. The Southern Cross is part of the national heritage. It should not be allowed to lie forgotten and unseen."

The Beaudesert Times of 21 October carried a letter from Ken J. Morris MLA, Queensland; "I saw a suggestion the other day that Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's old Southern Cross should be 'taken out of mothballs' and brought to Eagle Farm Air Port. I think the suggestion has more than ordinary merit. 'Smithy' had many links with this state, not least his landing here after the first air crossing of the Pacific. I have said before that somehow or other we don't seem to have the knack in this State of keeping strong the links with our history. It is a pity because history has so many examples to offer us in building for the future."

1956
On 18 July 1956, the Regional Director DCA NSW wrote to his Queensland counterpart enclosing a copy of the Southern Cross Equipment List dated 16 July 1956 for inclusion in the aircraft file which was held by Queensland Region. The memo further enquired; "As the aircraft is stationed at this Region please advise if the history file is still required at your office." The reply came on 2 August indicating that the file was still required at Queensland Region. If there had been a subsequent request to reunite the aircraft with its file in Brisbane, it does not appear on the file!

 

In the House

Meanwhile, questions were asked in Parliament. A leading player in the push to get the Southern Cross to Brisbane was Bruce Wight, Liberal MHR for the Brisbane suburban seat of Lilley which included Eagle Farm Airport. The following extracts are from Hansard for the House of Representatives.

Tuesday 25 September 1956:
Mr TOWNLEY - I recall quite well the intense interest that the honorable member for Lilley has taken in this matter. I remember that he came to me some months ago and extracted from me a promise that the "Southern Cross" would go to Brisbane. We have made arrangements for an area of land to be set apart at the Brisbane airport. I understand that the very desirable committee that has been formed is ready to go ahead with the actual housing of the aircraft. Whether the aircraft can be made available immediately or at what stage it can be made available, I should not like to say without first examining all the items and elements that arise. Aircraft riggers, engineers and so on will be needed to pack and transport the aircraft. I will inquire into those matters and let the honorable member have a reply as soon as I can.

Thursday 25 October 1956:
Mr TOWNLEY (DENISON, TASMANIA - Minister for Immigration) - When I was the Minister for Civil Aviation, arrangements were completed for the removal of "Southern Cross" to Brisbane. The honorable member for Lilley has been actively interested in the project. The citizens of Brisbane, headed by the Lord Mayor, established a committee and appealed for funds to house this historic aircraft at Eagle Farm aerodrome. Eagle Farm was chosen, first, because the late Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith was born very close to the entrance gates of the aerodrome, and secondly, because it was the terminal point for his famous trans-Pacific flight. Just before I handed over the Civil Aviation portfolio, I went to the department's store and inspected "Southern Cross". Considering that it is a fairly old aircraft, it is in a very good state of preservation. It has been stored carefully and has been well looked after. I made arrangements with the Royal Australian Air Force, which has the facilities, for the transport of the wings and other parts on low-loaders. I have spoken to the new Minister about the matter, and he has the project in hand now. I think that the aircraft will be ready to go to Brisbane within the next few weeks. Arrangements have been made for it to be housed temporarily in a hangar at Amberley, so that it can be renovated and made ready to go to the place at Eagle Farm where it will be housed. The Department of Civil Aviation has made arrangements for a suitable area of land to be reserved at Eagle Farm for the purpose.

Mr Wight - What about the care and maintenance of the memorial?

Mr TOWNLEY - The care and maintenance of the memorial will be the responsibility of the Department of Civil Aviation.

Thursday 2 May 1957:
Mr WIGHT (Lilley) - Honorable members will recall that some time ago the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley), in his capacity as Minlster for Air, did me the honour of granting permission to a committee which I was forming in Brisbane to have custody of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith's famous aircraft, "Southern Cross" so that it could be adequately enshrined at the Brisbane Airport. Because I feel that "Southern Cross" and the memory of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and his exploits are emblems of Australian tradition and symbols of Australia's very gallant part in the pioneering history of aviation throughout the world, I think it is only right that this Parliament should be informed of whether that committee is discharging its obligations to Australia adequately. My purpose in rising to-night is to inform the House of the steps that have been taken to see that "Southern Cross" is enshrined as a memorial to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and those aviators in two world wars who carried on the tradition of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

I should like to inform the House that we have formed a committee in Brisbane and have appointed the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Groom, as its chairman. The members of the committee besides myself are the secretary to the Lord Mayor, Mr. Jim Johnson, who Is acting also as honorary secretary to the committee; Sir Edwin Tooth, who is a well known Brisbane citizen; Mr. M. R. Hornibrook, who is well known as an engineer and a prominent citizen of Brisbane; Mr. Ted Bray, managing editor of the "Courier-Mail"; Mr. Syd Spurr; who was a close personal friend of the Kingsford Smith family; Mr. Carl Bishop, who Is well known in service organizations and a prominent Brisbane citizen; Mr. Drury, manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in Brisbane; Mr. MacKenzie, manager of Trans-Australia Airlines in Brisbane; Mr. Ron Adair, chairman of directors of Queensland Airlines; and Mr. Jules Moxon, another prominent Brisbane citizen. We had with us at our meeting on one occasion Eric Kingsford Smith, brother of Sir Charles, and we have maintained close contact with his elder brother, Wilfred Kingsford-Smith. We have also had the privilege of the attendance at meetings of Mr. Harold Affleck, of the Department of Civil Aviation, thanks to the co-operation given to us by the Minister and the Director-General of Civil Aviation.

I have brought with me to-night an architectural drawing of the plan of the memorial as it will be when completed, and I ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to table it in the Library next week so that honorable members will be able to look at it and see the manner in which "Southern Cross" will be enshrined in Brisbane.

The cost of the structure is estimated to be in the vicinity of 35,000. That is the minimum. It might cost more than that. In planning a campaign for raising funds, we have seen the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McGovern, who has agreed that contributions to this committee from firms and others interested will be treated as deductions for tax purposes. The reason for that is that this shrine will be a memorial to those airmen who served in two world wars, as well as to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, and indeed it will be the Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith War Memorial.

The committee considers that we should be able to raise the sum of 25,000 from overseas firms and others associated with "Southern Cross". Already we have had a considerable amount of co-operation from Mr. Diepen, who is commercial director of the Fokker Aircraft Company of Holland. He is acting as an agent for the committee overseas and is contacting those firms that were associated with the manufacture of the aircraft. The other day, we received a letter from the British Genera! Electric Company of the United Kingdom, intimating that that company was most eager to be assoctated with us in our project. This letter was the result of a visit by Mr. Diepen. A recommendation has gone from the firm in Australia to the parent company in the United Kingdom which suggests that the contribution that we will receive from that firm will be of very generous proportions. Mr. Haymanson, of Melbourne, who is the Australian representative of Curtis (sic) Wright, which manufactured the J5 Whirlwind motors with which "Southern Cross" was powered, has already made a considerable donation from his own resources, and has approached his company in the United States of America. We can also expect a substantial contribution from that company. The British Genera! Electric Company, by the way, was the firm which manufactured and supplied the radio set that was used in "Southern Cross".

We have not yet approached the oil companies, but it is our intention to do so. We intend to approach the Atlantic Oil Company, in particular, as we understand that the fuel used on the trans-Pacific flight, which was possibly the most notable of all Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith's flights, was Atlantic. Another company, the Vacuum Oil Company, also supplied fuel, and it is our intention to approach it in the hope that it will assist in the work of seeing that "Southern Cross" is adequately enshrined. We hope that if any other firm in the field of aviation which had any connexion at all with "Southern Cross" is aware of the work we are doing, it will take the opportunity of communicating with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and indicating that it is interested and is eager to assist.

That is as far as the committee has gone at the moment. I wanted to make sure the House was fully informed of the work that has been done. Again I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you allow me to table the architect's drawing in the Library so that those honorable members who are Interested may take the opportunity of going to the library and seeing the plan.


1957
The next item on the DCA file is a memo dated 15 March 1957 from Regional Director NSW to Senior Aircraft Surveyor (H. Affleck); "I understand, after speaking to Bruce Wight, M.P., that the next meeting of the 'Southern Cross' Committee is tentatively arranged for Friday, 5th April, at 5 p.m."

On 3 May, the Director-General of Civil Aviation, D.G. Anderson, was quoted in the Western Herald (Bourke, NSW) as saying that he had no doubt that the Southern Cross could be made airworthy for a flight from Sydney to Brisbane.

A handwritten note dated 21 May lists the dimensions of the aircraft adding that they were "Extracted from record in library" which suggests that these are not the empirical dimensions requested earlier by the Smithsonian's model makers. More likely they are indicative of another move - or design of a display building.

Span 71' 2"
Length 47' 7"
Height 12' 10"
Track 14' 1"

On Saturday 3 August, the Sydney Morning Herald reported; "At least 15 towns and cities will honour the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's plane the Southern Cross as it travels by road to its final resting-place. ... One of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's pioneer flight engineers, Mr. H.C. Affleck, will leave Sydney on Monday to visit towns which wish to honour the plane. The 15 towns and cities which want to pay a tribute so far are Gosford, Newcastle, Maitland, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Scone, Murrurundi, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Stanthorpe, Warwick, Toowoomba and Archerfield. The Southern Cross will be a weekend 'guest of honour' at Newcastle, Tamworth and Armidale, where experts will completely reassemble it." In the absence of a definitive list, it is speculated that either Tamworth or Armidale might have missed out because of their relative proximity.

On 28 August, the Canberra Times reported that Mr Bruce Wight MHR had asked the Minister for Air, Mr Osborne, if it might be possible for the RAAF to arrange transportation of the aircraft from Sydney to Brisbane by 19 September at the latest and to also provide an escort. Mr Osborne indicated that transport could be arranged but the matter of an escort was still under consideration because the trip could take almost three weeks.

The Canberra Times of 19 September reported that the aircraft was being dismantled in Hyde Park where it had been on show and that it was expected to depart at dawn the next day on semi-trailers for a three-day (sic) journey to Brisbane.

A barely legible telegram to DCA, seemingly dated 15 October states; "Please advise Mr. Affleck with Southern Cross to contact Mr. Johnston Brisbane City Hall." Presumably the year is 1957 and the telegram is connected with the eventual display of the aircraft in Brisbane. (Mr. J. Johnson was Secretary to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and Secretary of the Southern Cross Committee). When it was decided that the aircraft would be moved to Smithy's birthplace in Brisbane, Harold Affleck of DCA suggested that the aircraft be placed on public display at en route locations to assist with fundraising for a display building at Brisbane's Eagle Farm Airport.

The long road journey to Brisbane was reported in Pacific Islands Monthly of 1 October 1957 as follows: "The Southern Cross was placed on public view for the first time in 22 years, at Sydney's Hyde Park, for a five-day period during early September. It was inspected by 10,000 people, who contributed over £1,000 towards the cost of erecting the Brisbane memorial. On its journey from Sydney by road to its final resting place, the Southern Cross passed through 35 towns and cities in NSW and Queensland and was exhibited at each. Three RAAF semi-trailers undertook the three-weeks trip, while RAAF mechanics and fitters reassembled the historic aircraft, under guidance of Civil Aviation authorities, at stopping places."

In Brisbane, the aircraft was displayed at Centenary Place, a park and public speaking forum centrally located between the central business district and Fortitude Valley. For the price of two shillings, the public were able to inspect the aircraft from a raised wooden viewing platform along the side of the fuselage. The admission price also included this souvenir brochure.

 

(Click on the image to read the brochure)

 

While on display at Centenary Place, the aircraft was inspected on 29 October 1957 by the Commanding Officer of No 3 Aircraft Depot, Wing Commander F.M. Timms and 3AD's Tech Eng Aero, Flying Officer W.E. Sansum "to assess work to be carried out prior to storage of aircraft in memorial building." This is the first mention of the aircraft in the 3AD Operations Record Book.

1958
The next reference in the 3AD ORB is 20 February 1958 when personnel from 3AD consisting of the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Timms, Chief Technical Officer, Wing Commander W. Lewis and Squadron Leader E.A. Addison met with Mr Affleck of DCA at 3AD's Detachment "A" at Archerfield to confirm servicing requirements for the aircraft. Clearly the aircraft had been transported from Centenary Place to Archerfield sometime between 29 October 1957 and 20 February 1958. The aircraft was also on public display at Archerfield before commencement of the restoration. On 29 May, Wing Commander Timms and Wing Commander Lewis attended a conference with the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial Committee to discuss placing the Southern Cross in the memorial building at Eagle Farm. On 24 June, the aircraft was moved from the hangar of 3AD Detachment "A" at Archerfield to Eagle Farm for assembly in the new memorial building under the supervision of Technical Engineer Aero, Flying Officer J.W. Warr.

 

This plaque was attached to the port side of the centre engine cowling to record the restoration by 3AD. Although the unit had its headquarters at Amberley, the airframe was restored at their detachment at Archerfield. Some smaller components may have been worked on at Amberley. Picture: Mick Raftery



On 10 July 1958, John Ulm (son of Charles Ulm) of Qantas Public Relations in Sydney wrote to John Arthur, Regional Director, DCA Brisbane enclosing a photograph of the radio station in the Southern Cross which had been received via Qantas in San Francisco. Presumably this enquiry was in connection with displaying the aircraft at Brisbane Airport.

During the restoration, an attempt was made to present the aeroplane as it was for the Pacific flight in 1928. Modifications such as passenger doors and extra windows were covered with fabric and the three-bladed variable pitch propeller on the centre engine was replaced with a two-bladed wooden prop to match the others. Although the aeroplane was a much lighter sky blue for the Pacific flight it was painted royal blue and silver with its American identification number 1985 on the rudder.

On 23 July, Wing Commander Timms and Wing Commander Lewis visited Eagle Farm Airport with Mr. J. Johnson, Secretary to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and Secretary of the Southern Cross Committee to check on the installation of the aircraft in the new building.

 

The original memorial building at Eagle Farm. The building was demolished after the aircraft was relocated.Picture: Peter Gates

 

The Southern Cross inside the original memorial building at Eagle Farm.
Picture: John Hopton Collection (p2601-0021)

 

The cockpit of the Southern Cross inside the original memorial building at Eagle Farm.
Picture: John Hopton Collection (p2601-0124)

 

The original memorial building at Eagle Farm. Note the inappropriate hyphen.
Picture: Unknown via Mick Raftery Collection

 

On 17 August, Wing Commander Timms, Wing Commander Lewis and Chief Equipment Officer, Squadron Leader K.T. Casey, attended the unveiling by Federal Treasurer Sir Arthur Fadden. (The 3AD ORB records the date as 19 August but this is in error). In addition to public donations, Fokker contributed 6,000 and Atlantic Union Oil contributed 5,000. The cost of the building was reported to be 31,000.

The opening of the memorial is best described by that doyen of Australian aviation historians, the late Ted Wixted:

The Brisbane memorial building-called the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial, was opened on August 17, 1958, in the thirtieth anniversary year of the Pacific flight. The two Americans, upon whose professional skills so much of the success of that flight had depended, Harry Lyon the navigator and Jim Warner the radio operator, came from the United States as guests of honour. Present also was John Ulm, son of Charles Ulm. During the ceremony a flight of R.A.A.F. Meteor jets, passed overhead in the five star formation of the Southern Cross. High in the air a skywriter was busy. The name traced out in white smoke was Smithy. The ceremony made it clear that, despite the sacrifice and gallantry of the wartime period, the spontaneously great pioneering achievements of Australia's early aviators remained a yardstick by which individual endeavour, courage, and grit, could be measured.

 

1967 - A Retrospective
A letter dated 19 October 1967 from the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C. addressed to Howard Emmerson of DCA Brisbane enclosed copies of a file of documents relating to the registration of the aircraft in the USA as requested by the recipient. Perhaps the most remarkable is a Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch "Application for Identification Mark" form submitted jointly by Charles E. Kingsford Smith, Keith V. Anderson and Charles T.P. Ulm (and in that order) showing the following details among several others (all verbatim):

Type Fokker Tri-Motor Type F 7
Manufacturer Atlantic Aircraft Corporation
Manufacturer's No. * 3 - F - 7 *
Remodeler Boeing Aircraft Company of Seattle
Remodeling 8th October, 1927
Description of Reconstruction Installation of New Engines and two new additional tanks - complete inspection and refinishing.
Seating capacity, exclusive of pilot Relief Pilot and two Navigators
Wing area in square feet 718
Over-all span 71' 8"
Over-all length 47'
Engines: Make, type and model (3) Wright Whirlwind J.5.A (Nos. 7416-7-8)
Person from whom airplane was purchased George Hubert Wilkins
State purposes for which airplane will be used: Experimental flight from San Francisco or Oakland to Australia.

The application was dated 14 October 1927. Subsequently it was endorsed in large handwriting "#1985". On 15 October, the radio call letters KHAB were assigned to the aircraft. On 31 October the Director of Aeronautics certified; " ... the aircraft described below is an UNLICENSED aircraft to which has been assigned the following identification mark 1985." Accompanying the certificate was a letter and a metal identification plate "... which must be permanently affixed to the fuselage in a prominent place, in order that it may be readily inspected. No letter or other mark or symbol of any kind shall immediately precede or follow the identification mark thus displayed on your aircraft."

* Probably this should be interpreted as Manufacturer's Model Number not Manufacturer's Serial Number. Source 8 quotes a Constructor's Number of 4954 for the Southern Cross.

On 18 March 1930, the Department of Commerce wrote to Messrs. Kingsford Smith, Anderson and Ulm advising that correspondence addressed to them had been returned unclaimed and therefore; "Unlicensed identification number 1985, assigned this plane, is hereby cancelled on the records of this office." Clearly this was of no concern to Smithy as by this time the aircraft was on the Australian Register as G-AUSU (effective 4 July 1928). Effective from 16 April 1931 the aircraft became VH-USU.

1967
During October 1967 the fabric covering of the fuselage was replaced because of deterioration. (See Photo Gallery).

1987
In preparation for the opening of Brisbane's new airport, the aircraft was relocated to a new air-conditioned memorial building opposite the International Terminal. (See Photo Gallery).

 

WHO OWNS THE SOUTHERN CROSS?

The Southern Cross remains the property of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is on display at Brisbane International Airport in the care of Brisbane Airport Corporation Airport Facilities. Its custodianship is governed by the "Southern Cross Warehousing and Display Agreement" with the Commonwealth. The aircraft is subject to six-monthly maintenance inspections.




 

"Smithy's international contribution makes its demands. History presents its bill. It is the unique ability of a great and genuine Australian achiever that is the real issue behind the search for the Lady Southern Cross. That point should be understood. The bill must be paid. The unwritten final page must be written. It is owed to Smithy."

Ted Wixted (The Life and Times of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith p.245)

 



 

GLOSSARY
3AD No. 3 Aircraft Depot, RAAF Amberley
3CU No. 3 Communications Unit, RAAF Mascot
a/c aircraft
AFC Air Force Cross
AWM Australian War Memorial, Canberra
CofA Certificate of Airworthiness
DAP Department of Aircraft Production
DCA Department of Civil Aviation
DGCA Director-General of Civil Aviation
F/L Flight Lieutenant (RAAF)
F/O Flying Officer (RAAF)
F/S Flight Sergeant (RAAF)
MHR Member of the House of Representatives (Commonwealth)
MLA Member of the Legislative Assembly (Queensland)
MP Member of Parliament
NSW New South Wales
ORB Operations Record Book
RAAF Royal Australian Air Force
RACNSW Royal Aero Club of New South Wales
TAA Trans-Australia Airlines
W/O Warrant Officer (RAAF)
UNITS
Currency Expressed in the units of the day as £/-/- Pounds/Shillings/Pence. Australia converted to decimal currency in 1966.
Dimensions Expressed as feet (') and inches (")
 
SOURCES
1
Wixted, Edward P., 1927-2001 The Life and Times of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith: An Illustrated Chronology, self published, 1996.
2
NAA: J778, VH-USU PART 2, Series number: J778.
3
RAAF Form E/E.88 Airframe Record Card VH-USU. (Status Card)
4
Bert Cookson, The Historic Civil Aircraft Register of Australia (Pre War) G-AUAA to VH-UZZ, AustAirData, 1996
5
NAA: Series A9186, RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] No 3 Aircraft Depot Mar 42 - Jun 67.
6
NAA: Series A9186, RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 2 Aircraft Depot.
7
NAA: Series A9186, RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Communication Unit Feb 40 - Feb 46.
8
Fokker Commercial Aircraft, published by Fokker, 1994.

 

Issue
Date
Remarks
9
22SEP21
Added an image of the aircraft at the Bankstown Air Pageant on 11 October 1947.
8
16SEP21
Added a new page on the First Retirement in the USA.
7
11SEP21
Added a table of storage locations at Mascot.
Added an image of the aircraft and its cockpit inside the original memorial building at Eagle Farm.
Added three images of the aircraft in storage at Mascot thanks to Phil Vabre of the CAHS.
Added a new page Is the Southern Cross Fair Dinkum?
Added an analysis of the Southern Cross Fuel Tanks.
6
05SEP21
Added a section on Smithy's Last Wish for the Southern Cross.
5
24AUG21
Added a signed flown cover from Smithy's last flight in the Southern Cross thanks to Phil Vabre.
Added an image of QEA Constellation VH-EAD with the Southern Cross.
4
20AUG21
Added a new section on Engines & Propellers.
3
18AUG21
Added an image of the Eagle Farm Memorial building thanks to Peter Gates.
Added an image of the Southern Cross with a BCPA DC-6 thanks to Phil Vabre at the CAHS.
2
14AUG21
Added an Index.
Moved photos to a separate page.
Added Harry Purvis' recollections of flying the Southern Cross for the movie and the Bankstown pageant.
Added a press report on the road trip at 3 August 1957.
1
13AUG21
Original issue. With thanks to Mick Raftery and Tim Kalina. Remembering Ted.