Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Excerpt from my current reading

[From chapter six, "Various Conquests," on post-war flying...]

"The most remarkable flight of all, but one that strangely enough was almost uncelebrated in the Press, was that of M'Intosh and Parer from England to Melbourne. These were two Australian lieutenants who determined, when the war ended, to go home by air in a condemned D.H.9, bought for a few pounds. Almost every part of the machine was defective, including the petrol-pump and magneto, bolts kept working loose from the engine and propeller, the struts were unsound, the instruments faulty. They started on the 8th January 1920, had vexatious delays in France, climbed up to 14,000 feet to avoid a storm over the Apennines and then as they were about to cross the Adriatic went on fire at 3,000 feet, but extinguished the flames with a steep dive. They reached Cairo, by way of Athens and Crete, after forty-four days; the usual flying time for this distance was forty hours. Everyone there thought the two men crazy to persist in their journey, but they patched up the machine and few on east. They had to come down in the central Arabian desert because of engine trouble, M'Intosh keeping Arab marauders off with Mills bombs and a revolver, while Parer tinkered with the plane. He got her off just in time. They reached Baghdad -- the first time that the flight from Egypt had been made -- changed a broken propeller, and flew on over Baluchistan to India. Parer remarked, 'We'll fly this b----- crate till it falls to bits at our feet.' He did so, and more. When the engine failed over the Irrawaddy jungle they made a lucky forced landing; but soon afterwards a crash at Moulmein wrecked the undercarriage, smashed the radiator, and damaged the compass. For six weeks they worked in the jungle at fitting together the bits and pieces and then took off again. They crashed twice more, but somehow managed to cross the most dangerous obstacle of all, the Timor Sea, where they lost their bearings and flew blind, reaching Australia with only a single pint of petrol left in the tank. Their last crash was at Culcairn, close to their goal: there was practically nothing left unbroken of the D.H.9, but the two airmen escaped unharmed. The fragments of the machine were reassembled for exhibition in the Sydney Museum; Parer and M'Intosh were decorated by the Australian Prime Minister and given a purse of £1,000 to defray their expenses. They had already paid part of these by trick-flying and scattering hand-bills over the cities passed in their flight. M'Intosh died soon afterwards in a plane accident; Parer later operated a self-supporting unsubsidized air-line in New Guinea between the coast and the goldfields in the interior."

--from The Long Weekend: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, first published 1940


  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time, but have never commented. As an Australian, now living in New Zealand, this was a fascinating story to discover; I will have to investigate it further. You might also like to read a biography of Jean Batten, a NZ woman who flew solo across the world. A very sad story in terms of her personal life, but well worth reading.

  2. Hi Jill, I'm glad you "de-lurked." :-) Thanks for the recommendation; I will look into it!