Many thanks to Kathryn Simpson for contributing the following article on Bert Hinkler’s landing in Gympie in 1921:
Bert Hinkler & Mascot land in Gympie!
The throaty drone of an engine came out of nowhere. The sound revved and floated over ribbons of sugar cane, green pastures and the homesteads of Bauple, south of Bundaberg. The sound ebbed away, and eyes everywhere tracked the biplane heading for Gympie. Many had never seen a plane before, but all knew who was flying above.
Life, this side of World War One was for living and on this bright April Saturday in 1921, a cheerful carnival for the returned soldiers was in full swing in the newly dedicated Gympie Memorial Park. The sombre trajectory to Anzac Day commemoration was days away but for now, crowds of town and country folk played the carnival games of chance and looked to the sky in hopeful expectation. At 4.18 pm, a speck on the far northern horizon was spotted against the clouds. The joyful clamour of the fire bell announced the arrival of Bert Hinkler’s Baby Avro (1).
Suddenly, the plane dropped from the clouds, gathering speed in an earthward spiral. The crowd gasped and turned to stone as Hinkler looped upward, making extravagant loops around the sun. The machine hurtled toward the earth again and levelled out into a low howling pass over the Memorial Park (2).
The crowd breathed again, and the statues sprang to life, holding onto hats and small children and running for cover. Bert circled in low over Calton Hill, waving to his invalid Grandmother Mrs Bonney, the Sisters of Mercy and boarders at the Convent before gently swinging to the south-west to make a graceful landing on the Gympie Showgrounds/racecourse. The crowd swept along to greet him. Bert took off his cap, stepped out of his machine and faced the cheering crowd, embracing his mother, grandfather and numerous friends from his primary school days in Gympie. Reaching into the body of the plane, Bert unstrapped a wire cage. He liberated from within it, a magpie which hopped unconcernedly along the wing, staring nonplussed at the
‘Look! ‘he exclaimed. ‘It’s already attached to my machine!’ (4).
Adding, ‘I’m taking it back to England for my wife.’
The most challenging part of the journey was yet to come! How to get the plane into Memorial Park where festivities awaited? Firstly, the Motor lorry of the Wide Bay Co-operative Dairy Co. was attached to the rear of the aeroplane, allowing the plane to run on its own wheels. Steady progress was made until the behemoth baulked at Larney’s culvert. The plane was too wide to go through the railings! A trailer was attached to the motor lorry and the aeroplane was bodily lifted onto it, safely arriving at the Memorial Park and the next obstacle – the fence. Simple! A section of fence was removed and the flying machine was taken into the enclosure prepared for it – on display until Anzac Day (5).
The festive air that swirled around Gympie left abruptly with Bert Hinkler’s take-off from the military grounds (near Queens Park) on Anzac Day morning at 9.21 am. Those holding the aeroplane were asked to stand back and full force was applied to the propeller. The plane moved off across the flat to the river, then lifted and sailed gracefully away, up the Mary Valley towards Brisbane. Meanwhile, at the cemetery, wreaths were being laid on the graves of members of the AIF. Less than a week before, 2000 people had lined Mary Street to watch Major General Sir T.W Glasgow lead a military parade to the Returned Soldiers Carnival (6). The chocolate wheel, balloons, dancing and ice-cream were just a distant garish memory. Now it was Anzac Day and a large but sadder crowd assembled in Mary Street to watch the 60 strong parade of returned soldiers led by Major A. Chisolm, march past the black swathed Memorial Gates (7).
Postscript: The pet magpie accompanied Bert Hinkler on the long journey to his home in Southampton, England on May 2,1921, by boat. Bert and wife Nancy christened the bird ‘little Jimmy’ (8). In January 1922, Bert wrote of the death of his pet magpie, in a letter to his mother (9).
(1) 1921 ‘LIEUT HINKLER AT GYMPIE’, The Bundaberg Mail, 28 April, p. 5. , viewed 11 May 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215558139
(4) 1921 ‘BERT FLIES AWAY.’, The Bundaberg Mail, 25 April, p. 4. , viewed 30 Apr 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215558915
(5) 1921 ‘LIEUT HINKLER AT GYMPIE’, The Bundaberg Mail, 28 April, p. 5. , viewed 30 Apr 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215558139
(6) 1921 ‘SOLDIERS’ CARNIVAL.’, The Daily Mail, 22 April, p. 4. , viewed 30
Apr 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213200506
(7) 1921 ‘COUNTRY NEWS.’, The Daily Mail, 28 April, p. 3. , viewed 30 Apr
(8) 1921 ‘Letter From Bert Hinkler.’, The Bundaberg Mail, 6 September, p. 2. , viewed 30 Apr 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216968402
(9) 1922 ‘Letter from Bert Hinkler.’, The Bundaberg Mail, 7 January, p. 2. , viewed 30 Apr 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article217100165