Problems of Defence, Isolation and Development:
What Civil Aviation Could Do To Help
by Dr Leigh Edmonds

This article examines the effect that the introduction of a new transport mode had people's lives and government policy. It focuses on Western Australia because that state's large distances - internally and from the rest of the Commonwealth - emphasised questions of defence, isolation and development more acutely than in any other part of Australia apart from, perhaps, the Northern Territory. This article concentrates on the first decade of civil aviation in Australia from 1919 to 1928.

Australia's defence policy was based on its proximity to Asia, its reliance on Mother Britain and the ideal of a White Australia. Australia considered itself a European nation isolated from other European nations. To the north and north-west, and between Australia and Europe, were seven hundred and fifty million Asians, half the population of the entire world and about one hundred and fifty times Australia's population.(1) Western Australia's Agent-General in Great Britain, Sir James Connolly, expressed a widely held view when he said that the north-west of Western Australia was the ideal place for an invader to land and that if an enemy occupied that territory, an army a hundred times stronger would be needed to expel them.(2) However, an effective military defence was beyond Australia's means so she, as a member of the British Empire, relied on the Royal Navy.(3)

There was another form of defence. The emptiness of the north-west, which was an open invitation to Asian invasion, could be filled by Britishers. If the white occupation of Australia was not carried to its remotest parts the inhabitants of overpopulated countries could, by 'one of the fundamental principles governing international relations' demand entry.(4) With a white population of six thousand, the north-west was clearly underpopulated in comparison to Queensland which had a population of seven hundred thousand.(5) Some proposals for development of the north-west included constructing a railway line to the north at a cost of £10,000,000, settling a hundred thousand Britishers on fifteen million acres in the north-west, the National Colonization Company's 1934 proposal for an empire settlement in the Kimberley and a proposal by M P Durack in 1935.(6) None of the development proposals came to anything.

The inhabitants of the north-west were isolated from the rest of the State by fairly infrequent shipping services, very poor tracks for overland travel and single strand telegraph communications with Perth and the rest of the world. Physical isolation from the comforts of metropolitan life, and from health services, made settlers' lives harsh, dangerous and worrying. Isolation did not just affect the north-west, it also affected Perth which was four days by train from Melbourne, the capital of the Commonwealth, and about thirty days steaming from London, the centre of the Empire.(7)


The First World War was a hot house for aviation. In 1914 aeroplanes had been scientific curiosities but, by 1919, they were capable of flying non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean and from England to Australia in less than a month. Most aeroplanes in service until the 1930s were made of wood and fabric with engines of no more than 400 horse power (often a great deal less), which were mechanically unreliable, in need of constant attention and frequent major overhauls.(8)

With the end of the war, many who had been involved in military aviation turned their attention to using aeroplanes peacefully. Some returned servicemen felt that Australia was ideally suited for aviation and tried to establish civil flying, but the only aeroplanes available were retired military machines with high operating costs and capable of carrying only a couple of passengers. As a result the early aviators could best make a living by touring the country offering people short sample flights (joy rides) for fares such as £5 for ten minutes in the air.(9) Operating costs and the unsuitable nature of these aeroplanes made more regular aviation work an uneconomic proposition.

Major Norman Brearley arrived in Perth in mid-1919 with two small British training aeroplanes in which he gave public displays and joy rides. Later he flew over most of the more accessible rural areas of the State and in late 1920 he flew in the north-west, going as far as Onslow.(10) However, he saw that there was no long term future in that sort of flying and he put to the Commonwealth government a proposal for a subsidised air mail service along the Western Australian coast from Fremantle to Broome.(11)

The Commonwealth's main interest in civil aviation was for its defence potential: civil aviation could provide trained men, machines and facilities in case of 'an emergency'.(12) In late 1920 the government created a Civil Aviation Branch within the Department of Defence, put civil aviation legislation into force and set aside £100,000 for the encouragement of civil aviation.(13) That, and subsequent amounts, were to be spent in providing facilities for civil aviation and in paying subsidies to companies which operated air services for the Commonwealth.

Australia's first subsidised air service was established in Western Australia, partly to show Western Australians that the Commonwealth was attentive to their needs.(14) The route was from Geraldton to Derby because Geraldton was already linked with Perth by rail. The official stopping places on the five day return journey were Geraldton, Carnarvon, Onslow, Roebourne, Port Hedland, Broome and Derby.(15)

Space had to be reserved for a hundred pounds of mail while the operator could use all the remaining aeroplane space for passengers and freight.(16) A subsidy payment of four shillings a mile was paid, the Controller of Civil Aviation considering this the bare minimum on which a useful service could be operated.(17) There were only two tenderers for the service and it was won by Major Brearley who formed Western Australian Airways (commonly called 'the Airways') to operate it. The service got off to a false start in December 1921 but commenced full operations in early 1922 (ten months before Qantas started operations in November 1922.)(18)

In 1924 the weekly journey was extended to Perth but still took five days. There was plenty of time built into the schedule to allow for mechanical problems or for unscheduled stops at other places along the way.(19)


For many years military aviation in Australia was restricted by its inferior status to the Army and the Navy and its very limited budget.(20) As a result the Air Force was little more than an embryonic force with a handful of pilots and machines. At the end of the First World War the Imperial government made a gift of a hundred war aeroplanes to the Commonwealth but many remained in their packing crates for years because the Air Force had neither the money to prepare them for service nor the resources to use them.(21) Consequently Australian Air Force operations were mainly restricted to Victoria where its main bases had been established.

In September 1920 the Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth suggesting that some element of the Air Force should be stationed in the north and north-west of Western Australia to carry out training and observation of an important strategic area and to assist the civil population by carrying sick patients or doctors in emergencies.(22) The Prime Minister replied that, for the time being, the small size of the Air Force made it necessary to remain concentrated in one area, so the request could not be met.(23) Nevertheless the idea of using military aeroplanes in the north-west was taken seriously and, when the Government considered a submission for an air mail service to that area it had two proposals before it - to use its military equipment or to subsidise a commercial operator. Shearer and others have argued that the government decided to subsidize a commercial service because it was persuaded that military aeroplanes could not provide a useful civil service.(24) However, it seems more likely that, given the option between the military estimate for a year's service at about £86,000, and a year's civil service at £25,000, economic sense carried the argument and the service went to a civil contractor.(25)

Defence was a major justification for the north-west aviation service. It would provide a pool of trained pilots and mechanics who could be called upon in times of national emergency. One of the terms in the contract between the Airways and the Commonwealth was that all Company pilots had to be enrolled in the Air Force Reserve.(26) The weekly service would provide the Commonwealth with a well-developed and provisioned strategic air route and pilots who had considerable experience of the region. The aeroplanes of the commercial service would also be of defence value to the Commonwealth if necessary.(27) (One reason for Brearley's tender being accepted over his opposition's much cheaper offer was that the other proposal would not bring into the country aeroplanes which were considered of benefit to Australia's defenses.)(28)

In an effort to increase Australia's pool of qualified pilots, in 1925, the Department of Defence helped the various aero clubs to establish flying training schools. It gave them free loan of training aeroplanes and engines and paid a bonus of £20 for each pilot who gained his private licence.(29) As there was no aero club in Western Australia at the time the Airways started a flying school to train pilots.(30)


In the period around 1920 most Western Australians travelled along the north-west coast by steamer. The State Shipping Line's 'Bambra', provided a monthly subsidised mail services to towns along the routes, taking over a week to travel from Perth to Derby.(31) She had normal accommodation for 84 passengers in two classes, 115,567 cubic feet of freight and 250 head of cattle.(32) There were several other privately owned ships which also operated to north-west ports and linked them with other places such as Port Darwin, Java and Singapore.(33) Travel by car or truck between towns was hazardous and severely hampered by the quality of the tracks and the lack of bridges(34). Travel time was measured in days, perhaps weeks, so people living away from the metropolis had to be prepared to lose a lot of productive time if they had to travel.(35)

When the Airways started its regular service the people of Derby were suddenly only three days from Perth and received weekly mails, newspapers, passengers and freight. One use for the service was mail order shopping in Perth. Readers of the latest issue of the Western Mail, which arrived on the 'up' flight, could post orders to Perth business houses two or three days later for carriage on the 'down' flight.(36) Even in Derby, where the aeroplane waited only a short time before starting the return flight, correspondents could send quick replies to the air mail just received.

The service was not popular with passengers at first, but gradually people got used to the idea of flying and more and more of them started to use it. Initially the Airways operated Bristol Tourer aeroplanes which had two passenger seats but, by 1925, these were being replaced by De Havilland DH50s with four passenger seats.(37) For part of 1927 the Company ran a duplicate service from Carnarvon to Perth, giving a seating capacity of eight each way on that part of the route.

This additional service was discontinued in January 1928 but evidence suggests that, if there was sufficient demand, two flights could be flown.(38) The initial fare from Geraldton to Derby was £28 but after the first year's operation it was reduced to £23.(39) For most of the 1920s the fare from Perth to Derby was £28.(40) It seems that not many people used the whole route, perhaps because of its expense, and still used the steamer except in emergencies or where cost was no concern. It seems that more commonly passengers took shorter flights between towns in the north-west.(41) It was convenient for people with business in towns to the north to catch the 'up' flight, conduct business and then return home on the 'down' flight a day or so later. People travelling south might have to wait three or four days to catch the next 'up' flight but could still save time over the steamers.

High air freight charges restricted the kinds of things carried on the service.(42) Restrictions were also caused by the aeroplane's limited space and weight-carrying capacity - the De Havilland DH50 had a maximum payload of 1,025 pounds, so a 300 pounds mail load could severely reduce the payload available to the Airways.(43) Nevertheless people in the north-west found the air service a very convenient and efficient way to obtain many items such as clothing, newspapers, medicines, machine parts, fresh vegetables and meat, cinema films, automobile spare parts, the odd sheepdog, and crates of day old chickens.(44)

The air service also carried bank cheques, money, ore samples, precious metals, commercial agreements, legal documents and, from Broome in particular, pearls. The air service made it possible to complete commercial or legal matters much more quickly and to put back into action much more quickly capital which would remain idle during long surface trips. Another advantage was the air service's perceived security. People were concerned about security on trains or steamers where criminals were active but it was difficult to imagine how criminals might tamper with anything carried on the air service: "In these days it is nearer the truth than ever it has been in the past to say that time is money; and as aviation is pre-eminently a time-saving enterprise, the economic benefits it is capable of conferring need no stressing The exigencies of trade and commerce in a competitive world demand of every would-be progressive country that it shall avail itself to the fullest of every time-saving expedient. The readiness, the eagerness even, of the commercial world to seize upon aerial agencies for quicker communication and for transport is borne witness to wherever an air service has been established."(45)

Airways' most publicised activities were in emergency relief. Most often the emergencies were medical but the Airways could also assist in civil emergencies by providing the only links to towns which became isolated by bad weather or breaks in communications.(46)

The Airways could provide health care as simple as medicine dropped at isolated stations along the air route to flying a severely wounded man to Perth for specialist treatment.(47) If a patient was too sick to be moved the doctor could fly to him and, if a patient needed nursing, they could often fly on the regular air service to one of the north-west towns which had a hospital.(48) The Airways would undertake charter flights for emergencies, using its aeroplanes stationed along the air route, and although this was expensive at two shillings a mile that was often of little importance when a life was at stake.(49)

Reports of life-saving flights were common in newspapers and the simple knowledge that the Airways could provide these services helped reduce the fears which people in the north-west had previously had of sickness and accident. From 1925 John Flynn's idea for a flying doctor service became widely publicised, but the first such service was not established until 1928 in Queensland, and the flying doctor service did not start in Western Australia until 1935.(50)

Supporters of civil aviation hoped that it would also encourage more women to live in the north-west. Many married men who worked there had not taken their wives and children because the region lacked most features of 'civilization' and they feared sickness and injury. Women who lived there and were about to give birth usually undertook trips which could be long and arduous rather than be without medical assistance when the time arrived. Women were considered the 'weaker sex', not capable of enduring the rigors of north-west life which included the difficulties of transport there.(51) As a result of these factors, and the climate, white women rarely ventured from the towns and the wider north-west was regarded as unsuitable for them.(52) In 1926, when the Governor General and his wife flew around Australia, using the Airways route in the north-west, he described the trip and commented on 'the suitability of flying as a means of transport for ladies'.(53) However, only ten percent of the passenger trips listed in the Nor-West Echo of Broome during 1928 are shown as being made by women.(54)

After the Airways had been operating for only a year people in the north-west said it had become an essential part of their lives and that it would be a calamity if the service was discontinued.(55) When one north-west Road Board complained bitterly about recent irregularities in the service they were gently reminded by the civil aviation administration that such criticisms showed how much people in the north-west had come to rely on their weekly contact with Perth.(56) Airways pilots who worked on regular sections of the route were local personalities, and names like Len Taplin, Charles Kingsford Smith and Jimmy Woods became well-known all along the route: "The aviators, especially Lieutenants Kingsford Smith and Taplin, have the confidence of the public, and no one would hesitate to fly with any one of the aviators now in the service".(57)

In 1928 the Airways was awarded a contract to operate a weekly service from Perth to Adelaide. The service would pick up the British mail that arrived at Fremantle by boat every Tuesday and deliver it to Adelaide on Wednesday in time to catch the mail train through to Melbourne. (The aeroplane could fly the length of the route in one day if it departed early in the morning, but it would have to leave before the mail boat regularly arrived so consequently the flight stopped overnight at Forrest and part of the route was specially lit so that the aeroplanes could still fly after sundown if the mail boats were late.) The new service saved two days on the time taken by mails carried on the trans-continental train so that business men in the Eastern States could save up to five days in responding to letters from Britain.(58) Western Australian isolation from Melbourne was reduced from four to two days and the combined Perth-Adelaide and north-west services could carry passengers, mails or freight from Derby to Melbourne or Sydney in less than a week where it might have taken up to five weeks previously to travel between them.

More spectacular time savings were promised by the Imperial Airship Scheme which was nearing fruition in 1928, with the first airship flights planned to Australia in 1929 or 1930. The airships would cut up to eighteen days from the time taken to travel between Great Britain and Australia carrying around a hundred passengers and many tons of mail and freight. The most likely airship route would follow the old sailing ship courses to use the winds - down the west coast of Africa to the Union of South Africa and then along the roaring forties to Western Australia.(59) The Commonwealth government decided to establish an airship base at Jandakot, to the south of Perth, and to establish meteorological services for the airships. With Perth the first port of call, Jandakot would become to civil aviation what Fremantle was to sea transport.(60)

At the same time, long range trans-continental aeroplane services were also promising to reduce Western Australia's isolation from the rest of the world. By 1928 the British Imperial Airways ran a regular service from Egypt into India and the Dutch KLM airline had started regular services from Amsterdam to the Netherlands East Indies.(61) Both services were relatively slow but promised to gain in pace as they gained operating experience. Imperial Airways' objective was to link the entire Empire, including Australia, to Great Britain, but Major Brearley sounded out the Netherlands East Indies authorities on the idea of linking with the KLM flight and providing a service from Java to Darwin and then to Sydney and Melbourne.(62) Eventually nothing came of these plans.


In 1920 the North Australian Railway and Development League proposed a railway running north through the centre of the Western Australia to connect with the Adelaide to Darwin line and the Queensland railways. The League believed that this would encourage the development of the State's inland regions and also make possible exploitation of its mineral resources.(63) In 1921 civil aviation had not established itself as a regular mode of transport and did not have a place in the League's plans.

In November 1934 the National Colonization Company published a report on a scheme for settling whites in the Kimberley Division of Western Australia. It proposed construction of a railway from Wynyard to Halls Creek and then across the Northern Territory to Cloncurry, and roads for fast and heavy traffic from Yampi Sound through Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and down to meet the Western Australian railway network at Wiluna. The roads and railways would allow carriage of fat stock to the Perth markets and complete the line of land transport to the gold fields. The proposed regular shipping service from Perth to Wyndham would call at Yampi Sound, possibly making it an international port.(64)

Turning to air services, the report simply noted that the weekly air service from Perth to Wyndham and return might connect with a branch service to the West Kimberleys. It also noted that the Imperial air mail service, due to commence in 1935, would deliver mail to the Kimberleys a day or two before it reached the more settled areas of Australia. Locally based aeroplanes would provide medical and nursing aid to outlying settlements, carry urgent surgical cases to the nearest hospital, and transport valuable pedigree livestock. The whole development would be aided by air surveys to locate lands suitable for closer examination.(65) The authors of the report assumed that civil aviation was useful only for carrying mails and for other ancillary duties while the important transport would be carried out by surface transport. Aviation was considered helpful but subsidiary to the process of development, possibly because it lacked the economy and carrying capacity necessary for large scale development.


Civil aviation had the advantage of being faster than other forms of transport and was not restricted by the country it covered. Air services also had much smaller 'start-up' costs than most other transport modes. Unlike railways, which required huge capital expenditure on such items as track, stations and signalling equipment, the Airways was established for £16,000.(66)

That sum bought six aeroplanes, workshop equipment and hangars, with the Commonwealth government providing the aerodromes as part of its defence arrangements.(67) Unlike the loss that would be incurred if a railway failed, everything owned by the Airways could be easily disposed of or turned to use on another route.(68) This flexibility could also allow the Airways to change its route arrangements; in early 1924 Whim Creek was added to the regular schedule, and in July 1930 the route was extended to Wyndham.(69) A new route could also be tried without much risk of loss. In 1926 the company experimented with a weekly tourist service to the Yallingup caves, in the extreme south west corner of the state, by leasing a cleared area for an aerodrome.(70) When the service proved uneconomic and was discontinued, the company incurred no great loss.

On the other hand, civil aviation faced three problems which limited its attractiveness to those who might use it. They were the relative frailty of the aeroplanes, their lack of carrying capacity and their operational cost. The construction of these aeroplanes made them easy to repair but also made them vulnerable to the heat, humidity and intense sunlight of tropical areas so they had to be kept in hangars as much as possible.(71) Their frailty also meant that services had to be suspended when cyclonic conditions threatened the north-west. When the service was extended to Wyndham it flew for only eight or nine months of the year because the wet-season was too dangerous and difficult to operate in.(72) Aeroplane performance was also limited so that, while pilots could often fly around bad weather, they sometimes had no option but to fly through it, making those flight uncomfortable if not dangerous.(73) The relatively primitive aerodynamic nature of the aeroplanes on the service also meant they had to be flown by skilful and experienced pilots.(74)

In comparison to most other forms of transport, civil aviation could not provide much carrying capacity. By 1926 it was carrying an average of about five thousand letters to the north-west every week (an area where only about six thousand white people lived) but passengers and freight were limited to under a thousand pounds, and often less when it was necessary to carry a mechanic to deal with engine trouble.(75) This limitation meant that the Airways could not compete with coastal steamers in carrying bulk merchandise and had to concentrate on smaller freight items. The size of the cargo-carrying space was also a limitation and, although it was not unusual to put freight into the passenger compartment, that reduced the number of passengers who could be carried. By overseas standards the aeroplanes used in Australia were very small: the De Havilland DH50 was commonly called a taxi-plane in Europe where aeroplanes needed to carry more passengers to meet the demands of greater population densities.(76) Airways' failure to successfully double its weekly capacity from Carnarvon to Perth shows that, in Western Australia at least, there may have been no requirement at that time for a larger capacity service.

Perhaps cost was the main reason for the lack of demand for civil aviation. For most of the 1920s the cost of a one-way ticket from Perth to Derby was £28. By comparison, a steamer berth to that port was £15 first class and £9/15/- steerage.(77) The price difference meant that, unless a traveller was fairly wealthy and needed to save time, steamers were the preferred form of transport. There was a surcharge of three pence for a half ounce letter carried on the air mail service but its large scale use suggests that the cost was not high enough to deter custom.(78) Likewise, freight was quite expensive at three shillings per pound from Perth to Derby, but some items were valuable enough to justify the cost. In summary, it seems that the expense of air transport made users exercise prudence in its use.

During the 1920s civil aviation suffered from another handicap; the public did not think aeroplanes were safe. This was partly because aviation was so new and also had strong links with the war when aeroplanes had been flown by young men who often showed little regard for safety or fear of death. In the 1920s many flying records were set and record-breaking long distance flights accomplished, but for every successful flight there were even more fatal failures eagerly reported in the newspapers. The effect was a bad public safety image for aviation and airline operators like Major Brearley were constantly complaining about it:
"A number of passengers have availed themselves of the service, but owing to the many regrettable tragedies among prominent pilots, our passenger traffic has consequently suffered severe setbacks. By providing a service of such regularity and reliability as we have proved capable of doing, we feel confident that our passenger traffic will steadily increase".(78)


By the end of the first decade of civil aviation in Western Australia it had established a small and largely unremarked place for itself. Why was it small and so quickly taken for granted?

Transport carries people, goods and information across distance. There are a range of transport modes, each having various advantages and disadvantages in relation to the others. Forms of transport may be evaluated by six factors which are: the distance to be travelled; the time to be taken; the amount to be carried; the financial cost; the difficulty or comfort of the trip; and the availability of the transport mode. Combinations of these factors will determine the transport mode to be used on each occasion. A new form of transport must give a significant improvement over existing forms in at least one factor to be attractive to users. The greater the improvement, or the more factors in which improvements are made, the more rapid and widespread the new mode's acceptance.

Civil aviation made only a small place for itself because of the competition it faced. Coastal steamers were slow and their visits to ports infrequent, but they could carry at least twenty times the capacity of an aeroplane for less than half the cost. Initially civil aviation could only offer improvements in travel time and reduce the difficulty of the trip, at the expense of what could be carried and the cost of carriage. However, civil aviation's advantages meant that it gained rapid acceptance when the cost of carriage could be artificially reduced by government subsidy. Had the subsidy been increased the cost of the service may have been further lowered to encourage more people to use it, thus competing more directly with shipping services.

However it is possible that neither the Commonwealth government nor the Airways were very interested in reducing the cost of the service. Subsidy payments were gradually reduced from four shillings a mile in 1922 to two shillings and eleven pence a mile by the end of 1928.(79) At the same time the Airways was paying a constant dividend of ten per cent per annum to its investors and in 1926 about £17,000 of company funds was returned to the investors.(80) If the government had maintained the same level of subsidy or if the Airways had not made such handsome profits from its activities the cost to users might have been much lower. And if that had happened the north-west service may have been much better patronised and civil aviation might have had a greater contribution to make to the region.

On the other hand, the government and the Airways may have recognised that the relatively primitive state of aeronautical technology placed practical limits on the range and carrying capacity of the new transport mode. This limited civil aviation's usefulness, yet the value of the items that the Airways carried along the north-west route meant that the service quickly became almost invaluable. As a result civil aviation rapidly carved itself a niche in mail carriage, special cargoes, limited passenger carriage and emergency work, but left almost untouched every other aspect of life in regions such as the north-west. Within a year or two it had become so commonly used within its sphere in that region that it became barely newsworthy; often only its failure to perform the duties which had become so rapidly allotted to it were noted: "The regularity of the service is phenomenal. We are apt to take it for granted now, but too much praise cannot be given to the management, pilots and mechanics of Airways Ltd for the wonderful record they have created in the Perth-Derby Service".(81)

Aviation technology has developed a lot in the past sixty years and the Airways' successor, Ansett WA, now [c.1989] offers several hundred seats a week, almost every day of the week, to communities spread along the north-west route. It can also fly direct from Perth to a place like Derby in a few hours carrying what would have seemed, in the 1920s, unlimited amounts of mail and freight. In times of emergency civil aviation can now provide useful support to whole communities. Even the most farsighted promoters of aviation in the 1920s could not have imagined the service provided to Darwin in 1975 after Cyclone Tracy. The interstate successor to the Airways, Ansett Airways, now connects Perth with the rest of the continent and there is not a major Australian city that cannot be reached from Perth in a day by air. The Airways' old companion company, Qantas, now connects Perth with London in about a day's flying.

In the long term civil aviation has proved to be a very great help to the development of Australia, in our national defence, in reducing internal isolation and in linking us to the rest of the world. However these large and important changes have occurred without people paying much attention to them. This may be because of the ancillary nature of the services which aviation provides to society and the regularity and reliability of those services. Our expectations of what civil aviation can do have grown with its capabilities, but without any great social or political struggles to mark the changes (until 1989 at any rate).


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(1) Speech by W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister, 9 September 1920, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (hereafter CPD), Vol. 93, pp.4389-90.

(2) West Australian, 5 April 1923, p.7.

(3) John McCarthy, Australia and Imperial Defence 1918-39, University of Queensland Press. St Lucia, 1976, p.14.

(4) Speech by Senator G. F. Pearce, 26 June 1924, CPD Vol. 107, p.1601.

(5) West Australian, 7 April 1922, p.7.

(6) Western Mail, 19 February 1920, p.28. Circular letter from Sir James Connolly, Agent General for Western Australia to various British newspaper editors, 16 January 1922, WA Archives, AN 216/1, Acc 1150, file 1785/5. 'Proposal for Empire Settlement Within the Kimberley Division (Western Australia) by A National Colonization Company, Land Settlement Committee's Report', WA Archives, AN 216/1, Acc 1150, file 1785/10. Letters exchanged between M. P. Durack and the WA Agent General in London, WA Archives, AN 216/1, Acc 1150, file 1785.

(7) West Australian, 31 July 1923, p.6.

(8) Engines were top overhauled after approximately 100 hours operation and completely overhauled at between 200 and 400 hours. Memorandum from the Controller of Civil Aviation to The Air Liaison Officer, Air Ministry, London, 9 October 1925, CRS A705, file 192/12/451.

(9) Edward J Hart, 'Civil Aviation in Australia, 1918-1921', Aircraft, April 30 1927, p.42.

(10) Sir Norman Brearley, Australian Aviator, Seal Books, Adelaide, 1974, pp.43-67.

(11) Letter from H. Gregory, MP, to the Prime Minister, 10 August 1920, CRS A2, file 1920/3061.

(12) Speech by W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister, 9 September 1920, CPD, Volume 93, p.4393.

(13) Speech by Senator G. F. Pearce, Minister for Defence, 17 September 1920, CPD, Volume 93, p.4717. Second Reading of the Air Navigation Bill, 4 November 1920, CPD, Volume 94, p.6231-5.

(14) '... there is reason to believe that the people of Western Australia are under the impression that they have been a trifle neglected, owing to their isolation, since the days of Federation, and it is therefore certain that if the first Government Aerial Service is commenced there it will create great local interest and every possible assistance will be given to ensure its success.' Memorandum by Controller of Civil Aviation, G. A. Shearer, 'The Foundation of the Department of Civil Aviation, 1919-1939', MA Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1960, p.24.

(15) Western Mail, 15 September 1921, p.29.

(16) Western Mail, 4 August 1921, p.29.

(17) Memorandum from Controller of Civil Aviation to Secretary, Department of Defence, 14 July 1921, CRS A1195, file 863/2/114.

(18) A partial service between Geraldton and Port Hedland started on 23 February 1922, Daily News, 20 February 1922, p.4. The full Geraldton to Derby service started in April 1922, Western Mail, 13 April 1922, p.27. John Gunn, The Defeat of Distance, Queensland University Press, St Lucia, 1985, p.65.

(19) Western Mail, 10 January 1924, p.16.

(20) The Supply Bill for 1920 allocated £3,428,049 to the Army, £3,073,329 to the Navy and £600,033 to the Air Force. Statement by Senator G. F. Pearce, Minister for Defence, 13 October 1920, CPD, Volume 94, p.5526.

(21) Plans to recondition twenty-two of the aeroplanes is mentioned in, 'RAAF Gift Equipment to be Reconditioned', Aircraft, 15 September 1924, p.450.

(22) Letter from James Mitchell, Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister, 6 September 1920, CRS A2, file 1920/1389.

(23) Letter from the Prime Minister to the Premier of Western Australia, 26 October 1920, CRS A2, file 1920/1389.

(24) Shearer, op. cit., p.25.

(25) Letter from G. F. Pearce, Minister for Defence to Prime Minister enclosing submission to Cabinet, 18 April 1921, CRS A2717, Vol III Folder 11. File note, 3 May 1921, CRS A1195.

(26) Daily News, 13 June, 1925, p.5. 'Aeroplane Service between Geraldton and Derby, Western Australia - Conditions of Tender', Paragraph 27, CRS A1195, file 863/2/50.

(27) Daily News, 17 February 1925, p.8.

(28) Western Mail, 6 October 1921, p.14.

(29) Daily News, 31 August 1925, p.8.

(30) West Australian, 18 November 1926, p.10.

(31) Western Mail, 21 April 1921, p.42.

(32) Western Mail, 9 April 1925, p.12.

(33) 'Whilst we were in the North-West, one man would willingly have paid £70 to journey the 110 miles between Broome and Derby, and thus obviate the necessity of continuing on to Singapore to get a steamer to return him to Perth to transact important business within a given time.' Speech by the Controller of Civil Aviation to the Australian Aero Club, Aircraft, 31 March 1922, p.16.

(34) West Australian, 8 July 1924. At places like Port Hedland and Broome the Road Boards boasted of but one bridge each and no culverts. For an illuminating example of a car trip through the north-west in the early 1930s see, Paul Hasluck, Mucking About, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1977, pp.228-39.

(35) Western Mail, 26 May 1921, p.27.

(36) 'Advertisements in the metropolitan newspapers give price-lists with which the local storekeeper cannot compete. Therefore, it is increasingly common for even miners living away out to shop in Perth by post, the excellent postal service making it easy as well as cheap to do so.' West Australian, 10 February 1925, p.11.

(37) Western Mail, 13 November 1924. p.28.

(38) Memorandum from Secretary, Postmaster-General's Department to the Secretary, Department of Defence, 11 January 1928, CRS A705, file 192/12/578. West Australian, 11 March 1925, p.5.

(39) Letter from Managing Director, Western Australian Airways to Controller of Civil Aviation, 17 August 1923, CRS A705.

(40) Northern Times, 18 January 1924.

(41) During 1928 the Nor-West Echo listed eighty-seven passengers traveling on the Airways service. Forty were passengers between Broome and Derby, sixteen between Broome and nearby stations, nineteen between Broome/Derby and Perth and sixteen to other places. Various issues, Nor-West Echo, 1928.

(42) After August 1923 the rate was 2/6 per pound from Perth to ports as far as Onslow and 3/- per pound beyond Onslow. Letter from Managing Director, Western Australian Airways to Controller of Civil Aviation, 17 August 1923, CRS A705, file 192/12/321.

(43) Western Mail, 13 November 1924, p.28.

(44) Daily News, 23 July 1923, p.5.

(45) West Australian, 31 August 1927, p.10.

(46) In January 1926 an Airways pilot flew to Derby, which was isolated through cyclone damage, although he could not be sure what condition the landing ground would be in when he arrived, Nor-West Echo, 30 January 1926.

(47) West Australian, 5 May 1922, p.8. Western Mail, 6 February 1924, p.6.

(48) Daily News, 26 December 1923, p.4.

(49) Nor-West Echo, 2 January 1926.

(50) West Australian, 17 April 1925, p.13. Neville Parnell & Trevor Broughton, Flypast: A Record of Aviation in Australia, AGPS Press, Canberra, 1988, pp.116-17.

(51) West Australian, 18 March 1927, p.10.

(52) West Australian, 10 February 1925, p.11.

(53) West Australian, 6 September 1926, p.8.

(54) Various issues, Nor-West Echo, 1928.

(55) Letter from the Secretary of the Ashburton Road Board to the Controller of Civil Aviation, 22 January 1923, CRS A705.

(56) Letter from the Controller of Civil Aviation to the Managing Director, Western Australian Airways, 16 April 1923, CRS A705, file 192/12/306.

(57) Letter from the Secretary of the Ashburton Road Board to the Controller of Civil Aviation, 22 January 1923, CRS A705.

(58) West Australian, 3 July 1928, p.13.

(59) West Australian, 7 July 1927.

(60) Memorandum from the Secretary, Department of Defence to the Secretary, Prime Minister's Department, 8 November 1927, CRS A1606. file C4/1.

(61) West Australian, 9 July 1927.

(62) Robin Higham, Britain's Imperial Air Routes 1918 to 1939, Foulis & Co, London, 1961, p.125. Seven KLM flights were planned for 1928, twelve flights for 1929 and a more frequent schedule thereafter. West Australian, 27 April 1928, p.19.

(63) Higham, op. cit., pp.170-5. Translations from NEI newspapers sent by the British Consul-General at Batavia to various people including the Governor-General of Australia, 26 February 1926, CRS A461, file B314/1/8.

(64) Western Mail, 19 February 1920, p.28.

(65) 'Proposal for Empire Settlement Within the Kimberley Division (Western Australia) by A National Colonization Company, Land Settlement Committee's Report',p.9, WA Archives, AN 216/1, Acc 1150, file 1785/10.

(66) ibid, p.10.

(67) Aircraft, 10 March 1921, pp.129-130. The Airways aeroplanes cost £12,000, the erection of hangars cost £2,000 and spares cost £2,000. Letter from N Brearley, Managing Director, Western Australian Airways to Senator Pearce, Minister for Defence, 19 September 1921, CRS A705, file 192/12/70.

(68) Air Council Minutes 'Experimental Aerial and Mail Service', 10 May 1921, CRS A1195, file 863/2/50.

(69) Aircraft, 10 March 1921.

(70) Note by Minister for Defence, 28 December 1923, CRS A705, file 192/12/694. Parnell & Broughton, op. cit., 1988, p.52.

(71) West Australian, 6 December 1926, p.10.

(72) Memorandum from Controller of Civil Aviation to The Air Liaison Officer, Air Ministry, London, 9 October 1925, CRS A705 file 192/12/451.

(73) West Australian, 26 January 1926, p.6.

(74) Memorandum from the Secretary, Department of Defence to the Secretary, Postmaster-General's Department, 12 September 1932, CRS A705, file 192/12/722.

(75) West Australian, 8 May 1925, p.10.

(76) 'It is considered that the standard Bristol Fighter is under-ruddered and unsafe in the hands of an inexperienced pilot who may accidentally stall near the ground'. Memorandum from the Controller of Civil Aviation to the Secretary, Department of Defence, 11 March 1926, CRS A705, file 192/12/528.

(77) Letter from E Johnston, Superintendent of Aerodromes to Controller of Civil Aviation, 1 May 1925, CRS A705.

(78) Thirty-eight De Havilland DH50s were constructed, twenty-one of them operated in Australia and only two stayed in Great Britain for use by Imperial Airways. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, Orbis Publishing, London, Volume 6, Issue 68, p.1357. During the late 1920s Imperial Airways operated the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy with a crew of four and twenty passengers and the De Havilland Hercules with a crew of three and fourteen passengers. Higham, op. cit., p.339.

(79) Memorandum from the Controller of Civil Aviation to The Air Liaison Officer, Air Ministry, London, 9 October 1925, CRS A705.

(80) Western Mail, 1 December 1921, p.27.

(81) Letter from N Brearley, Managing Director, Western Australian Airways to the Secretary, Department of Defence, 5 July 1922, CRS A705, file 192/12/306. Brearley also had strong connections with the West Australian, which ran many editorials supporting his views. For example, 'The Dominion of the Air', 30 May 1927, p.8; 'Flying, its Uses and Abuses', 5 September 1927, p.8; and then in quick succession 'Flying up to Date', 11 January 1928, p.16; 'Another Air Tragedy?', 12 January 1928, p.8; and 'Stunt Flying', 26 January 1928, p.16.

(82) Letter from Secretary, Department of Defence to Secretary, West Australian Airways, 8 July 1929, CRS A705, file 192/12/617.

(83) 'The West Australian Airways Limited - Reconstruction of old company Western Australian Airways Limited', Minute from Finance Officer, 23 March 1927, CRS A705, file 192/12/551.

(84) Northern Times, 19 September 1924, p.2.