Leonard Deleuil, MBE (1905-2000)

Leonard Adolphe 'Dooley' Deleuil started work in 1921 as a deck boy on the Australian passenger ship Wyandra. The traditional breaking-in period for new boys was hard and often dull. Five months was enough to convince Leo that the wireless room was warmer and more comfortable than the deck.

He joined the Marconi school of Wireless in 1923 and returned to sea late in 1924 as Junior Radio Operator aboard the SS Kut – a ‘limejuicer’ tramp bound for China and Japan. Signing off in Hong Kong he got back to Sydney and joined AWA in 1925, serving in several ships of the old Australian Commonwealth Line. After a spell in AWA's London Office, he returned to sea on the Singapore, Hong Kong, Australian coastal and New Zealand runs. He worked on twenty-eight vessels in all, plus some specials on tugs and trawlers.

A short term at Mascot Aviation (airborne) radio in 1937, prior to one more sea voyage, was to change his life.

Back in Sydney on the Montoro, he made his way to the Head Office of AWA to make the usual report. The welcome from staff in the Marine Office seemed bigger than usual: "Hugo wants to see you immediately" (Marine Superintendent Mr Hugo Phillips). Hugo’s greeting was short and to the point. "We want you on tonight’s train to Canberra". Thus began the birth of Canberra Aeradio. At Canberra, Drake Richmond (an AWA engineer, famous among other things as a motor racing driver) and Leo were to install a temporary aeradio station and Bellini-Tosi Direction Finding receiver and have it in action ungently. The report on the lost Stinson VH-UHH had prompted the move and AWA was asked to install several temporary radio stations to be followed later by permanent installations.

Arriving in Canberra on 23 May 1937 they were met by officers of the Department of Interior and driven to the ‘aerodrome’. The group stood on a cold, wind-swept paddock near a newly completed galvanised iron hangar, the only structure apart from a small wooden room used by ANA. A farm on the opposite side of the paddock was the only sign of life except for a flock of sheep grazing on the 'aerodrome'.

Canberra Aeradio was operating a month later with Leo as the operator and technician, and in fact the sole occupant of the aerodrome. The Holymans DH-86 service - daily except Sunday – operated Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney in the morning, and returned in the afternoon. Pilots were Len Taylor and Peter Gibbes, alternating with Harry Purvis and Dick Probin. Click here to see a postcard flown on the inaugural Holymans Airways service from Sydney to Melbourne, via Canberra. Later a DH Rapide service between Melbourne, Wagga and Sydney was started and Ansett's began a sunday service in 1938.

Leo recalled the occasion when, in a blinding dust storm, the pilot of Ansett’s inaugural Lockheed 10 service between Adelaide and Sydney was unable to locate Sydney. Dust static made communication almost impossible, but Leo was able to give the pilot bearings from Canberra and this assisted him to find Mascot. On another occasion, after putting down at Canberra in shallow fog the pilot of a DH86 had to ask Leo for directions to locate the hangar.

Leo joined Darwin Aeradio in January 1947 and became associated with a group of Aeradio Operators who were the pioneers of Flight Service.

Leo Deleuil became the Regional Flight Service Supervisor, Western Australia, a position from which he retired in 1970. He was remembered by aviators, thanks to an airways reporting point "Dooley" being named in his honour.

Leonard Adolphe ‘Dooley’ Deleuil, MBE, died in the year 2000, aged 95. He was one of the true air traffic services pioneers.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

Back to the main Departmental People Index

If this page does not have menu bars at top and left, click here