Christmas Greetings From Australia – First All Australian Airmail Flight 1931

First Flight  from Australia to England on Australian National Airways Limited’s “First all-Australian Air Mail Service” in 1931

Published by kind permission of the Orange County Philatelic Society

First All Australian Airmail Flight 1931

Cover First All Australian Airmail Flight 1931 FIG. 1

This article is a continuation of the history of the competition for a contract to carry the mail between England and Australia. Figure 1 is a scan of a First Flight Cover from Australia to England on Australian National Airways Limited’s “First all-Australian Air Mail Service” in 1931. The following historical information about the cover is from the Australian Airways Museum & Civil Aviation Historical Society web site,

“Australian National Airways Ltd. (ANA), having abandoned their interstate services following the loss of their Avro X VH-UMF Southern Cloud, arranged the first all-Australian air mail flight to England carrying a special air mail for the Christmas of 1931.

Modified Avro X VH-UNA Southern Sun departed Hobart on 19 November piloted by G U “Scotty” Allan with relief pilot R N Boulton and wireless operator L M Callaghan. In addition to a mail comprising an estimated 52,000 items, the only passenger on the flight was CCA” (Controller of Civil Aviation) “Lt Col Horace Brinsmead who was picked up in Melbourne. The flight proceeded via Sydney, Brisbane, Longreach, Camooweal, Newcastle Waters, Darwin, Koepang, Bima, Surabaya, Batavia and Singapore to Alor Star (Kedah) in Malaya (Malaysia). However, owing to the sodden airfield, the aircraft crashed and was wrecked on takeoff (at Alor Star).

Lt. Col. Brinsmead, who was involved in negotiations for the air mail route between England and Australia, decided to catch the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines service rather than wait for the ANA replacement aircraft. Unfortunately, the KLM flight crashed on takeoff from Bangkok, Thailand and he was seriously injured.

The ANA Christmas mail was salvaged from the Southern Sun crash site and Kingsford Smith was summoned to the rescue. He duly arrived and on 5 December Smithy, Allan and Bob Boulton set out once again for London in Avro X VH-UMG Southern Star. They arrived on 16 December 1931 after refueling stops in Rangoon (Burma), Calcutta (West Bengal, India), Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh, India), Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India), Karachi (Pakistan), Jask (Iran), Bushire (Iran), Baghdad (Iraq), Aleppo (Syria), Athens, Rome and Lyon (France).

The cover in Figure 1 was specially printed for the flight by ANA. It originated in Dee Why, a northern suburb of Sydney, and was postmarked there on 17 November 1931 as is attested to by the lovely “DEE WHY N.S.W.” circular date cancel on two Australia #C1’s [Catalog Numbers Referenced from the Scott 2014 Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps & Covers 1840-1940], #C2, featuring Kingsford Smith’s Southern Cross over the eastern and western hemispheres, and George V Head #71 or #118. The cover includes a violet cachet “Special Air Mail Flight Nov 1931 Australia-England”.

This cover was apparently one of the “52000 items”, which survived this special “marketing” first airmail flight from Australia to England with Christmas greetings from Australia to a friend who lived in a house or estate named “Edale” on Broad Road, town of Sale, near Manchester, England. This cover would have been transported from the Dee Why Post Office to what is now Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) to be placed on board the Southern Sun.

Ken Coulson