Cambridge's Connections With
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
and the crew of the "Southern Cross"
Photo from the Frank Green Collection, Cambridge Museum
Pictured above is Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm's famous Fokker Trimotor VH-USU, known as the "Southern Cross". This was the first aircraft and crew to successfully fly across the Tasman Sea, in 1928. The aeroplane is received here, as everywhere, by a large and enthusiastic crowd of people, and notably many children. Those kids were the generation who a decade later may well have been in the RNZAF or WAAF themselves. This photograph was taken by local Cambridge resident Mr Frank Green. It was actually almost certainly taken at the airfield on Victoria Road, Cambridge, in February 1934.
There were two significant Cambridge visits of the Southern Cross crew, the first in 1928 by car and the second in 1934 in the "Old Bus" herself, the Southern Cross. And there were also Cambridge connections to the 1933 tour of New Zealand.
The 1928 Visit of the
'Southern Cross' Crew
The 'Southern Cross' was crewed by pilot Charles Kingsford Smith, co-pilot Charles Ulm, navigator Harold A. Litchfield and wireless operator Tom H. McWilliam, on her first historic Tasman crossing. It was the first aircraft to successfully cross the Tasman Sea, which lies between Australia and New Zealand.
The first crossing was made west to east, leaving from Sydney and battling through a torrential storm before the plane landed at Wigram aerodrome on the 11th of September 1928. Although already well known for being the first to fly across the Pacific in May that year, this feat meant the aviators became instant heroes across New Zealand. They had planned a tour of the country, but the storm during the sea crossing had damaged the Fokker Trimotor extensively, so the Southern Cross was left at Wigram where the New Zealand Permanent Air Force staff repaired the aircraft for free. Meanwhile the NZPAF provided three Bristol Fighters to the team and the four of them flew to the North Island via Woodbourne, to start the tour.
While at Woodbourne, Blenheim Kingsford Smith and Ulm were made honorary members of the New Zealand Air Force (Reserve). I guess this was to entitle them to fly the Bristol Fighters.
1928 Visit To Cambridge
They flew as far north to Auckland, via Hawera. Once in Auckland the crew parted company with the planes, and were chauffeured south by limousines to Hamilton, Cambridge and Rotorua so members of the public had a chance to see their new heroes in the flesh. They passed through Cambridge on Thursday the 20th of September 1928.
Above: Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew arrive in Cambridge by limousine, on the 10th of September 1928, and are greeted on the steps of the Cambridge Town Hall by local dignitaries, military officials, boy scouts, school children and hundreds of onlookers. Photo: Cambridge Museum Here is a report about that brief visit from the Waikato Independent newspaper published two days later.
FAMOUS AIRMEN IN CAMBRIDGE
Cambridge district folk and especially the school children were delighted at the opportunity provided of seeing the Tasman fliers on Thursday afternoon when passing through by car on their way to Rotorua, but they were just a little disappointed that their stay was so brief.
About noon advice was received that Squadron-Leader Kingsford Smith, Flight Lieut. C.P. Ulm and their colleagues would arrive in Cambridge about 2.30, and from 2 p.m. onwards, there was a steady stream of people to the Town Hall. By 2.30 a crowd had assembled numbering fully 1500, including about 500 children. The big crowd was grouped on the Town Hall steps and in the vicinity while the school children were lined up along the street. The senior cadets formed a guard of honour near the steps of the hall.
Punctually at 2.30 a big Studebaker car rounded the corner from Victoria Street and its coloured streamers indicated that the conquerors of the Pacific and Tasman seas were in Cambridge. Cheer upon cheer rang out as the car pulled up, the cheering being still more pronounced when Lieut. Ulm stepped from the vehicle to be immediately followed by Squadron-Leader Kingsford Smith.
The leader was the cynosure of all eyes as his characteristic smile flashed across his face, the whole assemblage cheering him and his colleagues to the echo. It was a wonderful welcome and manifested the great interest and enthusiasm of Cambridge folk in the intrepid airmen.
A brief welcome was extended by His Worship the Mayor, Mr T.F. Richards, with whom were associated the Vicar, Rev. Lionel Harvie, and Rev. Jas. Hay. The airmen, along with Messrs McWilliam and Litchfield, were escorted round so that all could say they had seen the famous fliers, and they also inspected the lines of the school children. They then immediately re-entered their cars and sped away on the journey to Rotorua.
As the airmen were about to leave autograph hunters got busy, but only two persons were lucky, while one well-known resident was so excited that he mounted the running board of the aviator's car and shook hands with both Kingsford Smith and Ulm.
I would love to know who that 'well-known resident' was, and who the lucky two autograph hunters were. Those signatures would be worth a fortune today.
Above: A rather casual and suave looking Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in Cambridge. This photo originated from an unknown magazine published a few days after the visit, and is held as part of the Captain Watson Collection in the Cambridge Museum In the photo also are Capt. Frank Watson with the little girl, Frances Wallace, on his shoulder. In front of him is Mrs Haig with the basket, and the man's face in the rear is thought to be solicitor Sam Lewis. The children were from Maungatautari School, which is just outside of Cambridge.
After leaving Cambridge the aviators were driven down to Rotorua, and eventually back to Auckland by car, where they collected the Bristol Fighters and flew back down to Christchurch, via Wanganui and Blenheim. They picked up the now-repaired 'Old Bus' and flew her up to Woodbourne, Blenheim, from where they prepared for and carried out the first east to west crossing of the Tasman.
So, it's clear that during the 1928 visit, the Southern Cross cannot have come to Cambridge as it never came any further north than Woodbourne.
As an added bonus, to complete such an exciting week in Cambridge, another related event took place when the official film of the Tasman Flight (made only days before) was screened in the Cambridge Town Hall. It aired on the evenings of Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th of September 1928, with a special matinee also screening on the Wednesday 3.15pm.
Cambridge's keenest aviation fans could see the footage of the Southern Cross making its arrival at Wigram in Christchurch, and also the accompanying feature film Shanghai Bound starring Richard Dix. No doubt this was a sell out on all three showings. The Waikato Independent even uncharacteristically printed a photo of Kingsford Smith with the advert. He is seen here with a very small boy, and this photo is from a school visit he'd made just days before at Point Chevalier in Auckland. perhaps that small boy is still alive today?
Above: The Southern Cross crew leaving Cambridge, swamped by the crowd of admirers. This photo was donated to the Cambridge Museum by the late Ron Dunford
The 1933 Visit to New Zealand of
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
and the crew of the "Southern Cross"
Smithy's plan had been to inaugurate a regular Trans-Tasman airline service, but in 1932 he found that giving joyrides around places in Australia was a very lucrative way to stay in business. So he decided to put airline plans on hold and take the Southern Cross back to New Zealand in early 1933 to do the same, a joyride tour, and raise some money.
The Old Bus touched down in New Plymouth, at Bell Block aerodrome, on the 11th of January 1933, after a 14 hour, 10 minute flight across the Tasman. It now wore its new registration codes of VH-USU. The aircraft, carrying its 'Southern Cross' name in larger white letters than on the previous trip, was escorted into New Plymouth by five de Havilland Gipsy Moths that had flown out to meet it.
Aboard on this crossing was Smithy, with Captain Patrick G. Taylor navigator, John Stannage as radio operator, and two passengers. The tour and joyriding then commenced, and the aircraft's itinerary was thus:
New Plymouth - 13th to 17th of January 1933
Rotorua - 17th of January
Gisborne - 18th to 20th of January
Hastings - 20th of January
Napier - 22nd of January
Wanganui - 23rd to 25th of January
Waihi - 26th to 27th of January
Auckland - 27th of January to 1st of February
Whangarei - 1st of February
Hamilton - 2nd to 4th of February
Palmerston North - 4th of February
At Palmerston North's Milson aerodrome the aircraft suffered a severe mishap when it ran into a poorly filled-in ditch during taxiing, causing extensive damage to a wing. It was repaired there, and was test flown on the 23rd of February. The tour eventually continued with visits to the following:
Ashburton - 2nd to 4th of March
Christchurch - 4th to 7th of March
Timaru - 7th and 8th of March
Oamaru - 9th of March
Cromwell - 10th of March
Invercargill - 11th of March
Dunedin - 12th to 15th of March
Oamaru - 16th of March
Blenheim - 17th of March
Wellington - 20th to 21st of March
Dannevirke - 21st of March
New Plymouth - 22nd of March
The Fokker was accompanied on the tour by other aircraft, including Wellington Aero Club's Waco QDC (ZK-ACV) which was piloted by George Bolt, who took joyrides too in places where capacity was too large for the Southern Cross to handle. Also Rotorua Airways' Puss Moth (ZK-ABG) and a Simmons Sparton (ZK-ABN) which was nicknamed "Southern Cross Kitten". These two planes flew ahead of the tour with groundcrew to ensure aerodromes were prepared, etc.
After the last visit to new Plymouth the Southern Cross was ferried north to Hukatere, Ninety Mile Beach, from where it made the trip back across the Tasman on the 26th of March 1933. They had now gained a co-pilot, Tom Pethybridge.
1933 Tour - Cambridge's Connections
During the 1933 tour of New Zealand made by the 'Southern Cross', two people from Cambridge actually went along for the ride. These were Mr Ted Harvie and Mr Daniel Edward Creed.
Ted Harvie a young keen aviation fan that had talked his way onto the crew for the tour after writing a letter to Kingsford Smith as soon as he read of the plans for the tour in 1932, some time before the second visit. He obviously made enough of an impression to warrant the invitation to join the crew.
Harvie was only 20 years old, and not yet a qualified pilot, but he'd been around aircraft for some years, had flown many hours as a passenger and was quite an expert. Later in the year he would gain his 'A' License and would begin making history himself. More of his achievements are to be found on other pages of this site here and here. Ted had lived in Cambridge when he was younger, and by 1933 he was mainly living in Auckland but he did spend a considerable amount of time in Cambridge with his uncle and aunts.
Whilst operated out of Rukuhia on the 2nd of February 1933, the Southern Cross actually flew over Cambridge. This is detailed in the following article:
This article comes from the Waikato Independent dated 4th of February 1933
THE SOUTHERN CROSS
FLIGHT OVER CAMBRIDGE.
LOCAL RESIDENTS GO UP.
A FEW IMPRESSIONS.
A crowd, estimated at 3000, welcomed Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and the Southern Cross, at the Rukuhia landing-ground on Thursday afternoon shortly after two o’clock. The Air Commodore and his party were given a fine reception.
On behalf of the people of the Waipa County, Mr S. C. Macky, county chairman, extended a hearty welcome to the famous pilot, who made a characteristic reply. There were many Cambridge district residents in the welcoming crowd. There was a rush of bookings, but flying conditions were not as good as anticipated and Sir Charles ceased flying at 4.30 p.m.
Flight Over Cambridge.
To the delight of the residents of Cambridge who were unable to take part in the welcome at Rukuhia on Thursday, the Southern Cross flew over Cambridge yesterday morning shortly after 11 o’clock. Earlier in the morning the acting-town clerk, Mr F. H. Green, got into telephonic communication with Sir Charles on behalf of the Mayor and Borough Council, and he readily agreed to fly over the district.
Shortly after 11 o’clock the roar of an aeroplane was heard, and with the exclamation from someone, “There’s Smithy!” there was a rush from shops and business premises, and soon hundreds of necks craned skywards. The big ’plane circled the district twice, the second time at a reasonably low altitude and a fine view' was obtained of the famous monoplane. Many estimates were given of the altitude of the Southern Cross on her second circle of the district, from 300 ft to 1500 ft. Just what altitude was registered would be interesting to know. It was a dull sky which gave the impression that the monoplane was lower than was actually the case.
Impressions of Flight.
Among local residents who went up in the Southern Cross were Messrs W. Stopford, B. Joyce, D. C. Erb, H. Tucker, R. Sayers, D. Creed and Constable W. Trask.
When asked for his impressions of the flight in the Southern Cross Constable Trask said it was most enjoyable, though not as thrilling as he had anticipated. The big ’plane had left the ground before he had realised he was well above terra firma. There were one or two slight “bumps,” but in the cabin one lost the sense of speed and altitude. It was like riding in a big car on a perfectly smooth road.
Mr D. Creed, expressed a similar impression of the ’plane’s take-off. He stated that when flying at a considerable altitude and at 100 miles an hour, one lost the sense of speed and it almost seemed that the ’plane was stationary. The turning of the machine was distinctly felt. It was only during the landing approach that the passenger realised the speed of the ’plane as ground objects rapidly assumed their natural proportions.
Mr W. Stopford, who also took his small son up with him, expressed similar impressions to those voiced by Mr Creed.
Flight to Palmerston North.
Mr D. Creed, secretary for Messrs Souter and Co., will be among the passengers in the Southern Cross on its flight from Hamilton to Palmerston North to-day. Mr Creed intends to visit his parents.
Daniel Creed, who was mentioned above, was an accountant and he worked as the secretary for the garage of Messrs Souter and Co., in Cambridge. Not much more is known about him just at the moment, but he has provided us, via the 1933 newspapers, with his wonderful impressions of the tour. This first report tells of Creed's flight south made on Saturday the 4th of February 1933.
This article comes from the Waikato Independent dated 7th of February 1933
TRAVELLING BY AIR
CAMBRIDGE MAN'S IMPRESSIONS
LONG FLIGHT IN SOUTHERN CROSS
A flight of nearly four hours duration over Waikato, King Country and Taranaki is an experience which leaves an indelible impression, and when such a flight is made in the famous "Southern Cross," piloted by the equally famous aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, there cannot fail to be aroused an intense interest and a deep sense of security.
Country's Glorious Panorama
On taking off from Rukuhia aerodrome the 'plane was headed for Te Awamutu, and when over this town at an altitude of one thousand feet the Observer could beheld a glorious panorama of the Waikato. Otorohanga, Te Kuiti and Taumaranui were also flown over in compliance with the numerous requests received. After leaving Te Kuiti, with the altimeter registering 1500 feet, one got a very fair conception of the ruggedness of that extensive territory comprising the King Country, and this was even more perceptible after we left Taumaranui and were flying over the upper reaches of the Wanganui River, the plane in some instances being only a few hundred feet above the hill-tops. We were climbing as we approached Taumaranui and our altitude was 2500 feet; the main trunk line winding through the valleys was but a strand of steel.
Sir Charles was now heading the 'plane for the mountains, and we were flying in the clouds with threatening weather ahead and very poor visibility. It was here that the pilot exercised that caution which has carried him through many difficulties, and the course was altered to New Plymouth where a perfect landing was made at 2 p.m.
The passage over the hill country was bumpy, and it appeared that travelling long distances by air was not a pleasurable experience for all who attempted it; the behaviour of some being such as would suggest that they were experiencing those peculiar sensations usually associated with sea voyages.
With refuelling completed, we immediately took off from New Plymouth and flew very low over the smiling Taranaki pastures. At this stage the weather was fair and the view beneath was a sight to remember. A pleasing feature, and one which must have gratified the pilot, was the enthusiasm displayed at every town and farm along the route; and even the occupants of the isolated shacks in the depths of the hill country were none the less demonstrative.
But even enthusiasm may prove to be the cause of one's misfortune, as was the case of a Taranaki terrier, which endeavoured to out-distance the 'plane and was run down by a motorist cutting the same caper, with his attention rivetted on the Southern Cross instead of the main highway. So low was the 'plane flying that the name of at least one hostelry was discernable. No landing was made there however.
After leaving Hawera the weather again became boisterous and occasionally the movement of the 'plane was not unlike that of a vessel riding a wave. Sir Charles here pursued a course down the coast as far as Wanganui. The flight over the sea recalled to one's mind the story of the Tasman crossing.
Arrival at Palmerston North
A short distance out from Wanganui we were met by an aeroplane from the Palmerston North Club and escorted to the aerodrome, the Southern Cross circling the town en route, not far above the house tops. Thousands had gathered at the aerodrome, and many had waited in the rain for more than three hours to view the landing of the famous 'plane.
It was, therefore, a matter for regret that their enthusiasm was subdued by the mishap which is now history in the realm of flying-men. A good landing was made on a rough ground, and the 'plane was returning to the aerodrome at a very slow speed when one of the wheels sank in a drain that had been recently filled. This caused the damage already reported. Apart from a slight jolt the passengers in the cabin hardly realised that anything unusual had taken place, and from our point of view the happening was but the final thrill of a memorable flight.
The writer is not prepared to say whether Sir Charles Kingsford Smith viewed the matter in the same light, but judging from his smiling countenance and cheery manner there could be no doubt he regarded the mishap philosophically.
After repairs were carried out to the Southern Cross, the tour continued, and Creed was once again aboard.
This article comes from the Waikato Independent dated 2nd of May 1933
SEEING THE SOUTH ISLAND FROM THE SOUTHERN CROSS
By D. E. Creed
It was in the early afternoon of March 2nd the the Southern Cross, with a mighty roar from its three engines, raced across the field of Levin Airport to rise gracefully in the face of a light southerly breeze, and we were on our way. Piles of fleecy clouds were lying on the Tararuas, but the sky overhead was clear, and Kapiti Island stood out majestically in a calm blue sea.
Pursuing a course parallel to the coast, we were soon above the capital, and, heading for Marlborough, found the conditions over Cook Strait to be ideal; the giant 'plane not making the slightest quiver to complete the crossing in twenty-eight minutes.
After passing Blenheim we headed for the ranges directly southward, which were to provide us with thrills to break the monotony of the smoother passage over the sea. Downward air currents were soon in evidence, and encountering one, we dropped like a stone for a considerable distance. The momentary sensation having passed, I found myself in a standing attitude, but experienced some measure of relief on observing that such an uprising on my part was not an individual effort, the sudden fall of an aircraft for one hundred feet, or perhaps considerably more, being an occasion when all the occupants of the passengers' cabin rise as one man. Later we were treated to several repetitions of this thriller.
Brushing the Mountainside
As we continued along our chosen course, it immediately became apparent that the 'plane would have to 'work its passage' so to speak, for the ranges were looming ahead. Greater altitude was necessary, but we were not 'rising to the occasion.' Still nearer and with our altitude unchanged - a glance at the altimeter confirmed this; the contour of the mountain slopes was becoming more distinctly discernable each moment.
Looking about I saw faces with strained expressions. Could the old bus lift itself over? It was a matter of seconds! The down draught must win! It did win!! But our pilot again demonstrated his profound dislike for sudden impacts, and the 'plane turned gracefully to the right, the wing almost brushing the mountain side. In making a circuit to gain altitude we just cleared a peak to the rear and were back above our former course, and with all three engines flat out took our obstacle with a rush that carried us over by a comfortable margin.
We were now climbing, with the 'plane bumping badly. Occasionally Sir Charles turned to see how the occupants of the cabin were faring, and that characteristic 'Smithy' smile was sufficient to dispel any thoughts of doubt. In the distance rose the towering Kaikoura peaks, those Sentinels of the south, with Tapuaenuku raising his head well nigh ten thousand feet as though in very defiance of our seeming intrusion; but our pilot was not intent on trying conclusions, and an altered course brought us out over the coast at the estuary of the Clarence River. Flying over the ocean (after passing the town of Kaikoura) as far as New Brighton, we turned inland for the city of the plains, circling the square just out of reach of the Cathedral Spire. Streets and thoroughfares were thronged, necessitating the suspension of traffic for the moment.
3000 Feet above Canterbury
Continuing on from Christchurch we arrived at Ashburton with an escort of six 'planes, and the reception at this, our first port of call in the South Island, was magnificent, and proved to be a foretaste of the outstanding enthusiasm with which 'Smithy' and his 'old bus' were received right throughout the tour.
A return to Christchurch was made a few days later.
On taking off from Wigram Aerodrome on our flight to Timaru a tail wind aided us to attain a speed of one hundred miles per hour at three thousand feet. A deep blue haze hung over the sea, and the ranges in the middle distance were enveloped in a light mist through which we had occasional glimpses of the snow-clad peaks of the Southern Alps. It was indeed a pleasing spectacle.
Stretching from the coast to the foot of the ranges, and away before us as far as the eye could see, were the fields of the Canterbury Plains, like a checkered board of brown and gold, with the oval-topped wheat stacks resembling pawn pieces on a chess-board. Far beneath, the mile and a quarter bridge spanning the Rakaia River might have been taken for a while as a chalk-line on the clay. A variation of scene met our gaze after crossing the Ashburton River , and again when bearing down on Timaru, the country being undulating and broken by rivers which cross the plains.
Across the Southern Alps
Remarkably fair weather still favoured us and we took our departure from Timaru for Central Otago, and with a following wind we were sailing along at a good clip. As we passed over the Waihoe Downs at three thousand feet an excellent and uninterrupted view was obtained of Mt. Cook, that almighty monarch of the Alps, whose snow-clad peak and slopes glistened in the brilliant morning sunshine. Soaring high as Waitaki River was crossed we rose to a shade under six thousand feet to find our way through Dansey's Pass for a distance of twelve miles between the Ewe and Hawdun Ranges on one side and the Kakanui and Horse Ranges on the other; a thousand peaks appeared on every side; conical peaks of rock, devoid of vegetation.
Now out over more open country the famous Kyeburn Diggings were observed, and this sense of extensive gold sluicing operations in bygone days looked, to us, no more than a rabbit warren. The 'plane was not dawdling, and view gave place to view. Over Naseby the snowfields of the Southern Alps hove into sight; it was a magnificent scene, and there was contentment in the thought that one had at least a nodding acquaintance with this Switzerland of the Southern Alps.
Further process carried us over the route of the Central Otago Railway; a train was halted on the line, protesting, no doubt, against the invasion from a pioneer of a competitive service. From our viewpoint it was but a toy, and we passed on. Nevertheless, from an altitude of five thousand feet, there was an attraction which compelled my unswerving gaze upon this strand of steel as it wound its way through the fertile Ida and Manuherikia Valleys to lose itself in the ranges beyond, and finally reappear to bear witness to the achievements of man in the paths of progress.
A noticeable feature in this locality was the greenness of the fields, a contrast to the Canterbury Plains and due to the irrigation systems whose channels, coming down the barren mountain slopes, were as threads of silver.
Swooping down over the Manukerikia River and the southern extremity of the Dunstan Mountains, a landing was made on Cromwell Flat.
Between Walls of Rock
In proceeding on our flight still further southward an entry was made into the famous Kawerau Gorge at an altitude of five hundred feet, and in the course of a gradual ascent the tips of the wings seemed almost to touch the towering walls of rock on either side. This was no place for a forced landing. Below was the raging torrent of Kawarau, and we followed its tortuous course for twenty odd miles, passing the Crown Range with its cultivated terraced slopes, and Arrowtown at its feet.
Flying in close proximity to the Kawarau Dam and then through a light cloud formation we found ourselves out over Lake Wakatipu where the clouds were level with the mountain tops, but Old Sol drew aside the veil to permit of our witnessing a scene of indescribably beauty. The Remarkables stood out in bold relief, and two thousand feet below were the still blue waters of the lake with Queenstown nestling on the farther shore. The pilot 'plane hugging the mountain side, was but a wasp by comparison. Our course now took us down the lake to Kingston and along the route of the railway to Invercargill. There were indications of brighter weather as we passed over Lumsden, and shafts of sunlight pierced the clouds to patch the green pastures of the plains with gold. It was a glorious panorama that opened out before us and stretched away over Oreti Plain to the Southern coast , beyond which the hazy outline of Stewart Island rose from out the sea.
Enthusiasm in Southland
There was no questioning the enthusiasm of these Southerners, it was exceeded only by their hospitality; consequently a big crowd assembled to witness our departure from Invercargill for Dunedin with an escort of six 'planes. perfect flying conditions prevailed, but an exceedingly rough passage was experienced for a brief space as we passed the bush-clad hills of Hokonui. Keeping an even keel was beyond even the Southern Cross when it encountered the firewater fumes which wafted across the morning breeze from the illicit stills in the Hokonui bush.
Flying low along the Mataura River we circled over Gore as a compliment to the residents who had prepared a landing ground in anticipation of the town being included in our itinerary. Thence up the Clinton Valley and over Balclutha and Lake Waipori to Taieri Aerodrome, Dunedin, where we witnessed the greatest reception of the tour. It was a wonderful tribute to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
Warm Welcome at Dunedin
In the vicinity of ten thousand people were present, and, mingling with the crowd, one felt the warmth of their welcome, and witnessed their practical enthusiasm by the manner in which they rushed the ticket office to book flights. We dispelled from our minds for all the false notion that requires a crowbar to prise a Dunedin Scot and a pound note apart. A longer stay in this fine city would have been appreciated by us all, but itineraries permit of no delay.
Heading North from Taieri we flew up Otago Harbour to Port Chalmers, and finding a passage through the hills came out over Blueskin Bay to proceed up the coast to Oamaru, where we the practical Southern enthusiasm in aviation also in evidence.
On resuming our homeward flight, we took off before sunrise the following day, and crossing the Waitaki River, now swollen as a result of the influence of the wind on the snowfields and glaciers, passed between Waimate and the coast to encounter dark and threatening weather which necessitated the use of the electric lights in the cabin.
Through Black Rainclouds
The 'plane was rocking as we flew up the coast through black rainclouds. The sun had just risen, and through a break in the clouds threw a golden gleam across the ocean. Calling at Timaru to allow passengers to disembark, we witnessed a very practical demonstration of rapidity of movement not usually associated with the customary means of locomotion, for within five minutes of landing we were back in the air and away out over Caroline Bay, whence we retraced the course of our flight Southward, over the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch. At this stage the conditions made for smoother travel; most of the occupants of the cabin were enjoying a morning nap; the early rising, not to mention the strenuous programme of the previous evening, having taken its toll.
At Wigram Aerodrome and additional fuel tank was installed in preparation for the flight back to Australia.
Over The Pacific
After taking our leave of Christchurch City we headed for the Pacific over which we flew until Cape Campbell was reached at noon. A strong south-easterly was blowing, almost approaching a gale, but we sped onwards at a rate of one hundred and ten miles an hour along a course about fifteen miles out from the coast. Intermittently, the shore and mountainous hinterland were blotted out by the heavy rain showers, but in the breaks where our course brought us nearer the shore we could see the surf furiously lashing the cliffs which skirted the coast. Beyond Cape Campbell the weather was clearing, with the sun shining on the mountains, but very bumpy conditions were experienced here and until we struck inland over Cloudy Bay to make a perfect landing at Blenheim, and so complete the circuit of the South.
The 1934 Visit to Cambridge of
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
and the crew of the "Southern Cross"
Photo from the Frank Green Collection, Cambridge Museum
Pictured above is Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm's famous Fokker Trimotor VH-USU, known as the "Southern Cross". People are lining up for a joyride flight, which cost ten shillings per person. This picture taken by local Cambridge resident Mr Frank Green is almost certainly from the Southern Cross's February 1934 tour visit to James Taylor's 'Bardowie' estate on Victoria Road, Cambridge.
Following much research and discussion on the flights made to New Zealand by the Southern Cross, I finally established (almost) definitively that the aircraft landed in Cambridge and took flights from here.
Originally I received many eyewitness accounts from Cambridge people who remember the aircraft landing here. And these independent reports all corroborated each other's stories.
The best eyewitness account came from Olive Hanna, a local resident, who remembered that as about ten years old, perhaps a little older, the Southern Cross and 'Smithy' landed on James Taylor's 'Bardowie' estate airfield, which was on Victoria Road, on the right when heading north out of town towards Hautapu. See the map on this page for clarification. Olive says that her father knew Mr Taylor, and Taylor had offered to pay for the ten shilling flight for Olive to go aloft. However, her father refused this kind offer because he felt his daughter was much too young to fly. It must be remembered that aviation was very new to most Kiwis then, and he perhaps didn't trust the 'old bus'.
Now, every other story I've heard, including that from my own late grandmother, Mrs Vera Fitness, claimed that the Southern Cross did indeed land 'near the Racecourse'. Taylor's Bardowie estate is just past the Cambridge Racecourse and that same field had been used several times for aviation events. So this all rings true. The only alternative is it may have landed on the actual aerodrome which was inside the race track - this being partly on Taylor's Bardowie Estate land too. In fact I suspect it was all one and the same airfield.
Sadly the problem was a lack of documentary evidence. Several photos exist that may have been taken in Cambridge, but there is never anything in the photos to positively show that it is here, and not taken elsewhere such as Rukuhia.
And worse still from a research point of view, the local newspaper, the Waikato Independent, made absolutely no mention of the aircraft touching down in the town, or taking joy-ride flights as Olive recalled. This is the most bizarre part of it. Something as big as this should have been in the local paper. Eyewitnesses, including Olive Hanna, Shirley Ross and Maud Walker, all said there were a lot of local people present, as you can probably imagine. So why the local press was not present is unimaginable. My own grandmother, Vera Fitness, had a photo she took of the Southern Cross on the ground, and on the many occasions I saw this growing up, she always told me it was up by the racecourse. Sadly Nana died in 1989, and since then when I have looked through her photos for that particular photograph, it has disappeared from her collection, along with a few others.
I consulted dozens of books with no luck or clues, and went through loads of newspapers (Waikato Independent, Waikato Times and The New Zealand Herald) from the weeks the aircraft was here in New Zealand. What I did discover is that although it was always big news, the tours were not really extensively covered in the press. Many stopping points for the plane have not been recorded in the newspapers or in any books I've found about the aircraft, only the places it overnighted, if you see what I mean.
Sadly Mr Green, who took some of the photos on this page never noted on the back where he took them. I suspect however they were taken in Cambridge.
In 2004 I had an article published in the Cambridge Edition newspaper, seeking anyone with memories of the visit of the aircraft. This did bring in several stories from locals who remembered seeing the Southern Cross as a youth. Some stated the the plane definitely landed in Cambridge, others stated the blind opposite, that it never landed here.
I was convinced that it must have come here, perhaps for but a few hours or less, and was unannounced. I figured that it probably stopped to do a few joyrides to raise some cash along the way, as they did throughout New Zealand, and then moved on.
I finally had a breakthrough in May 2015 when I discovered and article in the Press newspaper (Christchurch, New Zealand) dated the 26th of January 1934. It is about the current tour of the Southern Cross throughout New Zealand, the aeroplane's third and last trip to this country. And it states that while the plan had originally been for the aircraft to end its tour on the 1st of February in Auckland the decision had been made to tag on extra dates, and it would be visiting Dargaville and Cambridge the following weekend!
So there it is. The visit seems to have been either Saturday the 3rd or Sunday the 4th of February 1934. Smithy then had to get back to Auckland by the 6th of February to catch a ship to Australia (he returned later by ship to resume the aeroplane tour).
A more recent search of Papers Past online after the relevant Waikato Independent volumes have been added reveals that on the 11th of January 1934 in that newspaper it was reported Smithy's brother, Wilfred Kingsford Smith had visited Te Awamutu to select a landing site for a visit and he'd said then that "Cambridge would be included in the next itinerary", which i take to mean the second lot of touring after Smithy's return from Australia. However the later article from the press indicates they brought the Cambridge visit forward to just before he left NZ. And yes, it does indeed seem while searching the newspapers online that the local news reporters completely were unaware of the visit, sadly.
The following three photos were taken by a Mrs Levesque of Cambridge, and are thought to have been at Hamilton (Rukuhia) in 1933, however they're very similar to Frank Green's photos, which leads us to wonder if maybe they were actually taken at Cambridge in February 1934. These three photos were kindly supplied by Mrs J. Berys Wiseman