Fitting, metal, maker unknown, recovered from Avro 618 Ten aircraft VH-UMF, 'Southern Cloud' of Australian National Airways, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1928-1931
Found in the remains of Avro 618 Ten aircraft, VH-UMF, "Southern Cloud". This aircraft was lost with all on board in March 1931 on a regular airline flight from Sydney to Melbourne. The wreckage was not discovered until October 1958 and the fate of the aircraft and its crew and passengers ascertained.
The loss of the "Southern Cloud" was regarded as one of Australia's most baffling air mysteries. It was the subject of a major official search for 8 days and an unofficial one for ten.
The crash of the "Southern Cloud" claimed the lives of six passengers and two crew: Travis "Shorty" Shortridge (pilot), Charlie Dunnell (co-pilot/engineer), Charles Hood (stage producer), Bill O'Reilly (accountant), Julian Margules (electrical engineer), Hubert Farrall (businessman), Elsie Glasgow (maid), Clara (Claire) Stokes (artist).
The unidentified component, and the other "Southern Cloud" artefacts, represent a significant era in the lives of two of Australia's most renowned aviation pioneers, Kingsford Smith and Ulm. This era saw the establishment of a sophisticated domestic airservice, Australian National Airways, that covered Australia's east coast from Tasmania to Brisbane. The era ended with the loss of the "Southern Cloud" and the resultant failure of the airline. On the positive side the crash caused the introduction of improved standards of operations for airlines.
Carter, I.R., Southern Cloud, (Melbourne, 1963)
Ian Debenham, Curator, 2009
It is unknown if this fitting was part of the aircraft or was part of an object carried on to the aircraft by a crew member or passenger.
Found in the remains of Avro 618 Ten airliner VH-UMF "Southern Cloud" which crashed near Cooma, 21/3/31. This item was removed from the crash site along with a quantity of other artefacts on 28/10/58 by the father-in-law of the donor, Mr Morley Robson, carpenter with the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
On Saturday, March 21st, 1931 the regular Australian National Airways (ANA) service from Sydney to Melbourne departed at 8.15am. The aircraft, Avro 618 Ten, VH-UMF, "Southern Cloud" was piloted by ANA's senior pilot, Captain Travis W. Shortridge with copilot/engineer Charles Dunnell and six passengers: Charles Hood (stage producer), Bill O'Reilly (accountant), Julian Margules (electrical engineer), Hubert Farrall (businessman), Elsie Glasgow (maid), Clara (Claire) Stokes (artist). The aircraft was due to arrive at Melbourne's Essendon airport at 12.30pm. The non-arrival of the aircraft was notified by ANA's Melbourne Manager, Mr Young by telephone to Charles Ulm in Sydney. Young was instructed by Ulm to contact the Department of Civil Aviation and the Postmaster-General. Police stations in the towns along the normal route were alerted and search operations began.
In the reciprocal flight of that day ANA pilot Captain George "Scotty" Allan, piloting VH-UMI, "Southern Moon" had found weather conditions to be extremely bad with gale force winds reaching an estimated 100 miles per hour which pushed "Scotty's" flight but would have severely hampered Shortridge's.
All the remaining ANA Avro Ten aircraft were used in the search and Ulm used his own Avro Avian. Others joined the aerial search with the RAAF sending out six Wapiti aircraft to assist. Reported sightings of the lost aircraft were all followed up without success. As well as the aerial searchers a number of ground parties joined the search.
The official search continued for eight days before it was abandoned but the regular ANA service aircraft flew varied routes to see if they could find the lost aircraft and the ground parties continued also.
The Federal Government instituted an Air Enquiry in which Ulm testified to the ability of the pilot and the quality of the service and the aircraft. All current safety standards were met or exceeded and the weather report handed to Shortridge before the flight did not alert to the extreme weather conditions in the south of New South Wales. It was only after the aircraft was airborne that an amended report advised of the cyclonic conditions. With no radio on board the aircraft Shortridge could not be advised of the problem he would meet. Probably faced with poor visibility and the severe headwind Shortridge may not have realised that his progress was not usual and he descended into mountainous terrain. The aircraft crashed in the Toolong Mountains about 20 kilometres from Kiandra and remained hidden until found in October 1958 by Snowy Mountains Scheme carpenter, Tom Sonter. A watch found at the crash site had stopped at 1.15. Subsequently others visited the crash site removing portable items. Larger items were removed to become a permanent memorial alongside the main street in Cooma. The remains of the crew and passengers were interred in a communal grave in Cooma Cemetery.
Carter, I.R., Southern Cloud, (Melbourne, 1963)
Rogers, Ellen, Faith In Australia: Charles Ulm and Australian Aviation, Book Production Services Pty Ltd, Crows Nest, 1987), p.66ff