Category Archives: Technology

The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 10

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Maurice Guillaux sitting in his Blériot aircraft before a performance. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Maurice Guillaux sitting in his Blériot aircraft before a performance. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

As Maurice Guillaux recovered from the August 1 crash of his aircraft (see Part 9 of this story), war broke out in Europe, plunging that continent into the conflict that would become known as The Great War. Guillaux recovered from his injuries within a few weeks, and his Blériot aircraft was repaired, but the French aviator began to realise that the time for aerial displays was over: crowds were beginning to wane and the public’s attention was occupied by news of the war. Guillaux began to talk of returning to France, to help defend his homeland, and a newspaper article in the Perth Sunday Times on August 30 reported prematurely that he had already gone back to Europe. This erroneous report may have resulted from confusion between Guillaux and his translator/manager Lucien Maistre, who seems to have embarked for France some time in August.

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World War One grenades: one with a lifesaving little lever

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World War I grenades and fuses in the Recent Acquisitions Showcase

World War I grenades and fuses in the Recent Acquisitions Showcase

The weapon which would conjure up a – albeit highly visceral – image World War One trench warfare would be the rifle bayonet. So much grainy footage of young men charging across no-man’s-land with bayonets fixed gives us the impression that that was the main strategy of trench battle. However, rifleman with bayonets attached for defensive action were more often used to protect grenadiers – the infantryman who deployed grenades either by hand or by an attachment on a rifle.

H5556 World War One bayonet

H5556 World War One bayonet

On display at the Museum in the Recent Acquisition Showcase, in recognition of 100 years since the beginning of World War One, are two examples of grenades used in the war, along with two examples of bomb fuses.

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Sex and Museums: uncovering a tool of delight

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Packaging for sex toy 2008/60/1-3

Packaging for sex toy , object 2008/60/1-3

As part of the Ultimo Science Festival 2014, the Powerhouse Museum hosted a night of the Science of Sex. Along with talks form Dr Karl Kruszelnicki from University of Sydney, evolutionary biologist Professor Rob Brooks, and marine biologist Professor Emma Johnston from UNSW, Museum curators brought out a selection of sex related objects from the collection. Among them were the obstetric phantom, the birth control calculator, Madam Lash’s corset, and of course the electro massage device.

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Remembering World War One: Geoffrey Hargrave’s life in six photos

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Powerhouse Museum Collection object P2903-9/81. Gift of William Hudson Shaw, 1974.

Powerhouse Museum Collection object P2903-9/81. Gift of William Hudson Shaw, 1974.

Lawrence Hargrave, aeronautical inventor, was one of thousands of Australians who lost a son in World War 1. Among the Hargrave artefacts and papers in the Museum’s collection, there are six photos that tell the story of his son, Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave. In the first, he is a baby posed with his hopeful parents, Margaret and Lawrence.

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Wire has many uses from bee houses to candle snuffers

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90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950

90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950

Wire has been a material used in a variety of areas from the domestic sphere to agricultural, medical and applied arts areas. The Museum’s collection has wire products from cake cooling racks to electrical components and to sculptures like the one above made by designer Douglas Annand. The sculpture is a collage of various materials to create an outline of a human face. The central feature is a cylindrical clear glass form containing a blue liquid, with a number of circular indents, creating glass feet, and a nose. Green insulating wire is wound around glass and extends out either side with a green button for each eye.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 9

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Guillaux preparing to take off from Ascot racecourse in August 1914. These film frames come from a segment of newsreel in the Museum’s collection. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Guillaux preparing to take off from Ascot racecourse in August 1914. These film frames come from a segment of newsreel in the Museum’s collection. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Despite the rigours of the first airmail flight from Melbourne to Sydney over July 16-18 (as recounted in parts 6-8 of this story), Maurice Guillaux was not one to rest on his laurels. Within days he was in the air again, making several flights with Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman Hydro-aeroplane (see part 3 of this story), including one on July 22 when he carried two passengers, Hordern and Lt. Colonel WWR Watson, on the first three-person flight in Australia. With Hordern perched precariously on the aircraft’s fuel tank, Guillaux took the Hydro-aeroplane up to 1500ft (almost 500m) and put it through a series of manoeuvres, including a thrilling dive towards the water.

In carrying without difficulty a slightly higher total payload (209kg) than the aircraft was supposed to carry (203kg), this flight demonstrated the potential of the aeroplane as a weapon capable of carrying a militarily useful bomb load, in addition to a pilot and bombardier. With the clouds of war gathering in Europe at the outbreak of World War I, Guillaux made frequent comments about the utility of planes in warfare and their probable use in the conflict: “aerial machines would prove perhaps the greatest factor in the present struggle.”

: Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman “hydro-aeroplane”, in which Guillaux would carry two passengers, an Australian first, in July 1914 Gift of S. Dyson, 1982. P3283-1

Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman “hydro-aeroplane”, in which Guillaux would carry two passengers, an Australian first, in July 1914, Gift of S. Dyson, 1982. P3283-1

On July 25, Guillaux gave another aerial performance with the Bleriot at Newcastle, drawing a crowd of about 10,000 exactly three months after his first performance in that city. He discussed plans for a tour of the northern regions of NSW, but these would never eventuate due to the war. Guillaux agreed to undertake an advertising stunt for Black and White Whiskey, dropping envelopes containing money over Circular Quay on July 31, but the police cancelled this event over fears of possible injuries in the waiting crowd of 5,000, as people jostled to catch the falling prizes.

Guillaux’ last major aviation display for Sydney was scheduled for Saturday, August 1. Unfortunately for the French pilot, his only serious accident in Australia occurred during this performance. Shortly after his takeoff from Ascot racecourse (on the site of what was later to become Kingsford-Smith Aerodrome), while he was flying at a height of 100-200 ft (30-60m; accounts vary as to the altitude), Guillaux seemed to lose control of the Bleriot, which dipped as if commencing a dive, but then plummeted to the ground, with Guillaux apparently wrestling with the controls. The stunned crowd stood transfixed as the Bleriot smashed into the ground alongside one of the track railings, the body of the aircraft breaking into two pieces.

Frames from a film clip of the Bleriot’s crash at Ascot racecourse, showing Guillaux being rescued from the wreckage and led away, bandaged, for hospital treatment. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Frames from a film clip of the Bleriot’s crash at Ascot racecourse, showing Guillaux being led away, bandaged, for hospital treatment. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Trapped in a tangle of broken fuselage and wires, the half-conscious Guillaux was rescued from the wreckage by members of the crowd, who cut away the debris and carefully lifted him free. Although he suffered cuts to his face, arms and legs, his clothes were badly torn and the ligaments of his right ankle ruptured, Guillaux luckily did not sustain any more serious injuries. Treated at the crash site, with his head swathed in bandages, he nevertheless waved as he was helped away, at which the crowd cheered wildly and the band played the Marseillaise.

Guillaux was taken in a car to St Vincent’s Hospital, in Darlinghurst, where he was treated by Sir Alexander McCormick. He spent a few days in hospital recovering, receiving many messages of sympathy and support. The Bleriot, however, was quite severely damaged “the framework was broken in two pieces, the tail planes badly damaged….the propeller was smashed to matchwood, the oil tanks were bent into one another and the engine was buried in the ground”.

The cause of the accident seems to have been the steering gear controlling the warping of the wings to provide lateral control (the Bleriot did not use ailerons) jamming in some way. Guillaux reported that he was unable to steer the plane left or right, but he did still have control of the elevator planes and could have landed safely in the crowd; but as this would have meant danger to the spectators he chose, instead, to make the plane dive into the ground away from them.

Newsreel film frames showing he wreckage of the Bleriot after the crash, nose first into the ground. Guillaux clearly had a lucky escape from serious injury. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Newsreel film frames showing he wreckage of the Bleriot after the crash, nose first into the ground. Guillaux clearly had a lucky escape from serious injury. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2 

 

Look out for the next instalment of Guillaux’ story in September. If you’d like to explore the newspaper reports of Guillaux’ flights, which were drawn upon for this blogpost, you can find them by searching on the National Library of Australia’s Trove Newspapers site. The Aviation Historical Society of Australia conducted a re-enactment of the first airmail flight between July 12-14. The Powerhouse Museum is also celebrating the centenary of the first Australian airmail with various events this year. Check our website and that of the Powerhouse Discovery Centre for further details.

Written by Kerrie Dougherty Space Technology and Aviation Curator

The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 8

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Maurice Guillaux and an unidentified spectator. This photo is generally identified as having been taken at the conclusion of the airmail flight, but as the aircraft lacks the OT Cordial advertising on the wings, the picture may have been taken before the airmail flight, or some weeks later. This image was loaned to the museum for copying, by a private individual.

Maurice Guillaux and an unidentified spectator. This photo is generally identified as having been taken at the conclusion of the airmail flight, but as the aircraft lacks the OT Cordial advertising on the wings, the picture may have been taken before the airmail flight, or some weeks later. This image was loaned to the museum for copying, by a private individual.

After being delayed at Harden on July 17, due to poor weather conditions for flying, Maurice Guillaux was determined to continue the first airmail flight the following day. While conditions had improved, they were still far from ideal, but on July 18 Guillaux took off at 7.15am and battled a strong headwind and freezing temperatures to reach Goulburn, 150km away, exactly two hours later. He described this section of his flight: “I shall never forget the awful experience I had to undergo…..I had to battle my way and to negotiate a passage though the icy atmosphere above those cruel mountains”. Visibility was limited and Guillaux was guided towards Goulburn by the smoke from a locomotive, though he found it impossible to follow the railway lines themselves.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 7

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Maurice Guillaux in his Bleriot, 1914. The ‘bird on globe’ mascot in front of Guillaux is a swallow (‘hirondelle’ in French), which was Guillaux’ avian nickname in the society of French pilots known as “Les Oiseaux de France”.   P3282-2 Gift of S. Dyson, 1982

Maurice Guillaux in his Bleriot, 1914. The ‘bird on globe’ mascot in front of Guillaux is a swallow (‘hirondelle’ in French), which was Guillaux’ avian nickname in the society of French pilots known as “Les Oiseaux de France”. P3282-2 Gift of S. Dyson, 1982

After being forced by a strong headwind to turn back to the town of Harden late in the afternoon of July 16, 1914, Maurice Guillaux spent the night in the town, staying at the Carrington Hotel, which still survives today. He had landed on the racecourse and overnight the police placed a guard on his plane, yet it must have been accessible to the people of Harden at some time during Guillaux’ stay there, as when the aviator eventually arrived in Goulburn, the Blériot was found to have many pencilled messages from Harden on it.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 6

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One of the official souvenir postcards that were produced to be carried on Guillaux’ history making airmail flight. Note that the aircraft depicted is not a Bleriot XI, but a generic biplane. EA and VI Crome Collection A8213-1/5

One of the official souvenir postcards that were produced to be carried on Guillaux’ history making airmail flight. Note that the aircraft depicted is not a Bleriot XI, but a generic biplane. EA and VI Crome Collection A8213-1/5

“Wizard” Stone’s unfortunate crash on June 1 (see part 5) provided the opportunity for Maurice Guillaux to undertake the history-making first airmail flight. With Stone injured and his aircraft destroyed, Arthur Rickard, the entrepreneur behind Stone’s proposed airmail flight, approached Guillaux to make the journey instead. Revised plans were made for the mail flight to commence on July 9. However, negotiations between Guillaux and Rickard apparently broke down on July 8 and the flight did not proceed, even though crowds had already gathered at Seymour (Victoria), the first intended refuelling stop.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-part 5

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: Crowds gather to see “Wizard” Stone’s Blériot during his regional Queensland airshow tour. Photo courtesy of the Queensland State Library

Crowds gather to see “Wizard” Stone’s Blériot during his regional Queensland airshow tour. Photo courtesy of the Queensland State Library

Despite his fame as a daring aviator, Maurice Guillaux was not the pilot originally intended to fly the first Australian airmail from Melbourne to Sydney. That honour should have gone to an American, Arthur Burr “Wizard” Stone, who had been presenting aerial shows around Australia and New Zealand since 1912.
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