Herbert John Louis Hinkler, (1892 – 1933), better known as Bert Hinkler, was a pioneer Australian aviator (dubbed “Australian Lone Eagle”) and inventor.
He designed and built early aircraft before being the first person to fly solo from England to Australia in 1921, and the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
In April of the same year, shortly after Bert’s record-breaking flight from London to Australia, he flew from Brisbane to Sydney flying down the east coast in his 25 hp, water-cooled Baby 534 Avro Biplane.
Unfortunately, due to torrential rain, he was forced to land on Stockton Beach near Anna Bay. His aircraft was then overturned by a strong gust of wind.
Carrying his pet magpie in a cage, Hinkler struggled across the dunes and made it several miles to a farm at Bobs Farm. Knocking on the door of the nearest house, he was greeted by Thomas (Fuffy) Eagleton and a young Charles Cromarty, (1) where he was given a welcome cup of tea.
Leaving his pet magpie with the local kids, Bert was offered a short ride back to Anna Bay in horse and cart and, with the help of locals, he was able to secure the aircraft and was put up for the night at Lucy Upton’s farm.
Aerial view of Stockton Beach with the northern end of the beach as the general locality of his landing.
Note Bobs Farm and Anna Bay.
The following day, with the aid of Tom Eagleton and Charles Cromarty, the aircraft was righted and towed by five horses the 22 km along the sand to Stockton.
From there the aircraft was towed to the Hunter River wharf, disassembled and made the journey from Newcastle to Sydney, with Bert, on the steamer ‘Hunter’.
Hinkler’s Baby Avro, is now in the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Bundaberg, Queensland.
On an interesting side note, the `Hunter’ was sold to Chinese interests in 1938 and was taken over by the Japanese during World War 2 and was sunk by American bombs in Vietnam in 1945.
The Steamer `Hunter’ at the wharf in Newcastle. Click here for further reading.
Before he left Newcastle, Bert Hinkler was generous enough to give Tom Eagleton 10 pounds for his troubles which is roughly equivalent to $500 back then.
Bert went on to set more aviation records. In 1933 he died when he crashed his plane near Milan in Italy as another storm forced him into the Tuscan Mountains during yet another record-breaking flight.
He was buried with full Military honours at the orders of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the Cimitero degli Allori in Florence.