This Day in History: 1929-04-03

After a forced landing west of Wyndham, WA, Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Harold Litchfield and Tom McWilliams were stranded for a fourth day on 3 April 1929. Ulm recorded the following in his log: “All weaker now. I feel gone in the legs and the arms, but all are mentally alert. Corrected our longtitude position again this morning. Collected wood for fires and kept same burning all the morning. Had gruel for lunch and feel slightly better. The flies are unbearable and the mosquitoes damnable. Another small shower about 2 p.m. the flies hamper work considerably as one must brush them off the other who is working. For instance, when we take a sextant shot, Litchfield uses a sextant with Mac swishing the flies away and Smithy and myself read the chronometer and swish each other. Then some one of us swishes Litchfield while he works up his sights. Damn these flies. The sights to-day confirmed our latitude position, will take a longitude sight this afternoon. All are cheerful, but hungry. At this moment Litchfield is stalking a dove with my .32 automatic. I feel that we can continue for some days yet, although getting weaker every hour. Our combined efforts failed to move the Southern Cross an inch to-day. Litchfield and myself are going stalking doves; wish us luck. No damn good; can’t shoot worth a rap. Anyhow a small dove is hard to hit with an auto. All feel better and stronger this evening. All tire out quickly, however, after any exertion. Mac got VIS on the radio now. Ha! Ha! They report the Canberra plane is leaving to look for us. Mac is now on to Broome, who sent us a message to light fires on a triangle of 500 yards. This will be impossible in our present weakened condition. Wonder where the Airways plane and Clive Chater is? Hullo! Mac is listening in 2FC Sydney. They report Chater and an Airways pilot flew from Wyndham to Drysdale mission, who reported us flying south-west from there on Sunday. Yes, he (the missionary) directed us south-west. Why we can’t guess. 2FC say that Chater will search again to-morrow. We will all leave “Coffee Royal” before daylight and go to the hill top and light fires. The mosquitoes are still terrible however. I feel very cheery to-night, damned hungry though.” The first aircraft to commence searching was Western Australian Airways deHavilland DH.50A G-AUEL flown by Captain James Woods. This aircraft had been chartered by two newspapers, The Sun (Sydney) and The Herald (Melbourne). Woods commenced his searching on 3 April after flying from Port Hedland via Fitzroy Crossing, where his aircraft was forced down by heavy rain. Woods was joined in the DH.50A by Captain Chateau and Oswald Siddons who acted as observers. A second DH.50 from Western Australian Airways piloted by Captain Eric Chater departed form Carnarvon on 3 April bound for Broome, from where it would join the search. Newspapers reported that a third aircraft was being prepared to join the search, after a public appeal under the title of the Sydney Citizens Southern Cross Rescue Fund raised a large amount of donations for this purpose. This aircraft was the de Havilland DH.61 Giant Moth G-AUHW “Canberra” which was owned by Holden’s Air Transport Services Ltd and was to be flown by Captain Les Holden. It was being fitted with extra fuel tanks at Sydney’s Mascot airport. Newspapers also reported that the RAAF was preparing the Wackett Widgeon II amphibian aircraft at Richmond, NSW to join the search. This forced landing and its consequences became known as the “Coffee Royal” affair. Sources: Parnell, N. and Boughton, T., Flypast, A Record of Aviation in Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1988; Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld), Mon 15 Apr 1929, Page 9, “LIEUTENANT ULM’S LOG”