This Day in History: 1929-04-04

After a forced landing west of Wyndham, WA, Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Harold Litchfield and Tom McWilliams were stranded for a fifth day on 4 April 1929. Ulm recorded the following in his log: “Daylight. Awful march up Darlinghurst hill. Light a fire, stoking in half-hour shifts. The heat is unmerciful and we are really starving, keeping alive on a cup-and-a-half of gruel per day. We tried to rev up the generator again this evening and are planning to take off the generator. Mac is nearly out to it to-day, but is still working. All are feeling gnawing hunger pains. Smithy’s super energy is wonderful, but even his unusual strength is failing. I have started to pile up rocks on which to lift the right wheel on which to turn the generator. The flies take at least half our energy and then at the sundown we commence to fight skeeters all night. To date Mac and I have not averaged more than two hours sleep per night and Smithy and Litchfield about four hour. Oh, for a meal! Received a radio message, again tonight, VIS Broome and 2FC give us best news always. Up the hill to-morrow as Chater is to search near Port George mission. Sleep is impossible with these skeeters.” The Western Australian Airways DH.50 flown by James Woods searched in the Drysdale River mission area and the second WAA DH.50 flown by Eric Chater searched near Port George IV Presbyterian mission station without any sighting of the Southern Cross. The DH.61 “Canberra” flown by Les Holden had been fitted with an extra fuel tank of 70 gallons capacity. This aircraft was funded by the Sydney Citizens Southern Cross Rescue Fund and Holden was accompanied by a crew including I.S.W. Stannage, wireless operator; Dr G.R. Hamilton, medical doctor; and F.R. Mitchell, mechanic. Rain had caused the runways at Mascot to become “swampy” and an attempt to take-off with a full load of fuel and supplies was not possible. So the partially-fuelled aircraft flew from Mascot to Richmond on 4 April. At Richmond it was to be fully fuelled and loaded with supplies. Preparation of the RAAF Wackett Widgeon II amphibian aircraft at Richmond continued and Wing-Commander Lawrence Wackett expected to depart on the following day. 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”