//
you're reading...
Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1932, Maude Bonney became the first woman to fly around Australia


Maude Bonney

On 27 September 1932, Maude Bonney became the first woman to fly around Australia.

Maude Rose ‘Lores’ Rubens was born on 20 November 1897 in Pretoria, South African Republic, the only child of German-born Norbert Albert Rubens, a clerk and later a merchant, and his locally born wife Rosa Caroline, formerly Staal, née Haible.

The family moved to London in 1901 and then to Melbourne in 1903. Maudie, an independent and rebellious child, attended the Star of the Sea Ladies’ College and the Cromarty Girls’ School, both at Elsternwick.

In 1911 she sailed with her parents to Germany, where she enrolled in the Victoria-Pensionat, Bad Homburg, to advance her music studies. She became an accomplished pianist but her prospective career as a musician ended when she suffered stage fright and fled during a recital. At this school she also developed a love of gardening and fluency in French and German.

Returning to Melbourne in 1913, Rubens worked for the Australian Red Cross Society in World War I. On 7 April 1917 at St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney, she married Harry Barrington Bonney, a wealthy merchant and leather-goods manufacturer from Brisbane.

The couple lived in the latter city, initially at the Gresham Hotel, before settling in 1919 at Bowen Hills. She called her husband ‘Billi’ and herself ‘Dolores,’ later shortened to ‘Lores.’

In 1928 Bert Hinkler, Harry Bonney’s cousin, took Lores for her first flight, from Eagle Farm aerodrome to Yeerongpilly and back. The experience thrilled her and she was hooked. Hinkler praised her ability to know her location by identifying landmarks from the air.

The next year Bonney took several joy rides with a flying instructor, Charles Matheson, while her husband played golf. Bored, and losing hope of having children, she began flying lessons with Matheson on 6 August 1930. Twelve months later she gained her private pilot’s licence. Her husband surprised her with the gift of a Gipsy Moth, which she named My Little Ship.

The first of Bonney’s four major solo flights took place on Boxing Day 1931. Leaving Brisbane at 4.30 a.m., she reached Wangaratta, Victoria, at 7.20 p.m., in time for dinner with her father. She considered this her greatest achievement; it was reported to be the longest one-day flight yet undertaken by an Australian airwoman.

Having studied blind flying, night flying, aircraft maintenance, and meteorology, she obtained a commercial licence in 1932, not because she sought a career in aviation but to prepare herself for long-distance flying. Between 15 August and 27 September that year she circumnavigated Australia, the first woman to do so.

Spending ninety-five hours twenty-seven minutes in the air and travelling some 6,900 nautical miles (12,800 km), she survived forced landings, a collapsed undercarriage, and a mid-air collision with a plane that flew close to hers so its passenger could take a photo; both aircraft landed safely. She was awarded the Qantas trophy for 1932.

Aiming to be the first woman to fly from Australia to England, Bonney learned how to overhaul engines and had her aircraft modified for the journey. On 10 April 1933 she left Brisbane. Caught in a tropical storm on the twentieth, she attempted to land on the coast of an island off Thailand, near the border with Burma (Myanmar).

As she approached a beach, a herd of water buffalo walked into her path, forcing her to land too close to the sea. Her plane overturned and came to rest in the water. Remaining unperturbed, she managed to free herself from her harness and get to shore. She had the plane salvaged and shipped to Calcutta (Kolkata), India, for repairs. On 25 May she resumed her flight and on 21 June landed at Croydon, England.

Piloting a Klemm Eagle, on 9 April 1937 Bonney took off from Brisbane and travelled via Indian Ocean littoral countries to Cairo and thence to Cape Town, arriving on 18 August. She was the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa. The formidable journey of 15,700 nautical miles (29,000 km) was her most heroic aerial feat. In 1949 she ceased flying because her eyesight no longer met the required standard.

From 1934 to 1939 Bonney had been Australian governor of the Women’s International Association of Aeronautics. In World War II she served on the Queensland executive of the Women’s Voluntary National Register.

Between 1954 and 1956 she presided over the Queensland branch of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association; the national body awarded her its Nancy Bird trophy (1981) and the State branch established a trophy in her name. She was appointed MBE (1934) and AM (1991).

After her marriage had failed in the 1950s, Bonney moved to the Gold Coast. She travelled extensively and found serenity in bonsai. Slim and five feet three inches (160 cm) tall, she dressed stylishly and loved jewellery, especially pearls.

She died on 24 February 1994 at Mermaid Beach and was cremated. In 2012 she was inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame. A Queensland State electoral district and streets at Coolangatta and in the Brisbane suburbs of Clayfield and Archerfield bear her name.

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,663 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

For the first time, China has released video footage of its latest Type 094A nuclear-powered ballistic missile sub (SSBN) and Type 093 nuclear attack sub (SSN), a potent show of naval might ahead of China’s 20th Communist Party Congress in October. Chinese state media featured the subs in a training video for Liaoning, China’s first […]

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

A few days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s arrest news took social media by storm. The atmosphere was jubilant as if the whole world looked forward to Xi’s exit. The rumor turned out to be fake news; Xi’s third term looks secured. Xi Jinping is all set to snatch the historic third term in the […]

China is coming for your land

China is coming for your land

Drought has plunged water levels to the lowest in China in decades. The temperatures have also soared to record levels, and hydropower plants failed to meet the sharp rise in power demand. However, this is just a glimpse of the worst things to come. Floods, droughts, and record-breaking temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on […]

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

The Chinese military has intensified its drone incursions into the skies above Taiwan with almost daily flights of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) TB-001 drone was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the island and China’s […]

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India’s foreign ministry said on Friday that disengagement along a disputed border area with China will be completed by Sept. 12. Both countries began disengaging from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area in the western Himalayas on Thursday, over two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties. The disengagement comes ahead of a meeting […]

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

Two electrifying moves in recent weeks have the potential to ignite electric vehicle demand in the United States. First, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, expanding federal tax rebates for EV purchases. Then California approved rules to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Inflation Reduction Act extends the Obama-era EV tax […]

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

In the post-cold war era, India has moved from a policy of non-alignment to a policy of multi-alignment. This means that India has friendly relations with almost all-powerful and developing nations. Today India is carving out a unique path for itself. Such an approach provides prominence and exposes India to the harmful behind-curtain activities by […]

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s frontline island of Kinmen was once again in the headlines when President Tsai Ing-wen paid tribute this week to the soldiers and civilians who “operated in solidarity and safeguarded Taiwan” 64 years ago. On Aug. 23, 1958 mainland Chinese troops attacked Kinmen in a key battle that marked the beginning of the Second Taiwan […]

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

The father of communism, Karl Marx, once famously said — “We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror”. This statement summarises how terrorism and communism go hand in hand. Maoist China alone destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives. During […]

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

China is attempting to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan’s territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say. Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China — and the […]

%d bloggers like this: