Here in History : The Gladstone Flying Boats Commence

Here in History : The Gladstone Flying Boats Commence

With Betty Laver

With such a wonderful harbour, small float planes were already using the calm waterway of Gladstone Harbour as a landing ground in the 1930’s.

In 1935 the British Government were looking into a service that would take passengers and mail from England to Australia in their quest of making available airmail postal and passenger services throughout the British Commonwealth. Flying boats were the choice for this service and Gladstone was on this original route. An RAAF aircraft flying boat, flown by Squadron Leader AE Hempel, landed on Gladstone Harbour during a survey flight in July 1935.

In July 1937, a seaplane attracted much attention and a few energetic citizens hastened to view the machine. This was a small Sikorsky plane and Tom Dore (Snr) and sons Tommy and George were on hand to refuel the craft from the Shell depot in their own boat ‘Mystery’.

Imperial Airways London had joined forces with Qantas and the Australian flying boat services were known as Qantas Empire Airways. The headquarters were at Archerfield in Brisbane and Gladstone was included on the Queensland East Coast route. The Gladstone Harbour Board has a large cleanup on the foreshores of Auckland Creek and the Howard Smith and Friends Wharves were removed.

The Cattle Wharf was renamed O’Connell Wharf and Marine Parade, the road around Auckland Hill which ran from O’Connell Wharf to the Auckland Point Jetty, was renamed Matthew Flinders Parade. A small office terminal was provided for the flying boats on the foreshores of Auckland Creek and was jointly operated by British Imperial Airways and Qantas Empire Airways.

A report tells of how, in December 1937, the huge flying boat Centaurus (G-ADUT), made a graceful landing on the placid waters of the Gladstone Harbour. This was not a scheduled flight as the craft was on a survey expedition demonstrating operations between Britain and Australia. Immediately, small craft, cars and pedestrians flocked to the foreshores and other vantage points on Auckland Hill to see this spectacular event.

The Mayor, Alderman E.M Breslin, the chairman of the Harbour Board, Mr. Drewe and W.J Prizeman greeted the visitors on behalf of the citizens of Gladstone. They boarded the Centaurus and extended a hearty welcome to Commander Burgess.

Photo from Bill Golding: The Flying Boat Centaurus on the water aerodrome at Auckland Point 1937.

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