“There she comes! Here’s Hinkler!”
That was the cry that went up from the crowd gathered at Childers State School almost 100 years ago as the Avro Baby piloted by Flight Lieutenant Bert Hinkler came into sight.
It was early April in 1921 and a large crowd, including the local Member Mr WA Brand MLA, Isis Shire chairman Cr WJ Thompson and school committee chairman Mr T Gaydon had gathered at a fete to raise funds for a tennis court for the school.
Hinkler had left Bundaberg at around 2.45pm and arrived in Childers at 3.07pm, a flight of around 20 minutes.
A newspaper report of the event details the arrival of the aircraft: “The children in their excitement raised such a din that it was impossible to detect any noise until the ‘plane appeared right overhead'.”
The report continued: “Cheers went up from the juvenile voices as the gallant airman and his baby plane circled, butterflied and looped the loop with remarkable intrepidity to the amazement of all below, the vast majority of whom had never seen such a thrilling sight.”
Hinkler then distributed pamphlets which fluttered gently to ground, and which were eagerly picked up by souvenir hunters.
Strangely, no definite site had been selected for his landing although three possible locations had been discussed.
Options were a road near the schoolgrounds, a paddock belonging to JK Lucas (in which a beacon fire had been lit) or the recreation grounds (showgrounds).
Hinkler circled the showgrounds before eventually approaching from the northwest and “a beautiful landing was effected”.
A crowd charged to the showgrounds to greet this modern-day hero whose aviation exploits had fired the imagination of a nation.
The report continues: “The school fete was forgotten, fences and fields were of no hinderance to the excited crowd; children could not wait for their mothers and sisters, who, in turn forgot erstwhile reservation in their desire to see the hero of many daring flights.”
Crowd swarms to welcome Hinkler
Hinkler greeted the crowd and handed a letter to Shire Chairman, Cr Thompson from the Mayor of Bundaberg, William Gavegan.
Hinkler was then driven to the schoolgrounds where formalities were extended through numerous speeches.
Hinkler had been invited by Thomas Gaydon to attend the function in Childers.
Mr Gaydon said he believed it would be a wonderful educational opportunity for the children of the community to see an aeroplane in operation and to meet a man of Bert Hinkler’s stature.
A cheque for 25 pounds, subscribed by members of the local RSSILA was presented as a token of appreciation to Hinkler by President, Mr SJ Thynne.
In a brief address Hinkler thanked those in attendance for a warm welcome.
He said he believed aviation would play an active part in the development of Australia and no effort would be spared on his part to assist in its advancement.
He foresaw the advantages it would bring to outlying places that had suffered for the want of adequate communications with the district centres.
Shortly before 5pm, less than two hours after his arrival, Hinkler was back with his aircraft and ready to return to Bundaberg. He was afforded three hearty cheers by the crowd.
Hinkler had expressed some surprise at the compact nature of the showgrounds which he said had looked “larger from above”.
In preparing for take-off he steered the aircraft to the north west end of the grounds and then headed in a south-easterly direction.
The report states that he had almost covered the entire intervening space and anxious onlookers felt he must surely strike the looming showgrounds fence. “But thrusting her nose in the air the aircraft cleared the fence by many feet.”
Hinkler flew over the schoolgrounds and the showgrounds waving farewell to the crowds.
He carried a message from Shire Chairman Cr Thompson to be delivered to Bundaberg Mayor Gavegan.
“Flight Lieutenant Hinkler arrived safely and departed for Bundaberg. Greetings received from you wholeheartedly reciprocated – WJ Thompson, Chairman, Isis Shire Council.
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