The Remarkable Story of Mr Rose and his Suitcase

In the immediate postwar years, there was a surplus of military transport aeroplanes and a corresponding surplus of pilots, many of whom wanted to put their training to peaceful (and profitable) pursuits. Not surprisingly, they all wanted to start their own airline. By 1947, migration to Australia was booming and many budding entrepreneurs were drawn to this lucrative trade with a motley collection of aircraft including a DH86 biplane, Lockheed Hudsons and Lodestars, Douglas DC-2s, DC-3s and even a rare DC-5. One such operator was Sydney based Intercontinental Air Tours which was founded in 1947 by one Warren Henry Grindrod Penny, an experienced pre-war and RAAF transport pilot. Included in their fleet was Lockheed Lodestar G-AGBU which Penny purchased from British Overseas Airways Corporation. It was the delivery flight of this aeroplane which was to provide transportation to a new life in Australia for a mother and her young child, nine year-old Stephen Rose and this is his story.

 

Lockheed Lodestar G-AGBU

 

A Trip from the UK to Australia in 1947

by Stephen Rose

 

My mother was widowed in 1943 when my father died from the results of being gassed during WWI. Relatives, with good intentions, were trying to tell her how I was to be educated and brought up. My elder brother and sister had both served in the War and wanted to have their own lives and raise families of their own. My mother decided there was no future in staying in the UK - the options were to migrate to Canada - too cold; South Africa - trouble was already brewing there; or Australia.

Unfortunately, in 1947 there was an 18 month waiting list to get any sort of passage to Australia, whether by sea or by air. About mid 1947 she saw an advertisement offering air passage to Australia for 350 per person. Pilots being demobbed were pooling their savings and acquiring aircraft to fly to Australia to start airlines and this was one such venture. All we had to do was pay up, get the necessary vaccinations, and have all the necessary clothes and possessions in a suitcase not exceeding a weight limit of 45 pounds.

 

Stephen Rose migrated with his Mother to Australia
with all their worldly possessions in this aluminium suitcase
which he has kindly donated to QAM.

 

The first departure was aborted when the plane was damaged striking a hangar door. (The aircraft had been stored in Africa pending sale and it was being ferried to the UK by a BOAC crew for delivery to Intercontinental. Ed) So a few weeks later we had to be at the aerodrome for an early morning departure on 12th December 1947*. (This may have been Croydon or Northolt). The repairs to the aircraft took longer than expected and we did not depart until about 14.00 - in fact we were in such a hurry that the plane did not have the oxygen bottles for flying over the Alps - so were limited to 16,000 feet. There were four crew, Capt Penny, a co-pilot, a radio/engineer and an air hostess - the wife or girl friend of one of the crew. There were 14 passengers including two children - myself, 9 years old (going on for 10!) and Pat who was about 7. The rest were thirtyish to middle aged, mostly couples. There were only 12 fixed seats and two extras that were not bolted down - for us kids. (Not that it made much difference as I was most of the time up in the cockpit with the crew or watching the earth fly by through the drift sight which was installed in the passenger cabin).

Due to our late start and lack of oxygen, we flew to Toulouse for the first night. This was my first experience of ersatz coffee - served French style in cups like soup bowls! Next stop was Rome (13/12*). The crew earned a little extra fuel money that afternoon by flying refugees. The next day the aircraft smelled of spring onions. In the UK we were still on rations so many of the passengers ate too much of the abundant food at the hotel and were very airsick the next day.

The next leg was to Athens (14/12*) where the airport was under armed guard due to the civil war. I think we may have overnighted in huts at the aerodrome. The next day was to Nicosia, Cyprus (15 &16/12*) where we stayed two nights while the plane was used to ferry refugees. It was a very noisy place as every motorist drove with a hand on the horn! From here we flew to Habbaniya in Iraq (17/12*) - a mud-brick fort out in the desert.

The next day we must have stayed somewhere in Iran - I have a feeling it was Teheran (18/12). From here we flew either to Delhi and got sent to Karachi or the other way around. Between the time we left the UK and arrived there, self government had taken effect and cholera had broken out and we would have had to be quarantined hence being sent on to the other place. Here we had to stay in the transit area overnight (19/12).

The next stop was Rangoon (20/12). All I remember is the many canals we had to go over between the landing strip and the hotel. Next day we were supposed to go to Singapore but that was closed due to the wide-spread cholera epidemic, so we must have stayed somewhere in Malaya or Sumatra (21/12). The next day we refuelled at Batavia (now Jakarta) again an airport under armed guard as the Dutch were fighting the the rebels. We overnighted in Bali (22/12) where the airstrip was on a plain surrounded by paddy fields. The hotel was colonial Dutch and each bungalow was linked by a covered walkway. We travelled from the strip to the hotel by military jeep. That evening the adults visited a nearby temple.

Then came the long sea crossing to Darwin which is relatively flat so not readily visible in the haze until you are almost there. Here we landed at the old aerodrome which is now Ross Smith Avenue. The two curved roof hangars are still at Parap and one of these was used by the health inspector. We stayed at the old Hotel Darwin (23/12) and travelled in an ancient taxi whose sides opened up whenever the vehicle hit a pothole.

We refuelled at Cloncurry where we had to circle the strip to attract the attention of the agent. We overnighted in Charleville on Christmas Eve (24/12). On Christmas Day (25/12) we arrived in Sydney at about midday.

It had been a long and arduous trip with electrical storms most days - after all it was the monsoon season.

 



In Sydney we stayed at a hotel in Rose Bay for a few days before heading for South Australia. While in Sydney the film, 'The Overlanders', had its premiere. It was funny to see the women wearing furs to the premiere, in the Christmas heat. Also there were cars with gas bags on their roofs for gas-producers and of course there were the trams. The only person we had later contact with was Pat's guardian/mother who found a husband.

* Date confirmed by the author's passport

 

Stephen Rose's Passport

 

 

 

And how did young Stephen's new life turn out?

 

After arriving in Sydney on Christmas Day 1947, my mother and I stayed at a hotel in Rose Bay for a couple of weeks. Then we headed off by train to Adelaide where she got a job as cook on a Stud Merino sheep station near Booboorwie in the Far North of SA. What a change for urban folk. Booboorwie was about two miles away and only a small village! That year schools were closed for some months due to the polio epidemic.

Our next stop was Morthett Vale near Adelaide when the area was still rural. We stayed with friends from the next-door sheep station at Booboorwie. After a few months there we went to Karoonda, a railway junction in the mallee of SA, where my mother was manageress of the Railway Refreshment Rooms. Then, together with a friend from Yugoslavia, who had to work two years on the railway to repay his passage, took up poultry (egg) farming at Apamurra, a hamlet of about six houses on the railway between Palmer and Mannum (on the River Murrray). Here I finished primary school and intermediate certificate at Birdwood High before having to leave school with deteriorating eyesight.

The eyesight was stabilised but I had to work out of doors. I tried dairy farming, working as a chainman and eventually as a cabinetmaker. At 17, I joined the Royal Australian Survey Corps for six years; working mainly in PNG and NT when not on training courses. On leaving the Army I worked for the SA Lands Dept while waiting for a job with the NT Lands. While working I did Matriculation by correspondence course and later 11 surveying subjects the same way, to become a Licensed Cadastal Surveyor.

Later I worked in NG surveying disputed land before Independence. I worked further in the NT until I had to remain within a day's travel of the eye clinic. I took up computer programming in 1976 and did it until my retirement in 1999. In 1998 I had moved from Darwin to the Glass House Mountains while taking long-service leave.

 

The full history of Lodestar G-AGBU

(This link will take you to another website)

 

Compiled by Ron Cuskelly