Historical information

Edna Barrie at the cairn, photo received from Graeme Minns in 1988. The cairn marks the site of Jimmy Melrose's plane crash in Melton South. The accident which happened on July 5th 1936.

In 1934 Melrose made headlines with a series of spectacular flights. In July of that year, he set around Australia record and in that year established a new solo Australia England record when he flew to England to compete in the MacRoberston race with a De Havilland Puss Moth VH- YQO. The only Australian and the only solo pilot to complete the course within the time limit. He was seventh in finishing order and third in the handicap section making news again during the race with a dramatic landing in Darwin with empty fuel tanks.

Late in 1935 Melrose imported the Phoenix for his “Adelaide to Anywhere” Charter Service. The previous year the Heston Aircraft Company had taken over the interests of the well known Comper Aircraft Company, and the first production of the new firm was the Phoenix, a single-engined all wooden five seater machine of sesquiplane configuration. The forward half of the fuselage was a streamlined rectangular section and the rear portion was a monocogue shell; the whole was of plywood fabric covered. The wing was built up of spruce box spars and lattice ribs, ply covered from the leading edge to the front spar and the fabric covered over the remainder. The tail surfaces were of similar construction.

The most notable feature of the design was the lower stub wing which ran right across the fuselage embodying two box spars, plywood covered it housed the main undercarriage wheels when retracted and provided a substantial anchorage for the Nu form wing struts. The Dowty undercarriage retracted inwards, operated manually by hydraulic packs, Dual control fitted, with side by side seating for the pilots and three passenger seats behind. Power was a 200 h.p. De Havilland Gipsy VI 6 cylinder inverted in-line air-cooled engine.

Six Phoenix were built; five of them registered in Great Britain and one of those was later sold abroad the remaining four were impressed into the R.A.F. in 1940. Specifications were: 40 feet 4 inches length 30 ft 2 ins height, 9ft 7ins, wing area 270 sq ft, Tare weight 2,600lbs loaded weight 3,300lbs; cruising speed 360 m.p.h. landing 50mph ceiling 14,000 ft range 700 miles.

Melrose’s machine the first production aircraft was built early in 1936 and test flown of the 24th March. Painted green it carries the words “South Australian Centenary 1936” in silver of the fuselage and the name “Billing on the engine cowling in honor of Melrose’s uncle Noel Pemberton Billing, pioneer designer and founder of the Supermarine Aviation Company.

The delivery flight was planned as a goodwill mission to publicise the forthcoming South Australian Centenary celebrations.

Melrose left Dympne on the 9th April 1936, and flying via Marseilles, Naples, Athens, Baghdad, Basra, Karachi, Jodphur, Calcutta, Akyab, Penang, Singapore, Lombok, Darwin, Newcastle Waters and Alice Springs reached Adelaide on the 25th of April. Continuing the goodwill flight to other States, he visited Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Grafton, Brisbane, Coff’s Harbour, Sydney again, Launceston, Hobart and Mount Gambier before returning to Adelaide on the 13th May.

During June Jimmy made some charter flights and early in July was engaged by Mr. A.J. Campbell a director of several mining companies from Melbourne to Darwin to commence at Essendon on the4th July. However on that day low cloud and steady rain caused the postponement. There was little improvement and Melrose was advised to delay the departure again. However he wished to reach Oodnadatta that night, and when he observed the break in the clouds decided to leave. He planned to climb above the cloud and fly to Adelaide at 3,000 feet.

The aircraft was airborne about 8.10 a.m. and was last seen from Essendon climbing above the clouds. At 8.45 people at Melton (30 miles West of Melbourne) heard an approaching aircraft. The engine noise increased abnormally and eye witnesses saw the machine fall out of control from the cloud base about 800 feet and then disintegrate, fragments were scattered for 1½ miles and both occupants were killed.

Hand written carbon copy by Edna Barrie.Typed by Wendy Barrie March 2014

Last Flight of Jimmy Melrose by John Burke Parade Magazine July 1972 Page 2 –4

This article gives the take off time of 7.50 am from Essendon Airport

Eyewitness account at the time Maisie Arthur’s description. Newspaper article.

Physical description

Edna Barrie at the site of the 'Cairn'