by Kevin O’Reilly
Winner of the Victorian Community History Awards 2013 award for Local History
This collection of aviation reportings, documents and photographs began as the result of Kevin’s interest in recording the story of the World War II RAAF Base at Nhill in western Victoria. This was the town of his youth and he recalls the drone of radial engines over his home, and like most of the young boys of the town, longed for the day he could fly to the clouds like the Air Force boys. Unfortunately, circumstances never came his way to indulge this dream and apart from completing his National Service in the RAAF, Kevin remained mostly on the ground, still dreaming and looking skywards.
In Kevin’s research, he became impressed by the enthusiastic reporting of Fred McKenzie of the “Nhill Free Press”, who faithfully recorded aircraft comings and goings from the first aeroplane visit in 1919 until his passing in 1943. As most researchers will agree, it is hard not to explore every line of enquiry to its end and Kevin trusts that readers will be forgiving for the number of times Nhill is mentioned in this publication. During the 1920s, there were few aeroplanes with a range that would enable them to fly between capital cities without stopping to refuel. On flights between Melbourne and Sydney the refuel point was usually Cootamundra, NSW. Between Melbourne and Adelaide, the town of Nhill was almost exactly half-way and almost on the lay line for ease of navigation, with a prominent wheat silo and rail line with relatively flat surroundings, it became a logical “perch” for aircraft. Local town fathers were quick to seize on this fact and embraced the possibilities of a potential new asset.
“Flyers of Time” concerns itself with aviation in country Victoria and
the Riverinaand largely excludes that from around Melbourne, Geelong and the RAAF. Inclusion of this material would have been at the expense of “bush” reports. Many of the black and white photographs included are regrettably of poor quality but better than nothing and are included for historical significance. In selecting a title for this book, Kevin’s mind kept returning to one of his favourite Victorian State histories, “Riders of Time” by Dame Mabel Brookes – Kevin is sure she would not have disapproved of him borrowing from it.
Published in 2012