The Red Rose arrives in Melbourne

Title:
The Red Rose arrives in Melbourne
NFSA ID:
496714
Year:
1928
Category:
Access fees

Jessie 'Chubbie' Miller became the first woman to fly from England to Australia on 19 March 1928. On her flight she had to contend with mechanical failures and disposing of a snake found in the cockpit!

After 159 days she landed at Darwin in an Avro Avian (Red Rose) with pilot (and lover) Bill Lancaster. They then proceeded to fly down the east coast of Australia to Tasmania after which they toured the country giving talks about their adventures.

Their arrival in Melbourne was controversial and dramatic. They initially wanted to land at the Melbourne Motordrome but were denied permission by the Civil Aviation Branch as the landing area was too small. Lancaster travelled from Canberra to Melbourne by train and, upon seeing the field, agreed to land at Essendon aerodrome instead.

On the day of their arrival the welcoming flight returned without the Red Rose. An hour and a half after they were due, the fliers arrived having stopped on the way at Ivanhoe to ask for directions to the aerodrome. Flying without a map, Miller declared upon landing, 'We were 6000 feet up, and how was I to know where North Essendon was?'.

Lancaster and Miller later travelled to America where she became a pilot and participated in many aerial races (such as the 1929 Powder Puff Derby). A 1932 murder case involving the suspicious death of Miller's new lover Haden Clarke (who was writing her autobiography) saw Bill Lancaster accused of murder. Despite being the owner of the murder weapon and admitting to forging the suicide note found next to the body, he was found not guilty. With their reputation tarnished both Miller and Lancaster left America for England.

A year later Bill Lancaster went missing trying to break the flying record between London and Cape Town. His body was found years later in 1962 in the Sahara by a French army patrol next to his crashed aeroplane. Also found was his journal, written after the crash in the days before he died, in which he professed his everlasting love for Jesse. 

The Avro Avion G-EBTU was re-registered in Australia as G-AUTU/VH-UTU. It was written off after a crash landing in Singleton on 6 June 1936.