It is Remembrance Day so I shall be thinking about the men and women who have, for complicated and varied reasons, served this country in overseas conflicts over the last 116 years. I will also be thinking of the wars that continue around this world, for reasons only the powerful know, and the people displaced by them, including those who have tried to stagger to our shores. I will remember.
And it’s a day to reflect on the titanic struggles of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. Gough was a WWII RAAF veteran who brought our conscripts home from Vietnam. Fraser was a child of wartime who threw our country’s borders open to refugees from that conflict. I’ll remember that too.
Flying machines only properly got off the ground in 1903 so they really are a defining invention of the 20th century. It’s a sad fact that, before an aeroplane had even been flown in Australia, the Commonwealth Government offered a prize for the first person who could invent one for military purposes. Our WWI pilots flew French and British planes, as it turned out.
This is a gorgeous 1914 picture of the first seaplane in Australia which was imported by Lebbeus Hordern and piloted by Maurice Gillaux, a dashing French acrobatic aviator who would die in 1917, doing test flights for the French military. I love this – the old technology stands behind the new but they are both just canvas and sticks. You wouldn’t have gotten me up in one of those for quids, but people took them into battle, against Zeppelins and guns and other planes! I guess war is the best place for nuttersdaredevils.