THIS week's image is of a Sopwith Camel biplane, number K-157, which had just landed on Bathurst Racecourse in 1920. The image is from a private collection.
The aircraft was owned by the Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Co Pty Ltd from Kingston on Thames, UK. Kingston was part of a large ancient parish in the county of Surrey and the town was an ancient borough, reformed in 1835. The plane was flown to Australia in 1919.
Aviation in Bathurst after the First World War was still in its infancy. Local pharmacist Peter J. Moodie was keen to get an aerodrome at Bathurst and to form an aviation service for the city.
The biplane seen here had flown from Melbourne to Albury earlier in the month before returning over the same route. It had later been flown from Melbourne to Bathurst. The pilot on the flight was Flight-Lieut P.H. Moody, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, who had flown on the Western Front. On the flight as a passenger was Bathurstian Peter J. Moodie in this two-seat version that was introduced to be used for training pilots in the Great War.
P.J. Moodie had organised to conduct pleasure flights in the two-seater aircraft the next days, Sunday and Monday, piloted by Flight-Lieut P.H. Moody, who was usually known as "Skip". They placed an advertisement in the local newspaper with tickets priced at £1 10s, £2 10s and £3 10s, which could be obtained from the booking offices at Havenhand, Best and O'Dea in William Street, Mr F.J. Hurley's Royal Hotel in William Street or P.J. Moodie's Pharmacy in George Street.
Organisers from the Aviation Service Company, Ltd., who had their head office at 2 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, planned to drop leaflets (each with a number) from the aeroplane the next day. Citizens recovering lucky numbers would be entitled to a free flight. The lucky numbers for the next day were 13, 263 and 388.
Flight-Lieut P.H. Moody was a pioneer pilot who knew Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith personally after they met in the Royal Flying Corps in World War One. Later, they met again in Sydney through Charles Ulm before Ulm's Sydney-to-Bathurst venture. Moody met Kingsford-Smith again while the famous flyer was in San Francisco purchasing a plane that would be suitable for trans-Tasman flight.
Several airmen took up the challenge to attempt to fly from England to Australia, for which they would receive the Commonwealth prize of £10,000. Two British airmen, Captain G.C. Matthews and Sergeant Kay, completed 11,000 miles under the most adverse flying conditions and later went on to tour Queensland in their Larkin-Sopwith Gnu aeroplane with the object of giving lectures on the adventures of their flight. Captain Matthews was a Scotsman by birth who had spent many years in Australia before the war, which qualified him to enter for the Commonwealth prize.
By the time the First World War was over, the Sopwith Camel biplanes were a proven model. The British Sopwith Camel, developed as a single-seat biplane fighter aircraft, first saw service during 1917. The twin-seat trainer Camel, released in January 1920, was developed by the Sopwith Aviation Company as a successor to its earlier Sopwith Pup. It became one of the best-known fighter aircraft of the Great War. Powered by a single rotary engine and fitted with a pair of synchronised Vickers machine guns, this aircraft had a high level of manoeuvrability. Camel pilots shot down 1294 enemy aircraft during World War One.
The current Bathurst airport's history dates to just prior to the Second World War when P.J. Moodie and other local politicians campaigned again for an airport for Bathurst. The war prompted the Federal Government to establish the aerodrome during the war years. Immediately following the war, commercial air services started with passenger flights to Sydney.