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Alan Cobham at Darwin

In 1926 Alan Cobham flew from Britain to Melbourne Australia and back in a DH50, G-EBFO. It was the third flight from Britain to Australia and the first return flight (1). Cobham was knighted on his return for this and other pioneering flights. The aircraft could alternately be a floatplane of a landplane.

His first stop in Australia was Darwin and he called there on the return journey. The photos here record both stops. On both occasions the aircraft was converted, from floatplane to landplane on the inward flight and the reverse on the return flight. The flight commenced with mechanic Arthur B Elliot but he was tragically fatally wounded by someone firing at the plane from the ground over Iraq. He was replaced by R W Ward. C Capel joined them both for the return journey.

(1) It was not the first return trip from Europe. In 1924  Francesco de Pinedo accompanied by engineer Ernesto Campanelli flew a Savoia S.16ter single-engine, flying boat named Gennariello for 55,000-mile trip of six months, from Rome, to Melbourne Australia, to Tokyo, and back to Rome. He did not land at Darwin.

The following set of photographs were found tipped into a photo album left by Doris Lambert, who died in Auckland in 1978. They are 102 x 78 mm prints (though some were trimmed to less than this). They were probably contact printed and not very professionally as the exposure varied somewhat and could have been corrected by better printing. The negatives were not with the album. The camera and photographer are unknown.

Fortunately most of the prints were very sharp and have allowed the enlargements here. The pictures below are thumbnails - click on the pictures to see the larger versions. They were scanned in colour at 600dpi. Some have been adjusted for contrast and brightness. The spotting on the prints has not been retouched. Most of the photos have handwritten captions on the reverse, which are repeated here in the form they were written.

Cigarette card of the DH 50.

Photo (thumbnail) Caption on Reverse
"Cobham arriving Darwin August 5th 1926."
"Cobham just touched the water before finally setting down."


Note - undated but presumably the first arrival, which was August 5th, 1926.

"Taking off the floats Mindil Beach Darwin August 6th 1926."
"Taking out the floats August 6th. 1926."
"Putting wheels on  Mindil Beach August 6th."
"Getting ready to fly to the aerodrome from Mindil Beach Darwin Aug. 6.1926"
"Getting ready to fly off Mindil Beach to the aerodrome August 6th. 1926. Darwin"
Photo (thumbnail) Caption on Reverse
(No caption)

Note - this appears to be a different tripod rig from above so may be the return flight.

"Cobhams machine launched Sept 4th. 1926."

Note - the original print is over-exposed.

"Outside the breakers Sept. 4th. 1926"

Mindl Beach

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The Cobham trip dates, 1926:

Date Event
June 30 Left Medway, Britain
August 5 Arrived Darwin
August 8th Left Darwin
August 15 Arrived Melbourne
August 29 Departed Melbourne
September 2 Arrived Darwin
September 4 Left Darwin
October 1 Arrived London

cob rute.jpg (1162446 bytes) Route out and back - from Australia and Back (thumbnail)

Mail from the return trip  Baghdad- London

bagdad_-_london.jpg (23724 bytes)bagdad_-_london_rev.jpg (18448 bytes)

1926 Playing card celebrating the two 1926 flights.

cobham cover.jpg (64990 bytes)

(Thumbnail) - Cobham cover from the 1925 flight to India - with Arthur Elliot's signature.

Time's account of his arrival in Darwin

Doris Lambert was born in Auckland in 1900 and raised there. Her father William Field Porter was a mariner in the pearling and beche-de-mer trade in northern Australia and the Aru Sea. The base for this was latterly Thursday Island and his wife and family were frequent visitors there. From 1921-1926 the parents, Doris and for a time elder daughter Alice lived there.  In 1926 Doris was still single. Her father retired to New Zealand in late 1926 and died there in 1927. It is not known if Doris visited Darwin in 1926 but it is certainly possible. August / September is the dry season and cooler so it is the better season to visit Darwin, for both aviators and visitors. However no other pictures in her album are of aircraft, and the writing on the rear of the pictures does not seem to be hers.  In 1938 she married an Englishman Jack Lambert who was a qualified pilot and an RNZAF instructor in WWII.  It was his second marriage - he was a widower. He is perhaps a more likely source of the pictures, but is not known to have been in Darwin in 1926. His early career in Britain was in the merchant marine. He had a first aid certificate renewed in Adelaide in 1929 so certainly travelled in this part of the world, but a one month stop in Darwin would seem unlikely for a working seaman, if that is what he still then was.

The careful recording of the dates on most of the photographs suggests the caption writer was someone who was well aware of the historic importance of the flights.

As Cobham's account notes (see below) he was met in Darwin by the sloop HMS Geranium of the Australian navy.  The white capped assistants seen in the pictures must be crew who assisted in the floats to wheels switch. Another possibility for the photographer then is a Geranium crew member. Doris socialised with naval crew on their visits to Thursday Island and could have been given the set there. 

Cobham published his account of the trip in 1927: Australia and Back. A. & C. Black, London:   

Cobham's account of the Darwin visits can be read here (Word download)

Reproduction of images from this site is not restricted. A link to this website is requested in attribution.  If higher resolution scans are desired for any use please contact me below.

Links about Cobham

Website by Garry Law   -  Mail me   -    Friday July 24, 2015

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