Bert Hinkler Pays a
call on Port Stephens
Herbert John Louis Hinkler, (1892 - 1933),
better known as Bert Hinkler, was a pioneer Australian aviator (dubbed "Australian Lone Eagle") and inventor.
He designed and built early aircraft before being the first person to fly solo from England to Australia in 1921, and the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
In April of the same year, shortly after Bert’s record-breaking flight from London to Australia, he flew from Brisbane to Sydney flying down the east coast in his Baby Avro.
Unfortunately, due to torrential rain he was forced to land on Stockton Beach near Anna Bay. His aircraft was then overturned by a strong gust of wind.
Carrying his pet magpie in a cage, Hinkler struggled across the sand dunes and made it several miles to properties at Bobs Farm. Knocking on the door of the nearest house, he was greeted by Thomas (Fuffy) Eagleton and a young Charles Cromarty, (1) where he was given a welcome cup of tea.
Leaving his pet magpie with the local kids, Bert was offered a short ride back to Anna Bay in horse and cart and, with the help of locals, he was able to secure the aircraft.
He then spent the night in Lucy Upton’s farm.
Aerial view of Stockton Beach with area marked as the general locality of his landing.
Note Bobs Farm and Anna Bay.
Next morning, with the aid of Tom Eagleton and Charles Cromarty, the aircraft was righted and towed by five horses the 22 km along the sand to Stockton.
From there the aircraft was towed to the Hunter River wharf, disassembled and made the journey from Newcastle to Sydney, with Bert, on the steamer ‘Hunter’.
Hinkler’s Baby Avro, now in the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Bundaburg, Queensland.
Interestingly, the Hunter was sold to Chinese interests in 1938 and was taken over by the Japanese during the war. It was sunk by American bombs in Vietnam in 1945.
The Steamer `Hunter' at the wharf in Newcastle. Click here for further reading.
Before he left Newcastle, Bert Hinkler was generous enough to give Tom Eagleton 10 pounds for his troubles. Bert went on to set more aviation records. In 1933 he died when he crashed his plane near Milan in Italy as another storm forced him into mountains during yet another record-breaking flight.
The Cromarty family, Tom Eagleton, and the Uptons were all descendants of Capt William Cromarty, who had arrived in Sydney as a free settler in 1822. In 1824 he moved to Port Stephens where he was granted 300 acres of land in the Soldiers Point, Salamander Bay area.