Harry Butler Story
Henry John Butler was born on November 9, 1889, at Yorketown,
but the important years of his boyhood were spent on
a small farm at Koolywurtie, a few kilometres from Minlaton.
appreciate the size of the miracle that turned a young
South Australian farmer into a famous airman, it must
always be born in mind that this was pre-World War One
era - flying was in its earliest infancy. Little, if
any, authentic technical information on man's efforts
to conquer the air could in those childhood days have
trickled through to a rather remote farmhouse.
Harry Butler with his 'Red Devil' in France 1914 - 1918
Harry Butler was born to fly, and no obstacles of time or
distance were great enough to deter him. Throughout
his brief life, the theory and practice of aviation was his
a boy he caught and weighed his mother's farm hens, measured
their wing span and then released them. Always seeking to
learn, always obsessed with the desire to fly.
limited schooling was received at Koolywurtie where he shared
the single teacher on duty with about twenty other children
of varying ages. Harry's devotion to constructing model machines
often surpassed his attention to homework, much to his teacher's
dismay. He had no secondary education.
a very young man his mechanical talent found its outlet on
motor bikes, and after disappointment with one second-hand
machine, he built his own around an engine imported from England.
When Butler reached his early twenties, it was important that
he have a reliable motor bike, because most Saturdays he rode
almost 200km to Smithfield, where Mr. C.W. Wittber was building
a plane for which he had made every component part himself,
including the engine. This
was probably Harry's first contact with an aircraft - certainly
it was his first chance to climb into one and get the heady
feel of the controls.
could recognise and acknowledge the promise in this young
fellow enthusiast, and together they learned the clumsy rudiments
of flying. Their activity was largely confined to taxiing
around the ground, but both made a few short flights into
life followed a steady pattern of farm work by day and avid
reading and study of his beloved aircraft by night until February
1915, when Harry Butler could endure the delay no longer and
went to Point Cook to join the Air Force.
a very high rating in his preliminary examinations, he did
not stay long. The tempo of the war and of flying was quickening
now, and he chafed at delays.
Royal Flying Corps
He spent all his savings and then borrowed more to go to England
at his own expense and join the Royal Flying Corps.
enlisted in England early in 1916 as an Air Mechanic, but
his brilliance received immediate recognition, and after three
weeks he was gazetted Second Lieutenant, and by July 1916,
Harry Butler was flying in France.
second greatest talent proved to be as an instructor. Flying
daily, and teaching others the thrill and achievement that
man could find in the air, this must have been a very happy
period in his life. Living with airminded men, he shared with
them his knowledge and uncanny instinct for aviation. Other
men could be taught to fly, but Harry Butler was always an
was soon made Captain and Flight Commander, and during his
service as an instructor 2,700 pupils passed through the school
to which he was attached. This in itself was a magnificent
contribution to the Allied war effort, but Harry Butler adopted
a typical instructor's routine of his own that added further
merit to his service.
Butler would fly to France, attach himself to an active Fighter
Squadron and join its raids, so that he could study each new
German tactic at first hand, work out an effective counter
to it and then go back to his school and give further instruction
in the light of the information he had gained in battle.
stay in France would sometimes extend over a period of eight
February 1918, he received a head wound on active service
over Douai, and in December of the same year he was awarded
the Air Force Cross.
his service in Great Britain, Butler discovered the advantages
of a primitive form of air mail. He dropped weighted notes
from his plane when time did not allow a message being sent
through normal channels. As we shall see, this habit had a
warming sequel on his return to South Australia.
Harry Butler remained in the R.F.C until the war ended on
Armistice Day, 1918.
to South Australia
Butler could never stop flying now, and his one aim was to
get home, and to bring civil aviation with him.
shows that he was perhaps a little before his time, but single-mindedness
and determination roused latent enthusiasm in many South Australians
and throughout the country he encouraged and inspired men
to cling to their belief in the future of flying.
rapid progress and enormous interest in aviation in this State
owes much to the personality and genius of Harry Butler. He
was a man of medium, rather stocky build, with a round, genial
face that smiled easily and made you feel good just to look
at him. All manner of people liked him, and were warmed by
his zest for living and his enthusiasm for flying.
slow and diffident on official occasions, he was another being
when he got to the controls of a plane.
were his forte and the ultimate measure of his enormous skill.
He himself was concerned with the serious business of flying,
but he knew how far behind him in knowledge and appraisal
lagged the average man in the street, and so for that man,
Harry risked his life a thousand times as he dived, roller,
flipped and hedgehopped in spectacular manoeuvres designed
to capture the most stolid imagination, and make the most
unresponsive man aware of aviation and its possibilities.
Butler came home to Australia about the 5th July, 1919, and
a few weeks later his Bristol M.1C Monoplane (Red Devil),
his Avro 504K Biplane and three 110 h.p. Le Rhone rotary engines
which could be fitted to either plane arrived in the country
under the care of Lt. H.A Kauper, R.F.C., Sergeant-Major Samuel
Cecil Crawford and Leslie Jack Lucas.
who was now associated with Butler, originally came from Melbourne.
He was another aviation fanatic, and went to England in 1909
where he became a first-class aeronautical engineer and designer.
Together with Harry Hawker (also destined to become famous)
he won a Daily Mail prize for the first flight around Great
invented the gear which made it possible for British fighter
pilots to fire through the revolving propellers of their planes
- without hitting the propellers.
was a brilliant engineer and Butler was fortunate to have
his services during the brief life of their aviation company.
Kauper was a co-worker in the invention of the radio transceivers
that are used in the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Lucas was for a long time in the employ of Butler and Kauper
as a mechanic and general utility man - he went with Butler
on most of his mail-carrying trips.
was a lifelong friend who was himself interested in aviation
from its earliest days, and was always on hand to give Harry
encouragement and advice in peace and war. His name constantly
recurs in connection with Butler's activities from childhood
until his early death, and his opinion was always greatly
respected and usually acted upon.
July 31st, 1919, just three weeks after his return from overseas,
and eight days after the arrival of his planes, Harry Butler
was giving exhibitions and displays of flying and stunting.
Early in August, the Harry J. Butler and Kauper Aviation Co.
Ltd. was formed, and operated from a hanger at Northfield.
This Northfield air strip was used by the Aviation Company
from July 1919 to October 1920. An aerodrome at Albert Park
(purchased by Butler himself) was used from October 1920,
until the closing of the Company on September 24th, 1921.
airfield was subsequently purchased by the Commonwealth Government
and used for a time as the Adelaide Airport until the Parafield
Aerodrome was completed and put into use.
original stakeholders in the Company were Butler, Kauper,
Mrs Kauper, H.C Richards and Sergeant Major S.C Crawford.
The business of the new Company as set out in its Articles
was to be "Manufactures and Importers of Aircraft, Motor
Cars and Merchandise, with subsidiary interests as Motor and
General Engineers and in Aerial and Passenger Carrying and
Advertising Services." The very novelty of the enterprise
caused it to flourish in its early stages, and there was a
strong demand for passenger flights and stunting exhibitions.
Comes Home - Historic Flight
The greatest day in the Harry Butler story, the day of which
he had dreamed as a farmer's lad, become a glorious reality
on August 6th, 1919 when the local boy came home by plane,
the first man to fly across the Gulf to Yorke Peninsula.
that day, the sturdy little plane was wheeled from its hangar
to face a 110km/h gale. No modern aircraft would be permitted
to leave the ground under such conditions, but for Butler
there was no turning back. This was the day his life had been
planned to achieve, and wind and weather would not postpone
the plane was an 18kg mailbag of postcards and letters for
delivery in Minlaton - the first air mail flight to the Peninsula
and the first air mail to be carried over water in this State.
in the Gulf had been altered to watch for his approach, and
he was reluctantly persuaded to wear an inflated inner tube
around his neck and body as a primitive life jacket in the
rather likely event of being "ditched."
10:40am Harry left the ground and rapidly gained height for
the start of the one hundred kilometre flight. He was troubled
by the strong head wind and varied his height at intervals
from as high as 4,500m to a mere 500m in a vain endeavour
to find better conditions.
for his safety was mounting when at last he approached the
20 hectare paddock which was to serve as his landing ground
at Minlaton. Below him was spread a crowd of some 6,000 people,
most of whom had never seen a plane in the air before. But
now Harry Butler was home, and this was his day.
2,500m in the air he rolled the plane gently on its side,
side-slipped a little, and then come down in a screaming nose
dive. At the last possible moment he flattened out over the
heads of the gasping crowd, skimmed along the ground, and
then suddenly soared high into the turbulent skies again.
This was his day, and he was home, and he treated that welcoming
crowd to a dazzling display of skill and daring that carried
with it all the feeling and all the joy of a man achieving
his life's ambition.
typical thoughtfulness he soberly came in to land at 11:45am
(lunch was advertised for at 12 noon), and for a brief moment
there was a curious hush as the noisy engine cut out.
the crowd came to life again, and eagerly followed the car
bearing Harry's family as it drove towards the plane to greet
their famous son and brother.
Captain Harry Butler A.F.C was officially welcomed to Minlaton
on that historic day by the then Chairman of the District
Council of Minlaton, Mr Edward Correll, who owned the 20 hectare
paddock that served as a landing field. Mr Correll took delivery
of the first two letters to be carried by air to the Peninsula.
One was from His Excellency the Governor of South Australia,
Sir Henry Galway, and the other was from Mr W.H Langham, the
Mayor of Unley.
Mr Correll had read the congratulory letters, Mr H.G Tossell,
M.P, extended a welcome to Butler, followed by a speech by
the Mayor of Yorketown, Dr W.H Russell. Dr Russell told the
large crowd that the Captain was known internationally as
"Butler of South Australia" and that he hoped he
would "live as long as he wanted and to never want as
long as he lived." His remarks were followed by those
of Mr J Tiddy, Mayor of Maitland. Harry then gave two breath-taking
displays of aerobatics - diving, rolling, looping the loop,
side-slipping and soaring to incredible heights, only to reappear
in a spinning nose dive.
was always prodigal with his displays and held nothing back
in courage or spectacle.
After four wonderful days on Southern Yorke Peninsula he set
out for Adelaide on August 11th, with two bags of mail and
a simple little message. This was a note prepared by himself,
and weighted and dropped from his plane. As he passed over
the little school house at Koolywurtie he released the parcel,
and flew on. The message read - "To my old school and
its scholars. I sincerely hope that this little message from
the air will bring to you all the very best of luck."
It was received with delights, and for many years was framed
on the wall of the little school room. A fitting reminder
that there are no barriers to fame if the will and determination
are of the quality that produces a Harry Butler.
reached Enfield 27 minutes after leaving the ground at Minlaton.
The reception party waiting to welcome him included the governor,
Sir Henry Galway; the Military Commandant, Brig-General Antill;
the Chief Justice, Sir George Murray; Mr Justice Buchanan,
and the Mayor of Unley, Mr W.H Langham. They were naturally
watching the western sky for the plane's approach, but Harry
Butler was always the perfect showman - he suddenly appeared
from nowhere at a very great height and threw the Red Devil
into a terrifying nose dive from which it seemed impossible
to recover. But a few short metres from the ground he broke
out of it and screamed back into the air looping the loop
and twisting across the sky. Then he landed quickly and handed
over the mail bags and so closed the door on what must have
been for him a magnificently satisfying few days.
Twelve days later, on August 23rd, 1919, Butler gave another
dazzling display of flying at Unley. He used the Unley Oval
as a landing field, and made the huge crowd of over 20,000
gasp each time he came to land on that restricted area.
on Tuesday, August 26th, 1919, he launched the first Australian
Peace Loan in typical fashion. While speeches were being made
in Flinders Street, and having little effect, he arrived overhead
in the now famous Red Devil. He buzzed the delighted crowd
and then swept low and threw out quantities of loan pamphlets
that were eagerly snatched up as they drifted to the ground.
This publicity and promotion work formed the major part of
Harry Butler's flying activity during this period.
Red Devil was a familiar sight at Glenelg and other seaside
towns, skimming over the water, and leap-frogging over jetties.
A special leaflet for the Peace Loan was dropped over Glenelg
on September 16th, 1919.
jetty-jumping trips from Marino to Outer Harbour, Butler would
buzz the Adelaide Children's Hospital, and nurses rushed to
place little patients on the lawns to watch the display.
September 6th, 1919, he gave an aerial display at Kadina Race
Course as the major attraction in a day designed to raise
funds for the Kadina Memorial Park. The weather was wet and
boisterous, and he flew at considerable risk, but his only
comment before getting into the air was, "If it's good
enough for all you people to come out, it's good enough for
me to go up". And he did.
The enormous difficulty that he encountered in the way of
weather and makeshift air fields is something that reduces
the present day observer to a speechless admiration. He took
part in the New Year's Day activities at Victor Harbor in
1920, and had to contend with a threatening sky and very poor
visibility. Clouds were touching the Adelaide Hills as he
took off from Enfield, and he was forced to stay low for the
whole of the 35-minute trip.
makeshift landing field had been prepared by enthusiastic
helpers without the slightest knowledge of aircraft, despite
an earlier, preliminary visit from Mr H.C Richards, who warned
them that it was too dangerous, and that they should cancel
the flyer's engagement.
Butler landed, the Red Devil kangaroo-hopped across the field
in great, diminishing bounds - the undercarriage of that Bristol
Monoplane was rigid. But, as always, the show went on, with
two displays during the afternoon, and each time the same
ordeal of landing on that murderous field. The delighted crowd
took it all as part of the show, only that smiling little
man himself knew what he was risking to give the local committee
its money's worth.
Harry Butler's appeal was not limited to the man in the street.
Sir Henry Galway, who was always a good friend to men of courage
and enterprise, effectively demonstrated his faith in Butler's
ability by travelling as a passenger in the Avro bi-plane
on February 3rd, 1920. The flight, lasting 40 minutes, took
the Governor from Parafield to Mount Lofty, along the foothills
to Glenelg, north following the beach to Port Adelaide, then
back to Parafield.
Governor afterwards spoke enthusiastically of the trip, stating:
".....40 minutes in the air with Captain Harry Butler
was the most fascinating 40 minutes I have ever spent......I
was tremendously impressed by the wonderful control which
Captain Butler has over his machine, and the remarkable cleverness
with which he manipulated it. There is no doubt that he is
a pilot of the very highest order."
Harry Butler took part in Australia's first Aerial Derby,
which was held in Adelaide on September 8th, 1920. The other
two contestants were Captain Frank McNamara, V.C., and Lt.
F.S Briggs, both of the R.A.A.F. Again it was to promote an
Australian Peace Loan, and the race was over a distance of
about 30 kilometres. The course went from Northfield to Port
Adelaide, thence to Henley beach, and finished over Adelaide
GPO clock tower.
Derby was flown in the lunch hour to give the greatest number
of people an opportunity to watch the event.
Harry won, of course, mainly because of his ability to come
up very close to the GPO tower and just nip around it very
smartly, while Briggs and McNamara made circumspect wide turns
at a stately pace.
the contest, Butler, McNamara gave a magnificent aerial display
that thrilled and stunned the thousands watching.
the added exhilaration of recent success and the joy of having
another skilled flyer to combine with, brought Butler's genius
to new and wonderful heights. Whatever the reasons, onlookers
were agreed that the crowd was treated to a thrilling display
of stunting that was the cleverest that Harry Butler had ever
shown in Adelaide.
human touch that seems to verify that elation of the flyers
comes from Lt. Briggs himself: "Mac, Harry and I later
had a spot together to celebrate Australia's first Aerial
Derby, and another for being participants, and three more
for each other's health. Can't remember what the other excuses
were. A good ending to the brightest little show it has been
my pleasure to be in."
In March 1920, when the Smith brothers arrived in Adelaide
on the completion of their historic flight from England in
the big Vickers-Vimy, now housed at the Adelaide Airport,
West Beach, they were met by the little Red Devil, hovering
over the hills, and waiting to lead them in.
strong bond of brotherhood that always binds together men
of like talents was apparent in this contact between Butler
and Ross and Keith Smith.
made his landing field available to them, and helped in many
ways while they were in Adelaide.
The engagement of Harry Butler and Miss Elsa Gibson, a nursing
sister from Bool Lagoon, near Naracoorte, was announced in
October 1919. They were married on 21st July, 1921, and their
honeymoon was spent on the River Murray.
the first trip that Harry made from Adelaide to Minlaton in
the Avro bi-plane, Miss Gibson was a passenger, and they landed
on a farm about 5km north-east of the town. They wanted to
avoid crowds, and an understanding host and his family hid
the plane in a small clump of trees for several days.
Harry Butler was responsible for the first aerial photograph
ever produced and published in South Australia. He took them
when flying over the suburbs of Adelaide in his Avro bi-plane,
at an altitude of 600m. Newspaper articles at the time indicated
"the detail in the photographs is remarkably clear. Familiar
landmarks, and even vehicles in the streets, are plainly disernible."
As the months passed by the aviation company found it harder
to secure customers. Flying in South Australia was losing
its appeal as a novelty without yet being strong enough to
succeed as a commercial enterprise. Despite efficient administration
and Harry's personality and talent, it was apparent to both
Butler and Kauper that their company could no longer provide
sufficient livelihood for the two partners. Profits were still
in hand and they chose voluntary liquidation in preference
of waiting for a painfully drawn-out collapse. Not the slightest
blame could be attached to anyone concerned for the closing
of the company on September 24th, 1921.
Butler's faith in aviation was unshaken, and he purchased
the two aircraft and other machinery assets to carry on the
same business on his own account.
Four months later, Butler was involved in a disastrous plane
crash near Minlaton that was the beginning of the end for
this aviation pioneer.
Butler had known forced landings and minor accidents before
and philosophically accepted them as part of the calculated
risk in flying, but on January 11th, 1922, the almost inevitable
crash came that dimmed the shining brightness of a genius.
It was a passenger flight in the Avro bi-plane with a Mr Miles
on board who miraculously escaped injury. Butler had been
dissatisfied with the Avro engine's performance for two or
three days, but a prolonged and meticulous warm-up inspection
on that fatal day failed to reveal any trouble. The plane
took off, but at about 400m the engine seized, and at that
height not even Butler could take steps to prevent a bad smash.
tried to throw the plane into a dive - standard procedure
when stalled - but there was no time or opportunity to do
anything but wait for the impact.
front of the plane's fuselage was smashed and splintered beyond
recognition as was Butler's face and head. By some miracle
he survived but the months that followed were an agonising
ordeal of operations and plastic surgery, with recurrent spells
in nursing homes and hospitals.
Butler's smashed Avro bi-plane 500m south Minlaton,
11th January, 1922.
headaches and dizziness were a constant affliction, and Butler
had great difficulty in concentration. Even after skilful
surgery to rebuild his forehead, jaw, and nose, he was badly
disfigured, and recognisable as Harry Butler on one side of
his face only.
intensely active flying days were gone forever, although he
did take a plane up in Victoria after his apparent recovery.
lesser man might have retired completely from the world and
lived in brooding isolation, but not Harry Butler. In October,
he donned his Royal Flying Corps uniform and officially laid
the foundation stone of the Maitland Soldiers' Memorial.
typical courage and the will to overcome all obstacles
he again entered the business field. This time it was
as "The Harry Butler Aviation and Motor Engineering
Garage" in his home town, Minlaton. His partner
was a Mr. Nicholson who dealt with administration and
finance, while Harry acted as sales manager. This new
venture was backed financially by the Egerton-Warburton
family, well known for their pastoral and sheep interests.
Garage (now Robert Martin Applicances)
An Austin agency was secured from England, and a Jewett agency
from America. Both makes of car were popular, and the business
The final penalty from the Minlaton crash had yet to be paid,
and after a pleasant evening dining at the R.S.L. Club on
July 29th, Harry Butler went home to bed for the last time.
The following day an unsuspected cerebral abscess burst, and
the merciful end came in a few short hours.
His funeral on July 31st in Adelaide was a hugely attended
and moving ceremony. He had brought a new and exciting experience
into the lives of many South Australian people in the brief
three years of his active career as an aviator and airman
extraordinary, and suddenly, with his tragic death, they were
well aware of it. Thousands came to pay silent tribute to
a man who had captured the public imagination and made himself
a legend in his own time.
now so easily accept the benefits and advantages of air travel
and air mail, and give too little thought and thanks to the
gallant Harry Butler and the men like him, who willingly gave
their very lives, and whatever else they had to make it all
is fitting that the town that reared him should now preserve
and honour the memory and achievement of Harry Butler for
all time. And it is pleasing to note that Minlaton was always
aware of the status of Butler as an aviation pioneer.
January 24th, 1923, a presentation dinner at Minlaton R.S.L.
was extended to him as a thanksgiving and welcome home after
recovery from his near-fatal smash. This was only six months
before his death, and it is recorded that Butler was overcome
and speechless at the sincerity of the tributes that were
paid to his ability as a flyer, and to his fine qualities
as a man. To him was given on this occasion the rare distinction
of being a pioneer who received recognition and honour in
his own land.
more recent times, commemorative Air Pageants have been held
near Minlaton. The first, on 11th October 1958, coincided
with the official opening of the Butler Memorial Building
10th August, 1969, an Air Pageant was again held as
was the unveiling of a plaque depicting the spot where
Harry Butler crashed his Avro Bi-plane in 1922, sustaining
injuries which later contributed to his death. The plaque
was unveiled by Sir Donald Anderson the then Commonwealth
Director General of Civil Aviation, who had been a resident
of Minlaton during his early years. A similar Pageant
was again held in August 1979.
located at crash site on Yorketown Road, Minlaton
new Butler Memorial Building and refurbished plane were unveiled
at a ceremony on Sunday 6th August, 1989, in conjunction with
another commemoration Air Pageant held at the airfield near
The Bristol M1C Monoplane known as the Red Devil was built
by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (later the Bristol
Aeroplane Company) at Filton, England, and delivered to the
Royal Flying Corps on the 4th February, 1918. The plane was
designed with a certain urgency as the need for fast single
seat fighter planes with the greatest possible fire power
became apparent. The exceptional speed of the aircraft was
later typified by Captain Butler's claim in July 1919 that
"my plane is one of the three fastest in the world."
small production run of 125 planes were constructed which
together with its then radical design led to a high unit cost
of £770 (without engine, instruments and gun). The engine
cost an additional £771. The plane was first flown on
the 28th May, 1916, by the 'E' Flight of No. 4 Auxiliary School
for Aerial Gunnery R.F.C. at Marske-by-the-Sea Yorkshire.
Entries in the aircraft's Log Book indicated that it had been
used for "Fighting Practice" for 20 minutes per
day from June to September, 1918. The final entry in the log
books while owned by the R.F.C. was made on 25th January,
Captain Harry Butler's death in 1924, the plane was hung form
rafters in a shed in Adelaide. The castor oil lubricant from
its flying days had caused an oily, dirty, film to develop
on the fabric of the aircraft.
Mr. C. Miller purchased the plane from Captain Butler's widow
in about 1930, and proceeded to restore the plane. The fuselage
was subsequently altered to a rectangular shape to house two
different types of engines.
Mr. Miller competed in races in Adelaide and Melbourne and
flew in exhibitions in the following years. The Monoplane
was also flown during the time by a Mr. Kleinig - only the
third to pilot the plane in its privately owned lifetime.
The plane was never involved in an accident. Just prior to
World War II, Miller flew the aircraft from Adelaide to Perth
for exhibition flying until approximately 1945, when the plane
was officially retired from flying.
of the M.1C Bristol Military Monoplane
seat shoulder-wing fighter monoplane.
of wire braces, wooden members faired to a circular section
by formers and stringers, and fabric covered. Sheet aluminium
covering forward of wing.
with fabric cover and braced externally.
||6.2m (20' 5")
||2.5m (8' 5")
sq. (145 sq. ft.)
110 H.P Le Rhone nine cylinder air cooled rotary radial
synchronised Vickers Machine Gun mounted on top of the
front fuselage and firing through propeller.
km/h (130 mph)
km/h (49 mph)
British and Colonial Aeroplane Company.
The initial move in the establishment of this Memorial was
made when Mr. C. B. Tilbrook, Chairman of Directors of Aviation
Services (S.A.) Ltd (and former resident of Minlaton) saw
the monoplane of the late Captain Harry Butler slung to the
roof of a hangar at Guildford Airport, Western Australia.
Always an admirer of the late flyer, he knew that the plane
had great historical value and he began a series of moves
which culminated in the aircraft being given free of cost
to the people of Minlaton by its owner, Captain H. C. Miller,
of McRobertson-Miller Airlines Ltd. The original Le Rhone
engine was donated back by the Adelaide Museum to be displayed
alongside the plane.
Tilbrook contacted the Minlaton Branch of the R.S.L. who rightly
felt the matter was of civic and district importance. At a
public meeting held in October 1936, the people of Minlaton
endorsed Council action in accepting the plane for housing
in a Memorial to be established at Minlaton by public subscription.
The builder, O. A. Klaebe & Sons, laid the foundations
in December 1957, and constructed the building at a cost of
building was opened on the 11th October, 1958, by Mr. Tilbrook,
whose efforts to return the plane to Minlaton had finally
been made worthwhile. The plane was restored at the time in
every detail at Parafield by Aviation Services (S.A.) Ltd.
A scale model of the Bristol Monoplane (built years earlier
by Mr. Jack Barclay, of Warooka) was housed alongside its
the years since, the condition of the plane was notice to
be deteriorating with the continued exposure to the western
sun. A public meeting was called in March 1987 and authority
given to the Council to finance redevelopment of the Memorial
Building and restoration of the aircraft.
new building was completed in February 1989, by Newbold Constructions
Pty. Ltd. at a cost of $57,000. Throughout the planning stages
consideration was continually given to construct a building
which could both complement and keep in character with the
aviation theme. The new hangar-style design would also prevent
further solar damage to the place, while providing an eye-catching
and impressive housing for the Red Devil display.
plane itself was refurbished by members of the Balaklava Gliding
Club and restored to its original design as when flown by
new Butler Memorial was officially opened at a ceremony on
the 6th August, 1989 - exactly 70 years after Captain Butler's
historic flight to Minlaton in 1919. The survival of a letter,
written by Harry Butler after his last crash, to the South
Australian Museum offering his Le Phone aircraft engine for
public display, is a clear indication that the flyer himself
would have approved and appreciated these efforts to preserve
his beloved Red Devil.
more information on Captain Harry Butler please contact the
Minlaton National Trust Museum, Main Street, MINLATON SA 5575.