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THE HARRY BUTLER STORY
Choose a topic

The Harry Butler Story Australia's First Derby
Early Days The Winner
His First Chance Welcomes Smith Brothers
The Royal Flying Corps Mrs Butler
Fighter Squadron Raids Aerial Photographs
Back to South Australia Company Disbands
The Planes The Final Flight
Company Formed The Last Years
Historic Flight Final Days
Welcome Harry! The Memory
Return Flight The Red Devil
The Showman Specifications M.1C Bristol Monoplane
Makeshift Airfields Harry Butler Memorial
The Governor Flies  


The 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.

To 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

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Early Days
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 ruling passion.

As 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.

His 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.

As 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.

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His First Chance
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.

Wittber 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 the air.

His 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.

Despite 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.

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The 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.

He 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.

His 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 airman born.

He 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.

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Fighter Squadron Raids
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.

His stay in France would sometimes extend over a period of eight weeks.

In 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.

During 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.

Captain Harry Butler remained in the R.F.C until the war ended on Armistice Day, 1918.

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Back to South Australia
Butler could never stop flying now, and his one aim was to get home, and to bring civil aviation with him.

History 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.

The 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.

Rather slow and diffident on official occasions, he was another being when he got to the controls of a plane.

Aerobatics 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.

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The Planes
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.

Kauper, 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 Britain.

Kauper invented the gear which made it possible for British fighter pilots to fire through the revolving propellers of their planes - without hitting the propellers.

He was a brilliant engineer and Butler was fortunate to have his services during the brief life of their aviation company.

Later, Kauper was a co-worker in the invention of the radio transceivers that are used in the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Jack 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.

Crawford 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.

By 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.

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Company Formed
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.

The 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.

The 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.

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Butler 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.

Early 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 it.

In 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.

Shipping 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."

At 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.

Alarm 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.

From 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.

With 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.

Then 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.

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Welcome Harry!
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.

After 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.

He was always prodigal with his displays and held nothing back in courage or spectacle.

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Return Flight
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.

He 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.

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The Showman
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.

And 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.

The 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.

After 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.

On 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.

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Makeshift Airfields
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.

The 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.

As 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.

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The Governor Flies
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.

The 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."

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Australia's First Derby
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.

The Derby was flown in the lunch hour to give the greatest number of people an opportunity to watch the event.

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The Winner
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.

After the contest, Butler, McNamara gave a magnificent aerial display that thrilled and stunned the thousands watching.

Perhaps 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.

A 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."

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Welcomes Smith Brothers
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.

The strong bond of brotherhood that always binds together men of like talents was apparent in this contact between Butler and Ross and Keith Smith.

He made his landing field available to them, and helped in many ways while they were in Adelaide.

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Mrs Butler
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.

On 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.

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Aerial Photographs
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."

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Company Disbands
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.

However, 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.

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The Final Flight
Four months later, Butler was involved in a disastrous plane crash near Minlaton that was the beginning of the end for this aviation pioneer.

Harry 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.

He 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.

The 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.


Harry Butler's smashed Avro bi-plane 500m south Minlaton, 11th January, 1922.

Severe 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.

His intensely active flying days were gone forever, although he did take a plane up in Victoria after his apparent recovery.

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The Last Years
A 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.

With 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.


Harry's 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 did well.

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Final Days
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.

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The Memory
We 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 possible.

It 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.

On 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.

In 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 in Minlaton.

On 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.


Plaque located at crash site on Yorketown Road, Minlaton

The 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 Minlaton.

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The Red Devil
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."

A 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, 1919.

After 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.

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Specifications of the M.1C Bristol Military Monoplane

TYPE
Single seat shoulder-wing fighter monoplane.
 
CONSTRUCTION
Fuselage:
Structure of wire braces, wooden members faired to a circular section by formers and stringers, and fabric covered. Sheet aluminium covering forward of wing.
Engine Cowling:
Sheet aluminium.
Airscrew Spinner:
Aluminium.
Wings:
Wood with fabric cover and braced externally.
 
DIMENSIONS
Span: Length: Height:
9.3m (30' 9") 6.2m (20' 5") 2.5m (8' 5")
Wing Area: Wing Cord:
3.4m sq. (145 sq. ft.) 1.8m (5' 11")
Weight Empty: Weight Loaded:
385kg (850 lbs) 589kg (1300 lbs)
 
POWER
One 110 H.P Le Rhone nine cylinder air cooled rotary radial engine.
 
ARMAMENT
One synchronised Vickers Machine Gun mounted on top of the front fuselage and firing through propeller.
 
PERFORMANCE
Speed: Landing Speed :
209 km/h (130 mph) 78.8 km/h (49 mph)
 
DESIGNER
Frank Barnwell
 
BUILDER
The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company.

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Harry Butler Memorial
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.

Mr. 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 £2,238.

The 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 "big brother".

During 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.

The 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.

The plane itself was refurbished by members of the Balaklava Gliding Club and restored to its original design as when flown by Captain Butler.

The 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.

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For more information on Captain Harry Butler please contact the Minlaton National Trust Museum, Main Street, MINLATON SA 5575.

 

 

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