On October 20th, 1934, the eve of the Air race from England to Australia for a £10,000 prize, the King, the Queen and the Prince of Wales appeared at Mildenhall, where mechanics laboured to have the machines ready for the start at 6.30 the next morning. Seconds were so precious that special permission was asked for repairs to the D.H. Comet (flown by Cathcart Jones and Waller) to continue while the Royal party were shown round the sheds. The Queen – behind whom stand Mr. and Mrs. Mollison – had never stepped inside an aeroplane until this visit to Mildenhall.
‘The Reign of H.M. King George V’, W.D. & H.O. Wills. 1935.
The Comet in the background is ‘Black Magic’ flown by Jim and Amy Mollison. This was considered the race favourite but they were stopped at Baghdad by a seized engine.
The third day of the great air race from Mildenhall (England) to Melbourne (Australia) for the MacRobertson Trophy given in connection with the Victorian Centenary celebrations finds the leaders, Scott and Black, in their D.H. Comet, actually in Australia and more than half-way across the continent to Melbourne, their arrival having been announced at Charleville, Queensland, 787 miles from Melbourne, at 8.42 a.m. Australian time. This is a magnificent performance.
Some hours behind Scott and Black flies the majestic Dutch Douglas [DC2] airliner, piloted by Parmentier and Moll, and carrying three passengers. It is reported to have reached Darwin this morning.
The record of comparative freedom in this race from serious mishap to pilots has been broken unfortunately by the tragic deaths of Baines and Gilman, the first an Englishman who learned to fly in New Zealand and the second a New Zealander born and a popular officer in the Royal Air Force in England. They met disaster in the Apennines in Southern Italy. Their machine crashed and took fire, and both were burnt to death. [Corrected later to “killed on impact”.]
‘The Evening Post’ (Wellington, N.Z.), 23 Oct 1934.
United Press Association—By Electric Telegraph—Copyright. MELBOURNE, October 23.
Before the gaze of a great crowd C. W. A. Scott and T. Campbell Black crossed the finishing line on Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, in their red de Havilland Comet, and claimed for Britain the £10,000 prize in the MacRobertson Air Race. The great race finished in torrential rain, at 3.24 p.m., Mr. Scott’s time for the Mildenhall-Melbourne journey being 70 hours 54 minutes, or 1 hour 6 minutes less than three days. After passing the finishing line the aeroplane went on to land at the R.A.A.F. depot at Laverton. One hundred and fifty thousand people gathered at Flemington to witness the finish of the race, despite the ominous clouds of an approaching thunderstorm.
As the Comet swept into view, swooped down and crossed the broad calico line of the finishing mark the crowd burst into cheers. The Comet rose, circled again, then swept away towards the landing ground at Laverton 10 miles away.
Interviewed, Scott said:— “A dreadful trip. That’s praising it. Neither of us had a wink of sleep. We had to be on the job all the time. We were feeling done in on the run down, but are better now we are here. We thank the people for the marvellous welcomes on our progress through Australia. We are jolly glad we have arrived. We received the scare of our lives when the port engine stopped, and prepared our lifebelts. The last two and a half hours to Darwin were a nightmare. Had the two engines kept going the race would have been mine earlier.”
At Charleville when the aeroplane was overhauled by mechanics for the last stage to Melbourne, it was found that a sticking exhaust valve on the port engine was causing the trouble.
Mr. Geoffrey de Havilland said: “Scott and Black have done better than we expected. The machine was hardly ready for such a flight. There wasn’t time to try it out thoroughly. Actually it only had fuel consumption tests during the first hop to Bagdad. A little more time would have enabled us thoroughly to test the Comets and ensure that all three reached Australia. As it was, the Mollisons and Cathcart Jones had bad luck, but some of their troubles could have been avoided had we had more time.”
‘The Evening Post’ 24 Oct 1934.
Newspaper reports have been edited for length.
Scott’s Comet, ‘Grosvenor House’, is still flying as part of the Shuttleworth collection and the Mollison’s ‘Black Magic’ is being restored at Derby.