People are still moved by the loss of VH-UMF ‘Southern Cloud’ in 1931 – with all eight souls aboard – and especially the agonising 27-year wait to discover their fate.
Following my March 21st article on the crash, airscape was contacted by Ken Watson who is affiliated with Australia’s Civil Aviation Historical Society and Airways Museum at Essendon, Victoria. As the repository of our civil airways and air traffic control history, the museum has a profound connection with ‘Southern Cloud’, through the enroute radio services that were established as a result of the tragedy.
The musuem holds an airspeed indicator, a watch and parts of a camera from the Southern Cloud wreck site in its collection. (As it happens, they also have many artefacts from the crash of VH-AMA ‘Amana’; the DC-4 disaster that killed would-be Southern Cloud passenger Stan Baker in 1950.)
Ken kindly sent several photos of the Aviation Pioneers’ Memorial in Cooma, NSW, where rusted and tangled relics of the Southern Cloud wreckage are permanently displayed. Various other items, looted from the crash site after its 1958 discovery, are probably still in private hands; while others have since been donated to several museums for more careful preservation.
But for now, enjoy this brief (and touching) visit to Cooma, courtesy of Ken Watson.
The vandalised memorial stone (yeah, some people, right?) at the back of the memorial, giving details of the crash, crew and passengers. © Ken Watson
The portrait of “Shorty” Shortbridge, displayed with the collected relics of his lost aircraft. © Ken Watson
A mangled main-wheel hub and bent axle, giving a hint of the 1931 impact forces. © Ken Watson
A reverse view across the artefacts on display. The Cooma Lions Club community group raised funds for the memorial, which was formally dedicated on October 13th, 1962. © Ken Watson
The Southern Cloud Memorial at Cooma NSW, where a number of relics of the wreck are now displayed. More remnants are held in the collections of several Australian museums. © Ken Watson
The recovered prop extension (fused with part of a splined drive shaft) from one of Southern Cloud’s Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx engines. © Ken Watson
South Australian Aviation Museum’s operational Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx – the 7 cylinder, 225hp motor that made the Fokker Trimotor an Avro Ten. © airscape Photo
The display wall of the Cooma memorial… Rusted undercarriage shock absorbers stand under a propeller removed from Southern Cloud earlier in its life and donated by the ANA engineer, Dan Macfarlane, in 1967. © Ken Watson
A mechanic works on the Southern Cloud’s starboard Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx engine, in the ANA hangar at Mascot.
Finished in smart blue and silver, Southern Cloud and her four sisters were the apogee of safe air travel in 1931, in an airline run by Australia’s most famous aviator, Charles Kingsford-Smith.