Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Aviator Hart flies into Richmond - TROVE TUESDAY

William Ewart Hart (1885-1943), is known as one of Australia's pioneer aviator. Born in Parramatta in 1885, he took a keen interest in the fledgling aviation production as a young man. In 1911 he purchased a Bristol Box-kite and flew solo a few months later, he was only 24. He also held the No. 1 Australian flying licence.

He participated in several ‘first’ in relation to aviation races including NSW first cross-country race from Penrith to Sydney, as well as Australia’s first air race beating the competition from America.

By March 1912 he left Penrith and set himself up on a part of Ham Common. There are numerous newspaper accounts of the strange effects his early flights had on the local community, including the equine& bovine members!! Apparently the cows followed the plane as was moving around the airfield. “Later on, as Bill began to fly around the countryside, several owners instituted claims against him for frightening horses that got killed or crippled when galloping away and at the same time looking up at the contraption in the sky and running in to fences, buildings, or other obstacles.”  

He built a two-seat monoplane on the land (located near the old Methodist cemetery which now forms Richmond Lawn Cemetery) but crashed the plane whilst completing a test flight in early September. Returning to Richmond from Freemans Reach, the engine stalled. Amazingly he survived a fall of over 100’ but sustained terrible injuries. His injuries included a compound fracture of the left leg and a bad wound on the thigh. He received a broken right knee-cap as well as back and head injuries. Hart was taken to Windsor Hospital where he was treated. The newspapers reported it was a wonder he was not killed.

Windsor &Richmond Gazette 7 September 1912, p. 4.
Retrieved  from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85845782  

Hart eventually recovered although he did not fly again. He joined the AIF in 1916 in the No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. He was an instructor and travelled to Egypt as well as Britain, but was eventually discharged. 

He returned to his occupation as a dentist and initiated new developments within the field of dentistry. He attempted to enlist in WW2 however he was found to be medically unfit.

Hart died in Sydney on 29 July 1943 and his obituary reports the RAAF performed a flyover at his funeral. The year following his death, the newspaper noted a committee located in Parramatta had requested that the Federal Government change the name of the aerodrome at Richmond established in 1925, in his honour. The renaming did not take place and it is still known as RAAF Base Richmond

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