Guy Menzies; A Life Lived At Fast Forward – Part One

GUY MENZIES – BOY RACER

Guy Menzies was  born in  the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne in 1909, the son of   a well known doctor. He was a handful for his parents from the word go. Sometimes he would pinch stationery from his father’s surgery and write  sick notes to get out of school.  On one occasion he was found out after a teacher rang his home to see if he was feeling better.

He also ‘borrowed’  Dr Menzies’ car and drove  himself to school. There was a huge row  the day he went too far and had  the cheek to park in the headmaster’s  reserved space.

It’s a miracle the car  survived, because young Guy was addicted to speed.  He raced a motor bike  while  he was well under-age, using the  assumed name, Keith McKay.  This was vetoed after ‘Keith’ had a bad fall and had to reveal his true identity.

On another occasion, at the Royal Easter Show, he persuaded the  owner of the ‘Wall of Death’  sideshow to let him have a go.  Riding up the wall was fine, but coming back  down was trickier and he managed to crash the bike. His parents decided that flying might be a safer option and paid for their son’s lessons.

Wall of death sideshow.

Wall of death a challenge for Guy.

Guy learned to fly with the  New South Wales Aero Club,  and  received his   licence in 1928.  When he was just 21 he decided  to attempt  the first solo, trans-Tasman  flight.  It was  a daring, but  foolhardy plan.  He had bought his plane,  Southern Cross Jnr.,  from the famous aviator Charles Kingsford Smith.  It was not even equipped with a wireless. Fearing  he would be denied permission  from authorities,  he told everyone he was flying to Perth.  He took off from Sydney at 1.00 am,  taking a packed lunch  and wearing a shirt and tie. It was a very bumpy ride across the Tasman, but eventually he sighted  land and flew as low as he dared.

Guy Menzies log book

Guy’s log book.

NEW ZEALAND!

He checked his fuel repeatedly and  soon realized there was no option but  to  bring his craft down. By this stage he could see astonished locals and decided to drop a note in a bottle, ‘Where can I land?  Point to nearest town  on coast.’  It was not found until much later and as his fuel was now critically low he just took pot luck.

 

 

Our young hero crash landed into what he thought was a meadow, but was actually a swampy area of  flax.  Fortunately he clambered out into the mud with only a few scratches.

 

The muddy hero emerges.

Guy was feted throughout New Zealand.  Locals who had stripped the plane for souvenirs suffered pangs of guilt and returned it all. They claimed they had simply  been looking after  things  for him.

 

Guy Menzies in Wellington New Zealand

Surrounded by adoring crowds at the airport in Wellington after his historic flight.

Back in Australia there were a few in authority  who called him a reckless fool, but the overwhelming feeling was  one of adulation  for   a  conquering hero.  Australia was in depths of the great depression, and like the great racehorse Pharlap and  the cricketer Don Bradman, the dashing young pilot had given  people something to feel good about. A public subscription was started  in Sydney by the Sun newspaper, to  show the city’s appreciation. The first donation came from Bradman himself.

Guy Menzies Fund

The daily total.

Guy  Menzies  moved to England in 1931 and joined the Royal Air Force with  the commission  of  Flying Officer.

In 1936  Guy  was found unconscious at the RAF base,  15 feet  below his bedroom window. He was dressed in his pyjamas.  It was a bit of a puzzle,   because although his face was  battered  and bloody, there was only a slight bruise on his head.    His two-seater sports car was parked nearby.  The injuries did not appear to be consistent with falling from the window, which doctors suggested would have broken his neck.  The RAF announced there would be a thorough inquiry into the matter.

TO BE CONTINUED……

3 Comments
  1. Once again i have been reeled in. Will be watching for part 2.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: