Mr Charles James 'Jimmy' Melrose


photo: 1934



 Born 13th September 1913, in Burnside, Adelaide

'Boy Phoenix', Australian pioneer. A 'big, well-set chap', who learned to fly with the South Australian Aero Club. With only 200 hours flying experience, he broke the Australia to England record in 1934.

[His uncle was Noel Pemberton Billing,

 Noel Pemberton Billing 

founder of Supermarine, well-known politician, inventor and, er, fruitcake, who leant to fly in one day in 1913].

Frankly, Jimmy sounds rather too good to be true; "a skilful and courageous natural flyer, Melrose was tall, flaxen haired and blue eyed; while conforming to the popular ideal of a hero, he avoided lionization. He exercised seriously, swimming at Glenelg where he and his mother lived; he kept early hours, neither smoked nor drank alcohol and ate 'Oslo' lunches."

No, I have no idea what an Oslo lunch is either, but I expect it's very healthy and nutritious.*

He flew to England to take part in the MacRobertson Race in 1934; before the race, which included a prize based on a handicap formula involving loads of parameters, Jimmy said the weight of his D.H. 80 Puss Moth would be fine ‘as long as I’m not in it’. Anyway, he did eventually win £1,000 by being placed 2nd in the handicap section.

Died 5 Jul 1936 near Melton, a farming town 25 miles north west of Melbourne, aged 22. His Heston Phoenix (the first of only 6 ever built), in which he offered rides 'from Adelaide to Anywhere', broke up in flight.

He had named the aeroplane 'Billing', his mother's maiden name; his first aeroplane was 'My Hildegarde' (his mother's name) and the second 'Westley' (her middle name). I think you could say he and his mother were 'close'.

Australia went into full celebrity funeral mode: "services were held simultaneously in Melbourne's and Adelaide's Anglican cathedrals; schoolchildren lined the route from St Paul's to Springvale necropolis, as planes circled overhead. In Adelaide both Houses of parliament suspended their sittings and St Peter's Cathedral was packed, mainly with women, who had idolized Jimmy. Three Royal Aero Club Moths flew over as the service ended."


*p.s. Helen Blake has kindly saved me the bother of looking up 'Oslo Lunch'; it's “a Norwegian invention combining a cheese and salad sandwich on whole meal bread, milk and fruit”. Thanks Helen, and in return I think we should all buy her book on Jimmy, 'Boy Phoenix' 


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