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Henry John 'Harry' Butler
Captain Harry Butler AFC (ca.1918)
Captain Harry Butler AFC (ca.1918)
Born (1889-11-09)9 November 1889
Yorketown, South Australia
Died 30 July 1924(1924-07-30) (aged 34)
Adelaide, South Australia
Cause of death Cerebral abscess
Place of burial North Road Cemetery, Nailsworth, South Australia
Monuments Minlaton, South Australia
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Elsa Gibson
Awards Air Force Cross

Henry John 'Harry' Butler AFC (9 November 1889 – 30 July 1924) was an early Australian aviator, an air force officer, and a World War I flying ace. When he flew an air mail run from Adelaide across Gulf St Vincent to Minlaton on 6 August 1919, it was the first over-water flight in the Southern Hemisphere.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Butler was born on 9 November 1889 at the main hospital of Yorketown on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula. The son of John James Butler and Sarah Ann née Cook, he grew up on a small farm near Koolywurtie. From an early age he showed a strong desire to fly and an aptitude for mechanics; whilst at school he built model aircraft and studied the flying capabilities of his mother's chickens.[1]

World War I[edit | edit source]

In 1915 he entered the Australian Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, and was commissioned three weeks later. In 1918 he received the Air Force Cross, and when demobilized in 1919, he held the rank of captain.[2]

Post war[edit | edit source]

Hendon aerodrome plaque

He returned to Australia with a Bristol monoplane and an Avro 504-K. The monoplane became known as "the Red Devil", and it was in this plane he made the 67 mile (108 km) water crossing from Adelaide to Minlaton in 27 minutes.[1]

In partnership with Harry Kauper,[3] he converted the Avro to seat two passengers, and operated as the Captain Harry J. Butler & Kauper Aviation Co. Ltd. initially out of an aerodrome at Northfield. Butler then bought 60 acres (24 ha) of land in part of then-largely rural Albert Park in the Woodville district, and in October 1920 he moved his operations there, establishing the "Hendon" aerodrome, also known as "Captain Butler's Aerodrome".[4]

On 21 July 1920 he married Elsa Birch Gibson at St Paul's Anglican Church, Adelaide.[5]

In early 1921 he sold some of his land to Wilkinson, Sands and Wyles Limited, who laid out the new suburb of Hendon.[6] The subdivision sale was successful; however with the novelty of aviation wearing off, Butler was forced to close the company in September 1921. He had previously offered to sell the remainder of his land to the Commonwealth in December 1920. The Department of Defence initially prevaricated, but in July 1922 compulsorily acquired the site, which was used as the first "Adelaide Airport" until 1927, when aviation operations were shifted to Parafield.[4]

Early in 1922 Butler was seriously injured in a crash near Minlaton and made only one more flight. He died suddenly of an unexpected cerebral abscess on 30 July 1924.[1][5]

A 1925 portrait of Butler by George A. J. Webb is held by the Art Gallery of South Australia[7]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Leith G. MacGillivray, Butler, Henry John (1889–1924), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 504–505.
  2. In the First World War, the Royal Flying Corps was part of the British Army.
  3. Jean P. Fielding, 'Kauper, Henry Alexis (Harry) (1888–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marsden, Susan (1977): A history of Woodville. Corporation of the City of Woodville. Pp. 169-176. ISBN 0 9599828 4 1
  5. 5.0 5.1 "S.A.'s greats : the men and women of the North Terrace plaques", edited by John Healey, Historical Society of South Australia, 2001. Reprinted 2002. Reprinted 2003. ISBN 0 9579430 0 8
  6. "Place Names of South Australia – Hendon". The Manning Index of South Australian History. State Library of South Australia. http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/pn/h/h3.htm#hendon. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  7. "Oil Portrait of the late Capt. Harry Butler". Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 20 June 1925. p. 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54917493. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 
  • Captain Harry Butler's obituary is in The Advertiser, 31 July 1924, page 13a, and The Observer]], 2 August 1924, page 28a. Photographs are in The Chronicle, 9 August 1924, page 38.

External links[edit | edit source]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

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