Bob Walsh propels Walcha's aviation history into the light

Cleared for take off: Bob Walsh holds his new book 'Aviation at Walcha' next to the Tiger Moth VH-PCB (formerly registered as VH-ASQ) in the Walcha Pioneer Cottage hangar
Cleared for take off: Bob Walsh holds his new book 'Aviation at Walcha' next to the Tiger Moth VH-PCB (formerly registered as VH-ASQ) in the Walcha Pioneer Cottage hangar

Walcha based historian Bob Walsh has just released his third book about Walcha and this time his focus is on the town’s association with aviation.

His book ‘Aviation at Walcha’ starts with the first aeroplane visit to Walcha in September 1919, when the Avro 504 landed on the town common to promote the Federal Government’s Peace Loan program and covers all aviation activity in and around Walcha until 2016.

Since 2003 Mr Walsh has been a regular contributor to the Walcha News and his history column is one of the mastheads best read sections. 

He has also written more than a dozen books previously – mostly outlining individual family histories – and says his interest in history dates from the 1950s when he had a teacher who was easily distracted

“Our Latin teacher was willingly sidetracked into talking about the goings on in ancient Greece and Rome,” said Mr Walsh.

“The inspiration for this book was the history of the Walcha Aero Club and Walcha's aerial agriculture activities.”

Mr Walsh’s first book about Walcha was published in 2009 for the local school’s sesquicentenary, and his second was about the local horse racing industry. Both books sold out.

“I was also one of five contributors to the Walcha and District Historical Society's book, 'Walcha in the Great War',” Mr Walsh said.

In his latest book, Mr Walsh outlines the history of the Tiger Moth which resides in the Walcha Pioneer Cottage Museum and was responsible for the first aerial spraying of super phosphate in Australia. Anecdotes from those associated with the aircraft also help paint a picture of days gone by.

Information provided to him by the Macarthur-Onslow family shows the Tiger Moth was a favourite with the family’s children, with one of Edward's daughters saying:

“VH-ASQ was an old friend to us children. When father re-started the Flying School in 1946, it flew to Mittagong to bring Pam and I home from school for visiting weekends. I remember how it landed on the Mittagong airstrip, skidding on the cowpats – the old airstrip there was in a cow paddock.”

The first hospital patient to be flown from Walcha to Sydney for further treatment was Dan Farrell in July 1952. He was taken by ambulance from the hospital to the agricultural airstrip at Mirani and flown from there to Bankstown Airport in a privately owned Miles Gemini aircraft chartered by a Walcha businessman, W.A. 'Bill' Ryan. 

Five of Walcha's volunteers in the First World War were our earliest airmen. Two were pilots, J.W.N. 'Noel' Fitzpatrick of Aberbaldie and Francis Harold Hall of Niangala. C.R. 'Rupert' Fenwicke of Europambela and Charles James Vyner of Yarrowitch were Flying Officers and Observers while Raymond Dudley Berry of Derby Street was an aerial photographer.

‘Aviation at Walcha’ costs $25 and is available from the local Newsagency.

Bob Walsh and the tale of the super spreading Tiger Moth
Inside the spartan cockpit of the Tiger Moth