M.45  Flight Captain Geoffrey Neville Wikner 

 b. 28 Aug 1904, Grafton, NSW, Australia  8 Apr 1940 to 20 Nov 1945 

  ata geoffrey wikner ancestry c. 1938   ATAM    

 

Ed. N. Sydney C of E Grammar School

Prev. Technical Director, Wicko and Foster Wikner Aircraft Companies:

[e.g. here is his Wicko 'Wizard' from 1934:

ata wicko wizard 1934 'Flight' ,

and

the wicko over the trent

'The Wicko over the River Trent' by fellow ATA pilot Stanley Orton Bradshaw (q.v.) ]

 m. Gertrude Violet (b, 27 Aug 1914, d. 21 Apr 1952 after an operation - Newcastle, NSW, Australia)

Address in 1940: The Round House, Danes Rd,  Romsey, Hants

prev. exp. 500 hrs

 --------------

Postings: 2FPP, 1FPP, 5FPP, 6FPP, 15FPP (as Commanding Officer, from 10 Feb to 5 Dec 1941)

"A keen, hard-working officer of considerable flying ability who has now delivered over 1,000 aircraft (61 types), as well as flying 524 hrs as a taxi pilot"

Off sick from 10 Mar to 13 Jul 1943 after a flying accident, when his Typhoon suffered a complete engine failure during approach.

Demoted from Flight Captain to First Officer for a month in Oct 1943 for "wilful disobedience of Standing Orders C.2 and D.21"

Certificate of Commendation, 29 Aug 1944: he was "ferrying a Lancaster when a technical problem caused all four propellers to randomly feather and unfeather. He managed to recover the use of the port engines and make a safe forced landing."

Feb-45: "This officer has the experience and ability necessary for leadership but he now has little ambition to hold any responsibility in ATA and is well content to only undertake such responsibilities as may be assigned to him from time to time. These he carries out in a capable manner"

 -----------

The Flight of "Waltzing Matilda"

ata geoffrey wikner and halifax BG

Unable to get a passage back to Australia, Geoffrey bought a war-surplus Halifax to fly him, his wife and two children 13,000 miles "to see his mother and other relatives in Australia".

He advertised for passengers willing to share the cost, and got about 500 replies, along with thousands of telephone calls. They decided to give priority to girls who wanted to be married in Australia, as they were "not allowed priority, like girls who are already married to Australians."

The Halifax B.III was taken to Radlett and fitted out with canvas seats for 15 people, "and other modifications" (which, let's hope, included a toilet ... or two ...?) 

 ata geoffrey wikner family 1946

"Plotting their course: Captain and Trudy Wikner with their children Kynaston Val and Isabel Christina" - The Sketch, 23 Jan 1946

----

 Famous pre-war pilot Neville Stack was due to be the co-pilot, but two weeks before departure he declined.

Dr. C. B. Heald, who was intending to be the on-board medical officer, also pulled out in late March.

June Newton, a secretary from Cheltenham who was originally 'thrilled' to be offfered a place, also dropped out in March; she changed her mind and decided to go by sea instead.

Eventually, he took these 19 people with him,

- wife Trudy, children [Kynaston] Val and [Isabel] Christina

Audrey Joan Morgan (co-pilot). Audrey (q.v.) was also an ex-ATA ferry pilot, and said she wanted to go because she was "fed up with England";

Charles B. 'Scotty' Scott, DFC, DFM (ex-RAF, Navigator), from Fife, and his 30-month old daughter Anne. His Australian wife had planned to go too, but died three weeks before take-off;

Horace Charles 'Bonny' Seccombe, (Flight Engineer) also ex-ATA, who Geoffrey said was "really the only crew member I could not have done without";

- Capt. Thomas 'Tom' Sulman (Flight Engineer), a well-known racing motorist, originally from Sydney, ex-British Army, who also helped with the conversion of the aeroplane. A widower, he went to see his 18 year old daughter and 80 year old mother;

Gordon Toye (Radio Operator), because he "held a PMG licence, although he had only worked in air sea rescue boats".;

- Capt. A B Carter;

- Mr E C Webb;

Inman Hunter, a British-born film editor who "hoped to make films in Australia";

- Mrs Ruby Colleano, an 'acrobatic dancer' from Melbourne, who was visiting Australia again after 20 years;

- Mrs Eileen Rust, from Katinning, Western Australia, a 39-year old former WAAF corporal who had married in England. She wanted to visit her 76-year old mother, who was ill;

- Mrs Winifred E Montgomery, who had married an Australian ship's engineer;

- Mrs Morough Bernard, wife of a serving member of the RAAF; he saw her off at Hurn;

Lady Farwell; an Australian, b. Euphemia Leslie Russell Hope, the oldest passenger (aged 60), widow of Sir Christopher Farwell (a former English Chancery Judge, who died in 1943), returning to Australia after 30 years away;

- Miss Noreen Brown, who acted as secretary for the flight;

- Miss Freda Surridge, from Surrey, who went to meet her fiance, RAN Surgeon Lt. MacAlpine Mackay, in Sydney, and

- Miss Mary 'Mollie' Bremner, who made the trip "for fun", and "because she wanted to see Australia".

They took food, a tent in case of emergencies, and toys and games "to amuse the excited children". All luggage (each passenger was allowed 100lb) was stowed in the bomb bay and the passengers either sat in the canvas seats or were dispersed around the aircraft in the various crew positions.

charles b scott    0122 0018a RAeC

(l) Charles Scott (Dundee Courier);

(r) Val and Christina Wikner have their Mae Wests fitted by E C Webb, one of the passengers

0122 0096a   ATA Audrey Morgan Ruby Colleano 1946 RAeC

(l) Mrs Morrough Bernard and Freda Surridge fitting on their lifebelts before the departure;

(r) Ruby Colleano and Audrey Morgan walking to the plane for the take-off.

They took off from Hurn airport at 10 a.m. on the 24 May 1946, and arrived, 73 flying hours spread over 22 days later, on the 11 Jun 1946. Lady Farwell was not on board by then; she flew from Brisbane to Melbourne by private aircraft.

 Geoffrey's parents (Major Wikner and Mrs M I Wikner) were the first to greet them on their arrival.

ata geoffrey wikner reaching australia 1946 no caption

L to R: Val Wikner (9), Audrey Morgan, Capt. Wikner, Chrisabel Wikner (5 1/2) and Mrs Wikner.

They got a rather a chilly reception when they arrived at Mascot; "no officials, either Federal or State, except Customs officers, greeted them and no refreshments were offered or were available, except a picnic meal supplied by relatives of Cap. Wikner, and laid out on rugs on a lawn near the control tower."
 
 
Geoffrey and Trudy set up Halifax Holiday Park, in Nelson Bay, NSW, and although Trudy died in 1952, Geoffrey ran it for 19 years. It recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.
 
 
[The Halifax? Well, "Geoffrey tried to sell the bomber to the RAAF for training purposes without success. It was even offered to the Canberra War Museum as a gift, but alas, was not accepted. It did make one final flight to Singapore though after being bought by some aviation enthusiasts. The commercial venture failed and it was finally sold at auction and cut up for scrap in 1948.

“It was a sad ending for such a wonderful aeroplane,” Wikner said." ]

 
m. 1954 Patricia [Dunhill]
 

d. 27 Jun 1990, NSW Australia 


 Download ATA Pilot Personal Record (.zip file):download grey

 

 

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