Wednesday 21 June 2023

    Showcase Story 1 - The Unforgettable London – Melbourne Air Race

    It's October 22, 1934, day three of the London – Melbourne Air Race. KLM aircraft Uiver is en route from Batavia to Australia. The four-man crew, consisting of Koene Dirk Parmentier, Jan J. Moll, Douwe Prins, and Cornelis 'Kees' van Brugge, has secured an excellent position in the air race. The Douglas DC-2 airplane is even on track for winning prizes. But then...

    Dark clouds gather over Australia. The weather abruptly turns into a severe electrical storm. Radio contact is lost, and the experienced aviators of the Uiver only catch occasional glimpses of the ground. The aircraft becomes disoriented.

    Captain Parmentier circles above the city of Albury. Arthur Newnham, announcer at the local radio station, notices this. He rushes to the studio and calls upon the residents of Albury to come to the racecourse. They should park their cars there and turn on the lights, signaling to the Uiver's crew that they can make an emergency landing there.

    Meanwhile, a technician and a postal officer are summoned. One can operate the city's lights, the other knows Morse code. Together, they signal the letters A-L-B-U-R-Y to the aircraft. Approximately twenty minutes later, the Uiver lands on the muddy racecourse. Safely.

    Still a prize

    "The next morning, Newnham made another appeal," says Will Porrio, volunteer at the Aviodrome Aviation Museum. "He asked the residents to help pull the plane out of the mud. They succeeded, and then the Uiver continued the race towards the finish in Melbourne. The British duo Scott and Campell Black won first place in the speed classification, and the Uiver won the first prize in the handicap classification! Despite the emergency landing."

    Gifts to Australia

    The following day, the newspapers were filled with this incredible story: it became global news. A celebration erupted in the Netherlands. "At that time, our country was deeply embroiled in a crisis, but this journey finally gave us something to celebrate," explains Will. "In that euphoria, Amsterdam businessmen formed the Albury Committee. They raised money for a silver model of the Uiver as a gift to the city of Albury. Other people gave gifts to the announcer, the technician, and the postal officer. And Mayor Alfred Waugh was even appointed as an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina."

    Crash in Syria

    A month after the race, the euphoria turned into mourning. The Uiver was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Batavia but crashed in the Syrian desert during harsh weather conditions. All seven occupants tragically lost their lives in the accident. Will says, "Now, Mayor Waugh collected funds for the Netherlands. When he was in Amsterdam in August 1935, accompanied by his wife, he presented a bronze sculpture to Mayor Willem de Vlugt. It was in memory of the unforgettable race and the tragic accident."

    "Since then, the sculpture has been proudly displayed in one of the showcases of our aviation museum. At least for the next fifteen years!"


    'Sculpture, woman, lion, marble base'

    De Vlugt received this sculpture in the former city hall, which is now a five-star hotel. The artwork had an honored place there until 1962. "In that year, the Amsterdam officials moved to a new location, and the sculpture went missing," says Will. "The question of its whereabouts haunted me until I had a eureka moment in 2019. I contacted the curator of the Amsterdam Museum, who took me to a huge depot near the harbor..."

    And there it was, standing in a rack labeled 'sculpture, woman, lion, marble base', with an unknown origin. "Since then, the sculpture has been proudly displayed in one of the showcases of our aviation museum. At least for the next fifteen years!"

    Behind each object in a showcase, there is a remarkable story. The featured piece certainly earned its place behind the glass. We share these historical, thrilling, and captivating stories in the Showcase Story section.

    Do you have a Showcase Story worth savoring? Let us know at [email protected]

    For more examples, click here for our museum brochure: MUSEUM COLLECTION

    Of course, the Aviodrome is worth a visit, not only for this showcase. Below, we have highlighted a few other showcases.






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