Sunday, March 9, 2014

The DeHavilland Dove Connections

Photo of a DeHavilland Dove aircraft, with Captain Allan R Wegener, shaking hands with Captain Charles Nelson Hill, Chief Pilot for MacRobertson Miller Airlines (MMA) of Perth, Western Australia, taken in Calcutta, India, in 1953. Also in the photo are Frank Doggett, Chief Engineer for MMA and the un-named Senior Engineer for Airways India Limited.
There is a great story attached to this photo. 

Captain Allan R. Wegener was my dad.  He joined the RAAF before I was born...came home from WWII when I was five (5)... and left again when I was six (6).  He left Perth on 12 November, 1947, headed for Sweden where he intended to purchase a Junkers 52 (German war transport) and fly it back to Perth. According to the newspaper report of his departure, he hoped to contract to fly beef from cattle stations in north-west WA to freezers at ports.

Dad hopped from island to island, all the way to India.  Unfortunately he did not make it beyond India. He was forced down by bad weather and lack of fuel in East Pakistan.  The aircraft was totaled, but dad and his chief engineer survived the crash. He spent the next seven (7) years as a pilot in India..  He spent 1953 and 1954 as the private pilot for the Maharaja of Jodhpur...which he described in his memoirs as the best two years of his life. His memoirs actually read like an Indiana Jones movie script. The Maharaja had inherited about 26 aircraft after WWII and he assigned my dad the task of selling as many as possible.
Meanwhile my mother, Sylvia Elizabeth Axford Wegener, and myself were left abandoned back in Perth. Mother worked as a telephone operator (telephonist) in country towns, throughout the southwest of WA.  I lived with my grandmother Burley Conradina Louisa Wegener Dynon, in Wembley, WA.  On school holidays I would visit mother where-ever she was.  I travelled by train or plane.  When I travelled by plane it was on a DeHavilland Dove aircraft owned by MacRobertson Miller Airlines (MMA) of WA.  I loved that plane.  As a child I loved to draw aeroplanes, and the Dove was one of my favorites, because it was streamlined with in-line piston engines vs the old radials.

My mother saved all of my childish letters.  I read them all again recently, wondered who that little boy was, then melted into the memories.  The dates confirmed that my first flight to Albany, WA, in the DeHavilland Dove, was in 1953.

When I transcribed my dad's memoirs from tapes he made in the 1980s, I was amazed to find reference to him selling a DeHavilland Dove to MMA, of Perth WA.  That's all he said, but I immediately marveled about the coincidence of me flying on the very plane which my dad had flown in India and sold to MMA in Perth.  What were the odds?

Earlier this year I was contacted, out of the blue, by a relative of Captain Charles Neslon Hill of Perth, WA.  The message was that Captain Hill had spent 35 years as a pilot for MMA and may have been a good friend of my father.  Captain Hill ended his career as the Chief Pilot for MMA and travelled abroad a number of times to pick up aircraft for the Airline.  As if to prove the point, it was not long before I received the amazing photo above, which was taken in Calcutta, India, in 1953, as the DeHavilland Dove was prepared for Captain Hill to make the long flight to Perth, WA.  The caption on the back of the photo identifies the people in the photo and my dad "Wag" wishes "Nelson" a happy landing.

That beautiful DeHavilland Dove above, involves some incredible human connections and brings back some bitter-sweet childhood memories.




Andy Wegener said...

Love it!

Missy W. said...

I just barely saw this! Love it