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The Flights of JJ Hammond
A New Zealander, born in 1886, Joseph Joel (Joe) Hammond
had a varied career in his early years, having tried his hand,
amongst other things, as a gold digger and a performer in
William Franklin Cody’s Wild West Show, in the US. In 1909 he
left for Europe and with his base on the south coast of England,
in France he witnessed the flights of Wilbur and Orville Wright
and was married to an English girl in November of that year.
He was taught to fly in France by Leon Delagrange, who lost his
life the following January in a flying accident; Hammond did not
fly again for about eight months. At the flying meeting at
Rheims, later in 1910 he was newly inspired by many of the 74
aircraft participating and took a refresher course of flying
lessons at the Sanchez-Besa school at Mourmelon, where he
was pronounced a natural with a flight of 25 minutes on only his
He was granted an aviator’s certificate No.258 on 4 October,
becoming the first British Colonial to qualify. He soon became
aware of the British & Colonial’s Boxkite aircraft with his
appointment as a demonstration pilot also in 1910. Bristol
created the ‘Missions’ – planned trips overseas to places in the
Empire such as India, Australia and New Zealand, for the
purpose of promoting the Boxkite and to generate sales, but
the New Zealand trip did not eventuate.
The Mission to Australian, headed by British & Colonial’s
manager, Sidney E Smith, with Hammond, his wife, Ethelwyn,
whom he had married the previous year, left England on the
Omrah, arriving in Fremantle on 13 December. Chief mechanic
Leslie MacDonald and second mechanic, Frank Coles, arrived
on the China a week later.
Flying demonstrations commenced in Perth on 3 January 1911.
The party had based its operations at the Belmont Racecourse,
to the east of the city and the plan was to ascend in the
morning but strong winds prevented this until early evening.
Flights were then made over the next several days but
advertised times were constantly thwarted because of windy
conditions, with crowds becoming more militant and
threatening when presented with the prospect of a cancellation.
Hammond, when aloft, frequently flew at 3,000 to 4,000 feet in
front of thousands of people.
Aerogram September 2011
The airworthy Boxkite built for the film seen at a flying day at Shuttleworth during 1988.
This aircraft is usually flown towards the end of the day when conditions are calmer
The Bristol mission arrived in Victoria in February 1912 and
based itself in Altona, with the first flight on the 18th.
Hammond made the first cross-country flight of its kind from
Altona to Geelong – a distance of 40 miles – on the 20th,
taking off at 5.48am. His wife, arriving at noon by car, was a
little disappointed she had not been invited to accompany him
on the flight, but was in fact to become the first woman ever to
fly on one of the flights over Melbourne.
Whilst at Melbourne, Hammond made four flights on the 23rd
and on 2 March he took up two Melbourne businessmen, J
Baillieu and WJ Knox, as Australia’s first fare-paying passengers
at 20 guineas each. Publicly attended flights were made on the
3rd and 4th and were a huge success, with Hammond being
lauded like a modern-day rock star. Further passenger flights
occurred on 25 March and the last flight of that morning tested
the Boxkite’s ability for load carrying with two passengers –
Coles and McDonald – for a combined load of about 800lbs.
For a non-military Boxkite, which had upper wing extensions to
cope with extra load, this was quite an achievement.
Setting off for Sydney they arrived on Friday 7 April by train and
a busy schedule meant that the first flight was
to be carried out that afternoon with a short
test being the first aircraft flight in NSW.
Increasingly difficult conditions, however,
meant that Hammond could not fly until the
22nd when he made two publicly attended
flights, with several more over the next few
days. One of the most notable events in the
NSW leg was a ‘military reconnaissance’ to
Liverpool, over a distance of about 20 miles,
with Hammond carrying Capt J Wynn Niesigh
acting as an observer.
Although no sales for the Boxkite were secured
on his trip, Hammond demonstrated to many
that the aircraft was of practical and reliable
use, with the Australian Government eventually
ordering one towards the end of 1912 for use
at the Central Flying School at Point Cook.
Hammond flies over Ascot Racecourse in April 1912
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