Postcard from the first Official Souvenir Australian Aerial Mail. Flown by Basil Watson in his home-built Sopwith-type biplane from Mt Gambier to Melbourne on 15 February 1917.

Basil Watson was introduced to flying by Harry Hawker during an Australian publicity tour in early 1914, and subsequently travelled to England with Hawker, where he undertook flying lessons and worked as an engineer with the Sopwith Aviation Company. After the outbreak of WWI he was seconded to the British Government as a military test pilot, based at Brooklands aerodrome. He was severely injured in a crash after suffering an engine failure on take-off during a test flight in June 1915, and returned to Australia 12 months later, after being declared medically unfit for further military service. After constructing his own biplane from scratch at his parent's home in Elsternwick, in little more than 3 months, Watson piloted the aircraft on pioneering flights to Bendigo, western Victoria and Mount Gambier. He performed the first public aerial acrobatics flying demonstrations for crowds of spectators in Melbourne and country towns, and flew the first official airmail between Mt Gambier and Melbourne in February 1917. He was killed on 28th March 1917 when his aircraft crashed in shallow water in Port Phillip Bay, after a structural failure occurred as he performed an aerobatics display over Point Cook, Victoria. His death was the earliest recorded aviation fatality in Australia.

Physical Description

Postcard with extensive text a picture (monogram) of a propeller with wings printed in dark brown ink on plain white card stock. There is a red one penny stamp adhered to the postcard. It has a Mt Gambier postmark dated 15 Feb 1917 and a Melbourne postmark dated 27 Feb 1917. The reverse depicts a portrait of Basil Watson.

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