A Kipling-like character

Auctioned in London a few weeks ago were the gallantry and campaign medals of a long-forgotten Queenslander whose adventures read like something Rudyard Kipling might have penned.

Remarkable not only for his military exploits, Major George Edward Clerk, D.S.O. had a more-than-passing connection with Queensland, aviation, Longreach and Q.A.N.T.A.S.


Clerk served initially with the Queensland Imperial Bushmen in the Boer War and was later severely wounded in the Zulu rebellion of 1906

Returning to his home State of Queensland in late 1934, he brought with him a ‘flying circus’ accompanied by a small cadre of engineers and pilots. Contemporary newspaper reports described him as

…a member of a Queensland family of pastoralists. He was crippled in a motor accident in London a few years ago. He manages two flying organisations in Wales, and is understood to be a wealthy supporter of aviation as a hobby. His accident does does not deter him. He conducts flying operations from an invalid carriage.

Owner of Cleeve station north-east of Longreach, Clerk joined the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen Contingent and left for the Boer War in 1902. He made his first return visit to Longreach in 1935 having established Austral Airways in Toowoomba the previous year.

In the same article Clerk compliments Q.A.N.T.A.S. for generously supporting his own fledgling enterprise. His hopes for Austral Airways however were never realised and on 9 October 1941 Clerk passed away, aged 67.

Austral’s fleet included Fairey IIIF VH-UTT which had come last in the 1934 England to Australia Air Race. It was later sold to Ray Parer and wrecked in Papua New Guinea. This photograph is thought to have been taken in Toowoomba, Clerk possibly being second from the right
(Crows Nest Historical Society Museum ).

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