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The Three Harry's and Eric!

Under construction

Harry Busteed was born in Carlton on the 6th November 1887 . Busteed left Australia for England in 1911 together with Harry Hawker, Eric Harrison and Harry Kauper all in search of careers in aviation.  

Busteed was one of the first 100 (and the 2 Australian) to receive a Royal Aero Club Certificate (his was No. 94 - gained on 13/6/1911 at the Bristol School, Salisbury plain). Bristol's chief test pilot.  

In December 1911, the Australian Defence Department advertised in England for "two competent mechanists and aviators" to establish a flying corps and school. He and Henry Petre (a former solicitor) were selected. However, Harry Busteed withdrew his application to remain in England. 

Busteed later entered into the Air Service and was appointed to First Reserve RFC on 4/10/1913.

  • Busteed subsequently served at Pembroke III (for Grain, RNAS) - 3/8/14
  • He was Commanding Officer at Hendon from 13/9/15
  • Eastchurch "D" flight from 14/8/16
  • Grain Repair Depot from 1/3/17C
  • Commanding Officer of Grain Repair Depot from 1/4/18
  • He was confirmed as a Flt Lt on 28/11/14 (seniority 3/8/14)
  • Appointed as Flt Cdr on 25/6/15
  • Appointed as Acting Sqn Cdr on 31/12/16
  • And appointed as Wing Cdr on 1/1/18 (seniority - 31/12/17)
  • On 4/8/16, he was injured (superficially) whilst attempting to stop a runaway horse at Hendon.
  • He was appointed OBE on 4/1/18.[1]
  • From January to December 1921 he was Commanding Officer of the Marine & Experimental Establishment, Isle of Grain, then C.O. at Gosport*
  • From October 1923 to November 1925 he was with Coastal Area Command, supernumerary for the commissioning of HMS Furious.
  • In December 1925 he joined HMS Furious as Senior Fleet Air Arm Officer

Busteed was a very important within the RNAS, achieving a great deal in a long career that started with the Bristol Aircraft Company prior to WW1, and ending with him coming out of retirement to command Barrage Balloon batteries in WW2.

  1.  Source: Service Record, RNAS

 Eric Harrison was born at Clinkers Hill near Castlemaine in Victoria in 1886. Harrison left Australia for England in 1911 together with Harry Hawker, Harry Busteed and Harry Kauper all in search of careers in aviation. On his arrival in England Harrison trained as a pilot at the Bristol School and after a mere 30 minutes of actual flight time he attained his Aviator's Certificate from the Royal Aero Club. Soon after he was employed by Bristol as an instructor.

In December 1911, the Australian Defence Department advertised in England for "two competent mechanists and aviators" to establish a flying corps and school. Harry Busteed who was by now Bristol's chief test pilot, and Henry Petre ( a former solicitor) were selected. However, Harry Busteed withdrew his application which then paved the way for Eric Harrison, who was then commissioned in December 1912.

Whilst Petre returned to Australia's proposed Central Flying School, Harrison remained in England to secure the aircraft that would be needed to establish the new flying corps. Harrison ordered two Deperdussin monoplanes, two B.E.2. Biplanes from the Royal Aircraft Factory and a Bristol Boxkite for initial flight training.

Although the aircraft were acquired for the Australian Defence Flying Corps in 1913 the first flights were not undertaken until 1914, immediately following Harry Hawker's successful demonstration of the Sopwith Tabloid in Melbourne, Sydney and Albury. Eric Harrison made Australia's first military flight in the Boxkite on Sunday, 1 March 1914, followed by a second in the same aircraft with Petre as his passenger.

With the outbreak of WWI, Petre was deployed on active duty, leaving Harrison with the responsibility for providing basic flying training to the pilots for the first three squadrons to be formed in Australia for overseas service.

By the end of 1915, twenty-four new pilots had graduated. Harrison then established the first AFC squadron, designated No.67 (Australian) Squadron, although it was commonly known as No. 1 Squadron AFC.

Following WWI, Harrison began a long career closely associated with engineering and air safety. He was appointed Assistant Director of Technical Services in 1927, and soon after formed the RAAF's Air Accident Investigation Committee investigating the causes of air crashes. 

Harrison held the position of Director of Aeronautical Inspection throughout World War II. In 1945, just as the war had ended, Harrison died suddenly at his home in the Melbourne on the 5th September 1945.

The following article is from the North Eastern Advertiser (Scotsdale, Tasmania) page 3,

Tuesday 9 February 1943

National Library of Australia (TROVE)

Doyen of the R.A.A.F

Group-Captain E. Harrison

(By W.H.P)

Doyen of the Royal Australian Air Force, and occupying nowadays the highly responsible position of Director of Aeronautical Inspection at Head Quarters. Eric Harrison has lately completed 30 years of service in the Defence department.

He talked the other day with the writer about those far-off days in 1914-14, whin our air force consisted mainly of Eric Harrison and Henry A. Petre, an English briefless barrister who had invented a monoplane and was glad to accept an offer of a commission with the aerial unit of the Commonwealth defence force.

The writer flew with Harrison (then Lieutenant) about the beginning of 1914, and had been for some months a regular visitor to the bay camp at Point Cook. There were then only two small tents in the area, and a big mess tent formed the hanger sheltering the primitive British biplane and the monoplane. Since then Group Captain Harrison has done a big job, and when he finally retires the Commonwealth authorities will doubles say, "Well done, thou good and faith servant" or words to that effect. He has been a "Dinkum" Australian.

It was in 1910 that the Commonwealth Government through the Defence department became aware of the increasing importance of the aerial defence of Britain. The British war office advised Australia to make a beginning with the formation of an air corps, and it was decided to engage at least two airmen to frame the organisation and to plan for training.

The High Commissioner in London had his eye on Harry Hawker the intrepid young Australian who had become allied with the Bristol Aircraft company.(Note 1) Hawker already a notable flyer and full of ambition, declined to consider returning to Australia as a air officer, but he recommended his mate Eric Harrison, also formerly of Melbourne. The later like Barkis was "willing" and he was engaged eventually to supervise training and generally to act as technical officer. Petre was to act as administrator, in which capacity his legal training would be useful.

The two men were as wide apart as the poles temperament and in outlook, but they had in common a great love of adventure and desire to convince the rather sceptical Army and Navy officers of the importance of a third arm of defence.

Petre, a quiet, slient, reserved Englishman came out ahead of Harrison, and for some months waited at Victoria Barracks for the arrival of his colleague with the nucleus of equipment. With the assistance of that far-seeing soldier Brundenell White, who died so tragically as on of the victims of a plane crash at Canberra. Petre prepared a paper scheme for the formation of an air corps Brundenell White was the second chief of the general staff at army head quarters. The Defence department has acquired a paddock of 350 acres at Point Cook as an aerodrome and the site for establishment of the infant corps. To-day it is like a big city.

Group-Captain Harrison flew at Point Cook in February 1913.(Note 2) In 1914 he went to Rabaul with our naval and military expedition, but did not fly there. The aerial project had fallen through, and there was no aerodrome. So the biplane remained in it casing, and when all was quiet on the New Guinea front the airman returned to Australia to find that the outbreak of was had given an electric fillip to aviation. Petre soon went to England and joined the Royal Air Force.

Group-Captain Harrison in time became officer commanding No1 Aircraft Depot and then spent six years as liaison officer at the Air Ministry, London. On returning to Australia he filled various important positions, including the onerous job of air representative of the Air Accident Investigation Committee which involved travelling to many parts of the Commonwealth.

This experienced officer must be regarded always as a pioneer of official aviation and also as the energetic builder of the foundation of the Australian Flying Corps now the Royal Australian Air Force. His wife, the daughter of the late Mr. G. M. Prendergast M.L.A. is well-know to-day as the endergetic president of the committee concerned with the welfare of dependants of airmen.-

(Note 1) Harry Hawker was allied with the Sopwith Aircraft Company not Bristrol Aircraft Company

(Note 2) Eric Harrison first flew at Point Cook on 1st March 1914, not in February 1913


Eric Harrison married Kathleen Prendergast on the 29th June 1914, at St. Mary's Cathedral, West Melbourne. Kathleen was the only daughter of Mr and Mrs G.M. Prendergast M.L.A. of North Melbourne. Lieutenant Petre was best man. Their wedding cake was decorated with aeroplanes, Gnome engines and propellers.

National Library of Australia (TROVE)

Weekly Times, Saturday 11 July 1914

Mount Alexander Mail, Wednesday 1 July 1914

Kathleen Harrison was very committed in supporting Air Force Families.

The following article appeared in the Courier Mail (Brisbane) Page 5 on Friday 27 August 1943 National Library of Australia (TROVE)

Air Forces Welfare Aid

Starting with a working capital of 15/. the Air Force auxiliaries committee, formed in Melbourne, is one of the most important assets in the welfare of the R.A.A.F, W.A.A.F., and wives and children of R.A.A.F members from all over the Commonwealth.

Through this committee, interstate members of the service can find comfortable accommodation at short notice, and children of R.A.A.F members can play in a cheery playroom while their mothers shop.

Also under the committee's control is W.A.A.F House, St. George's Road. Toorak where more than 50,000 meals have been served. The inclusive charge is only 2/6 a day. 

The president of the committee is Mrs Eric Harrison, whose daughter, Flight Officer Greta Harrison now in Brisbane, is regarded as one of the most capable messing officers in the W.A.A.F.

Another of the auxiliaries committee's activities is the Sister Susie Club, where men and women of the Air Force can have their uniforms pressed and mended.

Henry Alexis (Harry) Kauper (1888-1942), was born on 12 March 1888 at Hawthorn, Melbourne. His parents were Charles Henry Kauper, a carpenter and later orchardist, and his mother Rosa Victoria, née Francis. Harry's father, an Estonian seaman, landed at Port Melbourne. 

Harry Kauper was influential in both aviation and later in life as a radio engineer and inventor.

After education in state schools Harry Kauper entered the motor engineering trade, specializing in electrical and ignition systems. Along with Harry Hawker, Harry Busteed and Eric Harrison, Harry Kauper was for some time an employee at Tarrant Motors in Russell Street, Melbourne. In 1910 he was a chauffeur at Willaura.  

May 1911, with his ex Tarrant Motor mechanic friends Harry Hawker and Harry Busteed (they were known as 'The Three Harrys'), and Eric Harrison, went to England to pursue a career in aviation.

June 1912, after working in the Sunbeam and other engineering works he secured a position as a mechanic with T. O. M. Sopwith, who was building his first aeroplane at Brooklands, Surrey.

Through Kauper's influence Harry Hawker was also soon employed and when the Sopwith Aviation Co. was formed in 1913 at Kingston-upon-Thames, Harry Kauper became foreman of works and Harry Hawker chief test pilot.

Left Harry Hawker, Right Harry Kauper. 1913 Daily Mail Circuit of Great Britain Air Race.

On 25 August 1913, Kauper, as engineer-mechanic, accompanied Hawker in the Sopwith entrant in the £5000 Daily Mail seaplane flight around the British coast.

In 1914, Hawker brought Kauper, as chief mechanic, to Melbourne to demonstrate to the Defence Department the new Sopwith Tabloid biplane. Both Harrys had contributed significantly to the design of this plane, the prototype of the Sopwith war-plane, the 'Pup'. They returned to England in June and, with the outbreak of war, Harry Kauper became works manager for Sopwiths, in charge of 3800 employees turning out 45 planes a week.

An inventive genius, Harry Kauper is best known for the patented Sopwith-Kauper interrupter gear which synchronized the firing of a machine-gun through a rotating aeroplane propeller. First used in April 1916, 3950 were fitted to Sopwith planes during the war.

Harry Kauper joined the Royal Air Force on 25 October 1918 as a second lieutenant (administration) engaged in experimental research. On 12 May 1919, at All Saints Anglican Church, Kingston-upon-Thames, he married Beatrice Minnie Hooper who had also worked at Sopwith.  

With the two planes of Captain H. J. Butler, Harry Kauper returned to Adelaide in July 1919 and in August they flew to Minlaton, carrying the first air mail over water in South Australia. In October they formed the Harry J. Butler & Kauper Aviation Co. Ltd which pioneered commercial aviation in South Australia but went into voluntary liquidation in 1921.

Harry Kauper had turned to radio. Under experimental licence S643 (1919) he established station 5BG at Dulwich in 1920. In 1922 he participated in the first radio telephony tests in South Australia, gave helpful advice to crystal set enthusiasts on his popular 'Dulwich Calling' broadcasts, and addressed radio clubs and the Wireless Institute of Australia. As an experimenter he was important in developing radio for broadcasting. He was a partner in the Adelaide Radio Co., manufacturing radio equipment, and was a part-time operator from 12 June 1924 when the company, under contract, loaned its call sign 5DN and equipment to Edward James Hume's experimental station at Parkside.

Kauper's station was one of the earliest low-powered, crystal-controlled transmitters in Australia; in November 1925 his signals were picked up in New York and California—a world record. In June Kauper and George Towns, an invalid soldier, built the first compact radio for Rev. John Flynn. Operated by a generator off the rear wheel of Flynn's truck, it proved an outstanding success but Flynn wanted a set workable under all outback conditions. In 1926 Kauper introduced Flynn to Alfred Traeger who ultimately developed the pedal wireless used by the Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

On 7 June 1926 Kauper was appointed chief engineer of 5CL, Adelaide (Central Broadcasters Ltd). When in January 1930 5CL was taken over by the National Broadcasting Service, he did not transfer but became chief engineer for 5AD (The Advertiser Broadcasting Network Pty Ltd), designing the transmitter and establishing the station. In 1931, after a world tour, he became consulting engineer to 3DB, Melbourne.

In 1940, at the invitation of the director, Group Captain Eric Harrison (with whom Harry Kauper had sailed to England in 1911), Harry Kauper accepted appointment, as a civilian, to the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. Kauper was now in charge of the radio electrical and instrument section., responsible for inspection of equipment being manufactured or repaired for the Royal Australian Air Force by civilian contractors. Although in ill health he contributed greatly in those formative years of the directorate, particularly in his specialist field of radio. Harry Kauper died suddenly at his Richmond home on 22 April 1942 of coronary vascular disease and was cremated. He had no children and his wife later returned to England

Harry Kauper was a modest man with deep-set, thoughtful blue eyes, rugged features and sandy hair. He went out as quietly as he had lived, but his death lost to radio and aviation 'another of the pioneering spirits' whose constructive work so advanced rapid development in these fields. Nothing mechanical held any problems for him and, in all things pertaining to radio, he stood alone.

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