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Gold and silver plated brass handbuilt model of the Fokker tri-motor monoplane 'Southern Cross', flown by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith

Object type

Object number

Gold and silver partially-operable scale model of the Fokker tri-motor monoplane areoplane VH-USU 'Southern Cross'. The fuselage is built from over ten feet of quarter-inch brass angle. It was drilled 140 times to take the 1/16th-inch bolts that hold it together and a further 122 times after the fuselage was completed to fit the 24-gauge brass covering. The fuselage is marked-off to scale and the doors are hinged. There are 154 separate pieces of metal in the covering, which has also been silver-plated and polished. The interior fittings include two upholstered pilot's seats, luggage racks, controls, compass, and benches in the rear cabin etc. There are two lights in the cabin and one in the cockpit, and all of the interior has been silver-plated. The wings consist of a framework of brass pieces that were cast in wooden patterns. The framework was drilled 242 times to attach the 24-gauge brass covering with 1/16th inch studs. In all there are 118 separate handcrafted pieces of metal in the silver-plated and polished wing, which also includes port and starboard navigation lights. Both of the hinged ailerons are made of a further 15 separate pieces of metal. The centre portions of the motors were turned in a lathe, which were then marked-off for cylinders. The cylinders are made of small pieces of brass rod threaded to represent the air cooling surfaces of the original motors. The motors also feature rocker arms, exhaust pipes, magnetos, and leads to spark plugs. There are 94 separate pieces in each engine. The three propellers were cast in brass from wooden patterns and they are made of 19 separate pieces. The nacelles are drilled out of solid brass and contain 21 separate pieces. The propellers, nacelles and some of the engine components are gold-plated. The two wing-mounted motors also have a 21-piece silver-plated and polished undercarriage. The rudder, tail flaps and controls are made in the same manner as the wing from 83 pieces of metal. The model is mounted on a pedestal made from three varieties of Australian marble. The dark reddish-brown top section of the pedestal that the model sits on is in the form of a memorial cross. The mottled cream cube centre section has an oval gold-framed hand-painted miniature portrait of one of the four pioneering Trans-Pacific crew members on its sides, beneath inset gemstones forming the Southern Cross constellation. Below each miniature is a small pair of golden wings. The wings have the flag of the country of the particular avaitor in the centre, his name, and the name of his country in coloured enamel. The orange and white mottled square base section has beveled sides.

This model, which was hand-built by Austin Byrne from a plan supplied to him by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, was the first object made by Byrne in a series that became the 'Southern Cross' Memorial.

Collection name
Austin Byrne collection no. 1

Collection statement of significance
The Austin Byrne collection no.1 consists of approximately 900 items, primarily components of, design materials and completed artworks for the 'Southern Cross' Memorial, created by Austin Byrne between 1930 and 1993. The artworks are comprised of metal, marble, glass and wood, with the main works being: a scale model of the 'Southern Cross' on a tiered marble pedestal; a silver plated world globe with the 'Southern Cross' flights marked in lines of precious stones; plaque inscribed with the mileages of each flight presented on the world globe; portraits of Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm framed in gilded brass; a hand-written history of the 'Southern Cross' inside a 'Shrine of Remembrance' made from marble and studded with opals; a 'Book of Remembrance' including 38 testimonial letters from leading international aviators in a receptacle of three world globes marked with different 'Southern Cross' flights; and a pictorial history of the 'Southern Cross' featuring 200 photographs. The rest of the collection consists of Byrne's research, records, and supporting display and advertising materials for the memorial as exhibited his work around Australia and internationally, and components created by Byrne for his proposed memorial building.

Born in Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1902, Austin Byrne was interested in aviation from a young age. On 10 June 1928, Byrne was one of thousands of people who greeted the 'Southern Cross' and its crew on arrival at Mascot aerodrome. In 1930, responding to that event and his admiration for the aviators, Byrne decided to construct a scale model of the 'Southern Cross' as a gift for Charles Kingsford Smith. After the disappearance of Kingsford Smith during a flight from England to Australia in 1935, Byrne began to construct further tributes and seek contributions from leading aviators of the period for the creation of a 'Southern Cross' Memorial. Byrne's memorial grew as he spent more than 100,000 hours across thirty-seven years of his life creating the artworks, mostly by hand in his spare time, using techniques he taught himself as an unskilled labourer. Using his own money and raising funds to assist, Byrne travelled with his memorial on invitation to New Zealand, the United States of America and Holland, as he paid tribute to the international cooperation and assistance behind the flights of the 'Southern Cross'. When retiring from his work in 1967, Byrne increased his lobbying to the Federal Government to accept the 'Southern Cross' Memorial as a gift to the nation. In 1970, the government accepted Byrne's offer and in 1984 transferred the collection to the National Museum. Until his death in 1993, Byrne continued to create material for the memorial and also compiled a history of his efforts, donated to the National Museum posthumously.

Mr Austin E. Byrne

Place made
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Date made
01/01/1931 - 01/04/1931

Sir Charles E. Kingsford Smith
The model was viewed by Kingsford-Smith and it was to be a gift to him on his return from his last tragic flight in 1935 from which he did not return

Mr Charles T. Ulm
Australian co-pilot

Captain Harry Lyon
American crewman

Jim Warner
American crewman

Place of event
Oakland, California, United States of America

Place of event
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Place of event
Hawaii, United States of America

Place of event
Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji

Place of event
Pacific Ocean

Associated place
Byrne was appreciative of the help afforded to him by the Fokker Company and the people of Holland

Date of event
Date of the pioneering Trans-Pacific crossing by the crew of the Southern Cross

Brass, Silver, Marble, Paint - non specific, Gold, Gemstone - non specific, Enamel

Length: 900mm
Width: 660mm
Height: 170mm
Weight: 5.1kg

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