Lt Col H C Brinsmead, OBE MC (1883-1934)

Lt. Col. H.C. Brinsmead, O.B.E., M.C.
First Controller of Civil Aviation, 1920-1933.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

Horace Clowes Brinsmead was born on 2 February 1883 at Hampstead, London, UK. At the age of 20 he migrated to Australia and settled on the land in North Queensland. This was unsucessful and he then became a planter in Tonga, remaining there until the outbreak of World War I.

In December 1914 Brinsmead enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a private, but was commissioned while his unit, the 24th Battalion, was still in training in Victoria. Brinsmead's unit served on Gallipoli in 1915, where Brinsmead distinguished himself at Lone Pine. The 24th Battalion was then posted to France where Brinsmead was promoted and once again distinguished himself at Pozieres on 27 July 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross. On the same day he was wounded and evacuated to England where he attended a senior-officer's course during a lengthy recuperation. He then joined the staff of the Australian Flying Corps Headquarters in London where he was promoted to temporary Lieutenant-Colonel in 1919. Brinsmead served with the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and was appointed OBE in June that year.

Returning to Australia, Lt. Col. H C Brinsmead was appointed the first Controller of Civil Aviation in Australia in 1920 and was responsible for framing the Air Navigation Regulations and for managing the early days of Australian civil aviation. Click here to read Brinsmead's letter of application for the position.

Achievements of the Civil Aviation Branch while he was Controller included support for flying training, the surveying of landing grounds and airmail routes to enable the early airlines to become viable operations, and building a general safe aviation infrastructure. Click here to read more about Brinsmead's involvement in the saga of the Vickers Vulcan. Brinsmead was widely respected and earned a reputation as an efficient administrator.

His career was tragically cut short in 1931 when he was badly injured on a flight to England while involved in negotiations for an air mail route between England and Australia. He was aboard the ANA Avro X VH-UNA Southern Sun, with G U 'Scotty' Allan flying, when the aircraft crashed on takeoff at Alor Star, Malaya. Click here to see an air mail cover carried on this flight. Brinsmead, having recovered from minor injuries, decided to continue the journey using the KLM service, however this aircraft also crashed on 7 December 1931 having failed to get airborne at Don Muang Aerodrome, Bangkok. Badly injured, he remained an invalid until his death in Melbourne on 11 March 1934.

In 1951 Qantas Empire Airways named their new L749 Constellations after pioneers of Australian aviation. VH-EAF was named Horace Brinsmead.


Lt Col Brinsmead photographed c.1919.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

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