Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Trove Tuesday: Flying the Kangaroo route in 1949

Qantas Kangaroo Route Advertisement 1948 retrieved from Pinterest

Most migrants to Australia, including immigrants in my family, came here by sea. My grandfather is an exception. He arrived by air.

Hans Boltz was born on 4 July 1910 in Berlin, where he trained at the State Institute for map drawing as a cartographer. From 1930 to the beginning of World War II he worked for the Prussian Geological State Institute (Geological Survey of Prussia or Preußischen Geologischen Landesanstalt). After the war, when he found his way back to Berlin, he discovered that this building, in Invalidenstraße 44, was situated in the Russian zone. Hans lived in the American zone and, reluctant to travel every day into the Russian-occupied part of the city or move there, he resigned. In 1948 he applied for work with the Australian government, which at the time was recruiting Germans with qualifications and skills in short supply in Australia. He got a job as a cartographer with the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources.

Berlin, Mitte, Invalidenstraße 44, Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Bau und Stadtentwicklung
Invalidenstraße 44 in Berlin-Mitte, the building of the former Geological Survey of Prussia. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Hans Boltz's file created by the Department of Post War Reconstruction includes the dates of his journey from Berlin to Canberra:
  • Wednesday 13 July 1949 left Germany for London
  • Sunday 7 August 1949 left London
  • Thursday 11 August 1949 arrived Canberra via Sydney
  • Friday 12 August 1949 commenced working for the Bureau of Mineral Resources.

NAA: MT105/8, 1/6/4531 Page 2 of 143 (click to enlarge image)

In the late 1980s with the help of my grandfather Hans I spent some time compiling my family tree on my mother's side. I had bought a book in 1978 called The History of our Family, published by Poplar Books of New Jersey. This had a series of templates for recording family history. One of these was for immigration.

Decades afterwards, my grandfather remembered very clearly his trip from Berlin and his arrival, on 11 August 1949.

I summarised my grandfather's recollections as follows:
Hans Fritz Boltz emigrated from Berlin to Canberra 11 . 8 . 1949
Aeroplane - Berlin - Hamburg - London 4 weeks London
museums / concerts ... wandering around sightseeing
London - Cairo - Karachi - Singapore - Darwin - Sydney -
Helopolis Hotel Cairo  Raffles Hotel Singapore  Qantas flight
In London my grandfather was given English lessons. He was not just a tourist.

Qantas Sydney-London Constellation route map retrieved from Pinterest

On Trove I have found an advertisement for the route in August 1949.

AUSTRALIA-ENGLAND CONSTELLATION SERVICE (1949, August 4). Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney, NSW : 1891 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163836624

A Qantas Empire Airways Constellation airliner, photographed by Frank Hurley retrieved from http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/40487425

In 2007 Qantas celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Kangaroo route. This video includes footage of the journey on the Lockheed Constellation aeroplanes. The first flight on the route had departed 1 December 1947.

The journey took four days, 55 hours of flying time. There were two overnight stops, one in Cairo and the other in Singapore. In Cairo my grandfather stayed at the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. In Singapore at the Raffles. There were 29 passengers and 11 crew.

Poster for the Heliopolis Palace Hotel retrieved from Palace intrigue: Egypt in the Golden Age of Travel

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Entree van het Raffles Hotel Singapore TMnr 60018239
Raffles Hotel in 1932. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The airfare in 1949 was £260 sterling. By way of comparison my grandfather's salary on starting with the Australian Public Service as an experienced cartographer was £222 a year and the average earnings for men in Australia was about £220 a year. The Australian government paid my grandfather's fare.

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  1. A great insight into times past...how wonderful to know so much about your grandfather's journey. The two grandparents who could have told me all about their journeys are long passed, one I never knew, the other when I was just 5. My Greek grandmother wasn't very proficient in English and not one to talk with me re anything that was 'me busyness' as she called almost anything I wanted to know.
    Great story and research.

    1. Thanks for your comments :)
      My grandfather is not listed on the National Archives' passenger index which is not yet comprehensive but your grandparents might be.
      I don't remember my grandfather telling me much about the journey. I would love to ask him now what the flight was like and about the stops on the way.

  2. Thanks, Anne. I have my grandfather's passenger index, but not my grandmother's. He came over in 1904, she came over around 1910 from what I have found. In those times, women rarely travelled alone from Greece, so for years, I've been ploughing through all passenger records I could find from that era. Often they came with other families from the island, but no luck as yet.

    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at


    Thank you, Chris

  3. Thanks Chris. I had a similar problem wondering how my great grandmother travelled from Germany on her own. When starting I didn't know when she arrived but my mother remembered my grandparents travelling to Sydney to collect her and approximately the time of year. It was only recently the relevant passenger list became available. Beforehand I used to suggest possible ship names to my mother based on shipping arrival notices from Trove, as a strategy it didn't work ;) There were still too many ships then and my mother did not remember.
    Once I found the passenger list at the National Archives freshly indexed and digitised, I went through the passenger list and recognised the surname of family friends of my grandparents. My grandfather and his friend must have arranged for their mothers to travel together. http://ayfamilyhistory.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/g-is-for-great-grandmother-from-germany.html
    Best wishes

  4. So different from today's trip but probably more comfortable and exciting.