FONTENEAU – George Fonteneau Amberley to Point Cook

February 20, 2010 at 11:49 pm (Genealogy) ()

George FONTENEAU Aviation Mechanic 1914

  •  AVIATION INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF
  • CENTRAL FLYING SCHOOL
  • AUSTRALIAN FLYING CORPS
  • AUSTRALIAN AIR CORPS
  • ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE

 George Fonteneau and Edith Lane are my grandparents. After researching George’s life for 12 years I self published twenty copies of a book named George Fonteneau 1884 – 1928 Aviation Mechanic. Amberley UK, Point Cook Australia, New Guinea. A copy of the publication was accepted into the RAAF’s Heritage Collection.

 Introduction:

After his English birth, 28 August 1884, George spent his childhood in France. When he turned twelve years of age he returned to his birthplace, Amberley West Sussex, with his parents and siblings. During his adolescence George qualified in carpentry, apprenticed to his French father, Joseph Fonteneau.

At this time, in Amberley, fellow Frenchman José Weiss studied the action of birds and produced a series of gliders. Development led to piloted gliders, which they launched from Amberley Mount and powered flights followed. In 1909 the Olympia Aero Show exhibited a Weiss/Handley-Page monoplane. Mr Fonteneau made propellers for José Weiss. Influenced by the fledgling flights of early aviators George diversified from carpentry to aviation.

 In the following years George moved on to spend time at Littlehampton, the Salisbury Plain’s Military Training Base in Wiltshire and the Brooklands Airbase in Byfleet Surrey. George, of the British Deperdussin Company, received his appointment to Aviation Instructional Staff number 4. Then he accepted the Australian position with Central Flying School, qualified as a mechanic, woodworker, fitter and constructor with especially thorough knowledge of float construction.

 George and his family sailed to Australia in 1913 they spent the next twelve months living in a tent at Point Cook, where he helped turn a quagmire of mud into Australia’s first Military Flying School. Despite scathing newspaper reports the base developed, and Military Aviation evolved through many stages before becoming the RAAF in 1921.

George remained at Point Cook, and progressed with the force during the change from Military to the RAAF. After his termination of enlistment, in 1927, George continued to work in aviation at Essendon Aerodrome and Coode Island.

 In December 1927 George travelled to New Guinea to join Ray Parer’s Bulolo Goldfields Aeroplane Service. He worked as Ray’s mechanic servicing the aeroplanes transporting gold from Wau to Lae. In January 1928 Ray Parer, Charles Pratt, George Fonteneau and Bert Moss assembled two aeroplanes on Ela Beach Port Moresby. They flew the Bristol Fighter and the DH9, from Ela Beach to Lae, to pioneer the first inland flight across New Guinea.

Soon after Ray Parer took a ship to Australia for some much needed leave. Aboard the “Montoro” with him was his engineer, George Fonteneau, who was very ill. 

George’s family watched him walk wearily across the paddocks, towards home; his tired expression displayed the gravity of his illness. George died soon after 22 September 1928.

 Denise McCracken

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10 Comments

  1. Mike Jelliffe said,

    Hi Denise – I’m a pilot and artist (watercolour) with many years living and flying in PNG. I am preparing to paint Ray Parer’s Bristol Fighter at Ela Beach and wonder if you would have any photos of the aircraft from George’s memorabilia? I came across your blog on google. I want to ensure I get the details accurate as current photo data is not clear. Thanks.

  2. alan eyre said,

    Try this link. http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/4021669
    The DH9 is in the foreground with the Bristol (partly obscured) behind.
    Regards
    Alan

    • Denise said,

      Hi

      Thank you for the link – I managed to open data in the second post, an article regarding Ray Parer’s plain crashing soon after take off.

      With Thanks

      Denise

  3. alan eyre said,

    Sorry wrong link. Try this instead.
    http://www.adfjournal.adc.edu.au/UserFiles/issues/47%201984%20Jul_Aug.pdf
    Regards
    Alan

  4. Hilary Greenwood said,

    I am researching Jose Weiss and his experimental flights in Littlehampton. Do you have any information about these? I would buy your book but it is out of print. ( I live in the UK)
    Hilary

    • Denise said,

      Hi Hilary
      Thanks for making contact. I have sent an email with further info.

  5. Bob Piper said,

    Hi Denise,

    I am Bob Piper who wrote the original article on Jackson’s Strip in 1984 for Defence Force Journal. It included the pic of the 1928 aircraft on the beach. I found it very interesting because I had lived at Moresby and swum at Ela Beach 1966-71.

    Just checked – still have the print copy but for the life of me can’t remember where I copied it from. Learnt to fly and Moresby and still write articles on the country, war and aviation.

    I wonder what
    George was suffering from ?

    Regards,

    Bob Piper.

    Military & Aviation Research Services
    Canberra.

    • Denise said,

      Hi Bob

      Just a quick note to say I have read your mail. I will reply to your email address later tomorrow.

      Regards Denise McCracken

  6. Hilary Greenwood said,

    http://www.littlehamptonfort.co.uk/page84.html
    Here is my article on Jose Weiss

    • Denise said,

      Hi Hilary
      Sorry for the delayed reply I will reply later to you email address.
      Regards Denise

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