The extraordinary life of the Gallipoli veteran and WWI Flying Corp gunner who founded Qantas and gave Australia its wings
Hudson Fysh was a decorated World War I hero who not only founded Australia's national airline, Qantas, but steered it for almost half a century from its humble beginnings with two rickety biplanes to the age of the Jumbo jets. More than anyone, Fysh shaped the way that Australians saw the world.
A sad and sickly boy traumatised by his parents' broken marriage, Fysh was a poor student, but the courage and determination he developed playing sport propelled him through his toughest challenges, and they became the foundations of this great Australian life.
Fysh started work as a jackaroo and farm hand but at the outbreak of World War I he enlisted and fought at Gallipoli as one of Australia's celebrated Light Horsemen. He went on to fly death-defying missions for Lawrence of Arabia with the Australian Flying Corps, and battled the Germans in deadly dogfights in the skies over Palestine.
After returning from the Great War, Fysh launched his bush airline, the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd (Qantas), with the help of a wartime pilot friend and some western Queensland graziers. He initially hoped to make a little money from joy rides and short air-taxi flights in remote grazing country, but he was a far-sighted man who could see the benefits of a small airline in remote areas of Australia. After flying the first scheduled Qantas passenger flight in 1922, he ushered in the Flying Doctors service that still assists remote communities, and the first Qantas international airmail services revolutionised Australian communications. Fysh later helped conquer Australia's tyranny of distance by establishing overseas air routes to give millions of Australians their first experience of international travel.
Always a modest, resolute family man with a steady hand in turbulence, 'the Flying Fysh' guided Qantas from its humble beginnings through the dark days of the Great Depression, the perilous years of World War II, when the airline flew dangerous missions for the Allies, and into the great boom in international tourism that followed with the jet age. Grantlee Kieza, author of critically acclaimed best-selling biographies of John Monash, Banjo Paterson, Joseph Banks, Lachlan Macquarie and Henry Lawson reveals the extraordinary life of the man who gave an Australian icon its wings.