MS 1882
Papers of Norman Ellison (1896?-1971)



Scope and Content Note

  • Papers
  • 1925-71
  • 5.32 m. (38 boxes), plus 3 folio boxes.
  • Available for reference.

The collection comprises correspondence, drafts and typescripts relating to Ellison's journalistic and writing career, press clippings, ephemera and photographs.

A significant feature of the collection is the correspondence and other papers relating to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

The major correspondents include Hudson Fysh, Fergus McMaster, Bill Bostock and Sir Donald Hardman.

Biographical Note

Norman Ellison was born in [1896?] and lived in Sydney most of his life. He was a journalist and writer, and after his service in World War I he became interested in aviation.

His career included working for daily newspapers, such as the Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and the Guardian, contributing articles to aviation journals and working for the ABC Radio. He was a well known and highly respected in the aviation world, often being referred to as "Australia's leading aviation writer".

In 1950 he was a partner in a failed attempt to start a helicopter company in Sydney He was also an active committee member of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.

Ellison authored and co-authored a number of books, mostly on the subject of aviation, including Fangs of the Sea (1939, which was a book about sharks), Aces and Kings (1935), Daredevils of the skies (1941), Flying Matilda (1957) and British gliders and sailplanes (1971).

Norman Ellison died in 1971 at the age of 75, survived by his wife Leah, and children Rodney and Marilyn.

Series List

  1. Writings of Norman Ellison
  2. Correspondence, 1925-71
  3. Charles Kingsford Smith, 1919-64
  4. Butler Air Transport
  5. R. H. Buchanan, 1922-29
  6. Biographical files
  7. Subject files
  8. Photographs
  9. Press cuttings
  10. Printed material
  11. Miscellaneous

Series Description

Series 1. Writings of Norman Ellison

This series contains drafts and partial drafts, typescripts, research material, notes, correspondence and photographs relating to Flying Matilda, Aces and Kings and Fangs of the Sea and articles published in journals and newspapers.

Series 2. Correspondence 1925-71

The correspondence retained by Ellison for the collection was largely undertaken in his professional capacity, although there is some private mail. It had been arranged into the following files by Ellison:

  1. Correspondence 1938-44.
  2. Correspondence 1953-63.

The rest of the correspondence has been arranged around these two files in order to preserve original order.

Ellison corresponded with a wide group of people and the major correspondents represented in this collection are British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), Sir Hudson Fysh, and Fergus McMaster, Bill Bostock, Sir Donald Hardman, the Department of Civil Aviation, and Athol Towney (Minister for Air). There are also some drafts of letters written to the National Library of Australia regarding the transfer and purchase of his collection.

Series 3. Charles Kingsford Smith, 1919-64

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was best known for his pioneer flights with Charles Ulm in the Southern Cross. This series includes correspondence (both personal and business), reports, typescripts, newspaper cuttings, photographs, filmscript for 'Smithy' and a fuel gauge belonging to the Lady Southern Cross which was removed before the disappearance of his plane in 1935.

The correspondence includes personal letters of Kingsford Smith, mostly written to his parents and sister, as well as business letters. It also includes letters sent to the editor of the Smith's Weekly. The correspondents include N. Brearley and G.R. Hamilton.

The typescripts were written by Ellison. Some of these were published in newspapers and journals, such as the Smith's Weekly.

Series 4. Butler Air Transport

The series comprises two groups of papers:

  • Papers relating to C.A. Butler. It includes biographical information about C. A. Butler, the founder of the airline, as well as press cuttings and photos relating to his flying career before he started the airline, articles and reports written by Butler, and the roller log he kept of his smallest-ever-aircraft flight from England to Australia in 1934.
  • Material relating to the Butler Air Transport: traffic manuals, in-house periodicals, photographs and correspondence. A substantial part of this group of papers deals with the battle between Reginald Ansett and C. A. Butler for ownership of the airline, which Ansett finally won in 1957.

Butler and Ellison were partners in the failed helicopter venture in the 1950's. A large part of the reason for its failure was that it coincided with the first stages of the corporate battle for ownership of Butler Air Transport.

Series 5. R. H. Buchanan, 1922-29

R. H. Buchanan was a flight inspector for the fledgling Department of Civil Aviation in the 1920s. This series contains biographical information about him, as well as official diaries, logs and reports belonging to him.

Series 6. Biographies

This part of the collection has been kept essentially as it was created by Ellison himself and consists of biographical clippings files on Australian aviators and other prominent personalities, and a separate file of clippings and photos relating to women pilots. The files had been arranged in alphabetical order by Ellison and this order was maintained.

Important figures represented in the series include Reginald Ansett, L.S. Bailey, Sir John Alcock, W. E. Hart, Bert Hinkler, Jerry Pentland, George A. Taylor, Sir Gordon Taylor, Ben Turner and Oswald Watt.

See Appendix 1

Series 7. Subjects

This series was also arranged by Ellison. It contains information relating to all aspects of aviation, as well as a number of non-aviation subjects.

The first part of the series contains information about aviation and aviation history, while the rest comprises general subject files arranged in alphabetical order. Subjects covered include aircraft (military and commercial, Australian and overseas), airports, air races, parachuting, motorcycles and motoring, QANTAS, RAAF, pioneer and record flights, and poker machines.

The section relating to aircraft contains mostly photographs, while the other subjects comprises clippings and drafts.

See Appendix 2

Series 8. Photographs.

Where possible photographs relating to series 1 to 7 have been kept with the series. The photographs in this series depict to general aviation and miscellaneous subjects.

Series 9. Press cuttings.

This series contains general clippings, including general aviation, and clippings collected by Ellison for general reference purposes on various subjects. The series also includes two large scrapbooks of general clippings and a file of articles from the National Geographic on Aviation.

Series 10. Printed materials.

This series contains Australian aviation periodicals and newspapers, non-aviation magazines and 23 books (mostly on aviation). An interesting feature in this series is a copy of an unsuccessful tender by the English Electric Company for the design of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Series 11. Miscellaneous.

This series contains various ephemera belonging to Ellison, including two almost empty ledgers, material relating to aviation commemorative dinners he organised, and a scrapbook of postcards.

Box List

Series     Folders          Box        

1          1-8              1          
1          9-14             2          
1          15-18            3          
2          19-21            4          
2          22-30            5          
3          31-42            6          
3          Photographs      7          
3          Object           8          
4          52-61            9          
4          62 and           10         
           photographs                 
5          63-70            11         
6          71-82            12         
6          83-92            13         
6          93-104           14         
6          105-115          15         
6          116-130          16         
6          131-139          17         
6          140-147          18         
7          148-154          19         
7          155-164          20         
7          165-175          21         
7          176-185          22         
7          186-197          23         
7          198-204          24         
7          205-212          25         
7          213-227          26         
7          228-234          27         

Series1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 also include folio items.


Appendix 1 - Biographical Clippings Files

Folders                                                                  

71          'A'                                                          
72          Sir John Alcock                                              
73          R.M. (Reg) Ansett                                            
74          Australian aces                                              
75          'B'                                                          
76          L.S. Bailey                                                  
77-79       L.S. Bailey and Sir John Alcock                              
80          Hans Bertram                                                 
81          H.E. Broadsmith                                              
82          'C'                                                          
83          Sir Francis Chicester                                        
84          E.J. Connellan                                               
85          Sid Cotton                                                   
86          'D'                                                          
87          'E' & 'F'                                                    
88          Harold Fraser                                                
89          Sir Hudson Fysh                                              
90          'G'                                                          
91-93       Harold Gatty (folder 91a contains copy of Gatty's The raft   
book)                                                        
94          Father John Glover                                           
95          A.W. Gregory                                                 
96          'H'                                                          
97-104      W.E. (Bill) Hart                                             
105         Sir Edward Hallstrom                                         
106         H.T. (Bunny) Hammond                                         
107         Lawrence Hargrave                                            
108         Harry Hawker                                                 
109-110     Bert Hinkler                                                 
111         'I' & 'J'                                                    
112         Ida Isaacs                                                   
113         'K' & 'L'                                                    
114         Max Lawson                                                   
115         R.A. Little                                                  
116         'M'                                                          
117         Sid Marshall                                                 
118         Fergus McMaster                                              
119         Frank Minjoy                                                 
120         'N' & 'O'                                                    
121         Harold Owen and J. Moir                                      
122         'P'                                                          
123-124     Jerry Pentland                                               
125         Edgar Percival                                               
126         'R'                                                          
127         'S'                                                          
128         T.W. Shortridge                                              
129         Ross Smith (chapter of book on)                              
130         Ralph Symonds                                                
131         'T' & 'U'                                                    
132-133     G.A. Taylor                                                  
134-136     Sir P.G. Taylor                                              
137         'Henri' Tovell                                               
138-139     Ben Turner                                                   
140         'W'                                                          
141         M.M. Waghorn                                                 
142-143     Oswald Watt                                                  
144         Hubert Wilkins                                               
145-146     Women pilots                                                 
147         'Y'                                                          

Appendix 2 - Subject Files

Folders                                                                  

148-150     Aviation - general                                           
151-154     Early aviation                                               
155-156     Early Australian aviation                                    
157-158     Aviation - civil                                             
159-160     Aviation - military                                          
161-175     Aircraft - civil and military (mainly photographs)           
176-177     Airmail                                                      
178-185     Airports                                                     
186-191     Air races                                                    
192         Aeroclub of NSW                                              
193         Agriculture and aircraft                                     
194-195     British aviation                                             
196         Gliding                                                      
197         Hovercraft                                                   
198         Licenses                                                     
199-200a    Motorcycling                                                 
201         Motors                                                       
202         Noise; New Guinea                                            
203         Parachutes                                                   
204         Patents                                                      
205         Pay (for pilots)                                             
206         Place names (air history)                                    
207-208     Poker machines                                               
209         Prawns                                                       
210-212     Qantas Empire Airways                                        
213-216     RAAF                                                         
217-227     Record flights                                               
228         Sharks                                                       
229         Southern Cloud mystery                                       
230-231     World wars                                                   
232         Flying doctor; Israel; Lord Howe Island; Air memorials       
233-234     General reference