Norman Ellison (1896–1971) was a journalist on a number of Sydney newspapers, including the Daily Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and Smith’s Weekly. After serving in World War I, he became keenly interested in aviation and for 40 years was a prolific writer about aircraft, aviators and air transport. He contributed articles to many magazines, such as Wings, Aircraft, Pocket Book Weekly and Reveille, as well as various newspapers. He worked at one time for Butler Air Transport and later owned a public relations firm in Sydney.

Ellison was the author or co-author of several books, including Aces and Kings (1935), Daredevils of the Skies (1940), Flying Matilda: Early Days in Australian Aviation (1957) and British Gliders and Sailplanes, 1922–1970 (1971).

Aces and Kings (1935)

Daredevils of the Skies (1940)

Flying Matilda: Early Days in Australian Aviation (1957)


The Library purchased the collection from Ellison in 1970. Following his death, some further material was bought from his wife, Leah Ellison, in 1971.



In the course of his career as an aviation writer Ellison acquired letters, photographs and other papers of several early aviators. The following are the principal groups:

Sir John Alcock. Correspondence with the Australian businessman and publicist Les Bailey, 1915–19; photographs

H.E. Broadsmith. Typescript on the first production of aircraft for the RAAF, 1927–29

R.H. Buchanan. Diaries and logs, 1922–24, mostly of the first flight around Australia in 1924

Charles Butler. Papers of Butler and Butler Air Transport, 1954–60; photographs

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. File of letters written to his parents, mostly in the period 1915–24; correspondence on the proposed Pacific flight, 1927; general correspondence, 1930–35; photographs.


Dunne, Frank. Anderson and Hitchcock with the Plane Kookaburra Grounded at Wave Hill, c. 1930. Wash drawing [PIC R5337]

Dunne, Frank. Portrait of Bert Hinkler, c. 1930. Pencil and wash drawing [PIC R5333]

Dunne, Frank. Seascape Showing Melville’s Percival Gull. Oil painting on board [PIC R5334]

Miller, Syd. Portrait of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. c. 1930. Drawing, scraper-board on wood [PIC R5333]

Pidgeon, W.E. Aotea Roa about to Plunge in the Tasman Sea, c. 1935. Crayon and wash drawing [PIC R5336]

Collection of 354 lantern slides, c.1924–40, depicting inter alia Alice Springs (1934), Hermansburg Mission, Lake Eyre, Haasts Bluff, Wellington (New Zealand), Rotorua, Darling Harbour, Randwick Racecourse (1924), Windsor, Lake Macquarie, Port Hacking, Bendigo (1937), wreck of the Malabar (1931), Wirth’s Circus and E.G. Theodore (1930) [PIC P862]

Printed Material

The Ellison Collection includes 22 books on aviation subjects by British writers. The authors include Leonard Cheshire, Francis Chichester and Frank Whittle.

Personal Papers

The papers of Ellison date from 1925–71 and comprise drafts of his books and articles, correspondence, research files, photographs, newspaper cuttings, scrapbooks and printed items. Of particular note are Series 6, Biographical files and Series 7, Subject files.


Apart from the pictorial material listed above, which is in the Pictures Collection, the Ellison Collection is kept together at MS 1882 within the Manuscripts Collection. A finding aid is available online. Ellison interfiled letters, manuscripts and photographs that he had collected with his own correspondence, drafts and research material. His arrangement has been retained.