NotesThis model was made by Richard Archibald (Arch) Dunne DFC (1913-2007), an Australian aviator who had a long career in aviation in both the civil and military spheres. He learnt to fly with Frank Pratt in Geelong, Victoria, in 1931, joined the Australian National Airways flying DH 86 aircraft before moving to W.R. Carpenter Airlines. During the Second World War Arch served with the RAAF flying Hudsons, Beauforts and Liberators, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. After the war, Arch resumed civil aviation flying with Qantas and then joined British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines in 1948, and returned to Qantas a few years later.
Arch grew up at Dimboola, in the Wimmera region of Victoria, where his father was the headmaster of the local school. This was located adjacent to the railway line between Adelaide and Melbourne, commonly used by pilots in the early days of Australian aviation and known colloquially as 'Clapp's Compass' after Harold Clapp, head of Victorian Railways. Arch recalled seeing Ross and Keith Smith's Vickers Vimy in 1920 after its historic flight, and Alan Cobham on his return flight to England in 1926.
In 1929 Arch got a job with the Aircraft Manufacturing and Supply Co. (AMS Co.) of Geelong, operated by the Pratt brothers, building gliders. These were the German Zogling training gliders, which were catapulted off with rubber bands. As well as this he started a gliding club in Geelong and in 1931 gained his pilot's licence.
One of the early pilots who would fly from Melbourne down to Geelong in the early 1930s was Nancy Lyle, one of the few women pilots at the time. Arch Dunne gave a delightful description of how he met Nancy and made this model. It was recorded in an interview undertaken with Arch on 3 October 2001 by Greg Banfield and subsequently published in 'Aviation Heritage' in 2014:
"At Geelong there was a dip in the middle of the landing ground where the water used to lie, so a little raised track was built up to the buildings, which were on high ground. Because you couldn't steer a Moth on the ground, there was always someone ready to go down and hold the wingtip for anyone landing, to help get them up on the narrow track and round the corner to the front of the hangar. Miss Lyle owned the DH 60G Gipsy Moth, VH-UKV Diana, and I met her through helping her by holding the wingtip.
I built a model of her aircraft, with a wingspan of about two feet. I shaped the wings out of the good, soft timber from the cases the old two-gallon tins of petrol came in, the length of those pieces deciding the size of the model was to be. Then I built the fuselage. I painted most of it but then another fellow I know in the glider club who was a painter, Tommy Thompson, offered to complete the finicky details of some little lines at the end of the rudder and, all told, it really looked quite good. When she visited Geelong one day, I presented it to her.
It didn't occur to me then that it was really far too big to put in her home in Melbourne. Ultimately, during the Second World War, she had someone fit moveable ailerons to it so that it could be used as a teaching aid for people who were learning to fly. Years later it passed to Nancy Bird, who was then involved with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and, with my permission, she gave it to the Museum.
Isobel Nancy Lyle was a very wonderful person and quite a character in her own right. She came from a wealthy family, but you wouldn't have known that if you had met up with her. I never met her father, Sir Thomas Lyle, Knight Bachelor, Mast of Arts, Doctor of Science, Fellow of the Royal Society and the professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. In fact, it was quite some time before I realised that her father was a titled man. You don't hear much about her because if any journalists ever tried to write her up, they were very bluntly told where to go. She was a very independent lady and would never have appreciated anybody telling anything about her at all, good bad or indifferent. But she had a streak of helping people out and no one ever heard of it. She was an amazing lady.
I was always a bit of a weed and I think Miss Lyle worried about whether I was eating enough. She was a middle-aged woman then, but she got to hear that I was learning to fly and took an interest in what I was doing. Occasionally, at Christmas or on my birthday, a 5 pound note would arrived from her and the money promptly went into a couple more hours' flying."
Banfield, Greg, 'R.A. (Arch) Dunne, FFC Part 1 - Pre-War Civil Flying' in 'Aviation Heritage: The Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia Inc.' Vol 45, No.3, September 2014, pp.94-106.