A makeshift airfield lit by car headlights, all hands in to pull the Uiver from mud - while eyewitness accounts have faded, mementoes of Albury's famous aviation rescue are still out there, waiting to be tracked down.
The people of Albury saved the Uiver, but the generosity that followed has helped preserve its history.
Many of the surviving objects related to the 1934 rescue of the Dutch aeroplane are presents given in gratitude by a Netherlands East Indies delegation to Albury three months later.
As Uiver historian Noel Jackling observed, the Netherlands experienced a “period of euphoria” resulting from the plane’s safe completion, and handicap win, of the London to Melbourne centenary air race.
- Decisions pending on permanent home for Uiver memorial
- Air showcase dream rises with Uiver collection’s heritage listing
- Uiver statuette returns to council after many forgotten years
- Historian knighted as Uiver works continue
- $90,000 donation a plane surprise for Uiver restoration project
- Historic cup and whip lost in time
“Albury was world focus,” he said.
“Albury was the capital of Australia because they didn’t know anything else about Australia except Albury.
“Only a few days later in Holland, in Amsterdam, they formed the Albury Committee, which raised about 500 pounds for thank-you gifts for the people of Albury.”
Eight decades later, these treasures cannot all be accounted for, a situation Mr Jackling is seeking public assistance to try and remedy.
A key record is a photograph taken on March 20, 1935, of 31 gifts given to various Albury individuals during the delegation’s visit the previous December.
Presented in Dean Square (now the QEII Square area), the expensive offerings included a silver trophy cup, silver rose bowl, a gavel with gold trimmings in a 150-year-old box and, reflecting society’s habits, seven cigarette cases, both gold and silver.
“I began to wonder what proportion of these gifts do we now have,” Mr Jackling said.
“Albury Library Museum now has 11 of them, which is, I think, a remarkable achievement bearing in mind that most of them were gifts to members of the public and we’re now 84 years on.
“That made me think, ‘OK, we’ve got 11 of them, are there any more out there that we need to know about, can get the story of and might even be given as donations to the Library Museum?
“We’ll never get them all, but we might improve from 11.”
I'm hoping that it creates additional awareness of the event of the Uiver and its significance to the people of Albury and, you just never know, there's just the odd chance that somebody might have somethingNoel Jackling
Albury Council museum and social history collection curator Emma Williams said the council was committed to working with citizens and community groups on “this amazing local story”.
“So the acquisition of new material into the collection helps us to tell that story, it’s a really unique story for our region,” she said.
Ms Williams said the Uiver rescue retained broad interest with Albury residents as well as people in aviation and with Dutch connections.
Among artefacts not in the 1935 photograph are a couple of trophies that never stayed in Albury.
The owner of the winning horse in the 1936 Albury Gold Cup, Kenneth G. Richards, of Cowcumbla via Cootamundra, received the Netherlands Gold Cup.
Mr Richards died in a horse accident less than two years after this triumph and his daughter in England, whom Mr Jackling traced and contacted about four years ago, knew nothing of the cup.
Similarly, the gold mounted whip presented to winning jockey J. Manning, of Wagga, presumably left town with its new owner.
But Mr Jackling speculated some pieces could still lie within the Border, even, for example, parts of the two parachute flares dropped by the Uiver, later ripped up for souvenirs by Albury residents with two fragments held by Albury Library Museum.
“Those I believe are the only bits of the Uiver left anywhere in the world,” he said, given a crash in the Syrian desert destroyed the plane in December 1934.
Even the 1935 photograph itself raises unanswered questions of unidentified objects and unknown recipients.
Mr Jackling remained puzzled by a carpet piece wall cover in the picture.
“Never seen it, no idea who it went to, could be around Albury,” he shrugged.
Of course, time is the enemy for searchers; in a 2014 talk Doug Reid noted he and Mr Jackling had received varied accounts about the eight and a half hours the Uiver spent in Albury, including one story of a gold cargo.
“Our research has showed us that around the 70-year mark after an event, memories have faded or been fictionalised and fabricated,” Mr Reid said.
“Records have been lost, photographs have no captions and most of the observers at the event have passed on.”
But not quite all the evidence lies beyond living memory – in 1984 The Border Morning Mail reported a cigarette case, small Dutch flag and thank-you note would be displayed at Albury racecourse.
These had been dropped from the Uiver on to Albury racecourse on November 1, 1934, then picked up by club secretary Bertie Peacock but now their whereabouts was unknown.
Mr Jackling wondered if anyone remembered seeing this display on February 4, 1984, and did anyone take a photograph?
Mr Peacock’s wife Beatrice received an ornate silver bowl, now a valued acquisition of the Library Museum.
She had relayed details of the Uiver’s emergency landing at the racecourse by telephone to ABC radio.
“So she described the dropping of the two parachute flares, the circling of the Uiver, the headlights of the Uiver full-on and then ultimately coming in between two clumps of trees, just missing them and landing safely and getting bogged at the end,” Mr Jackling said.
“So by the time the wheels of the Uiver stopped rolling, or sliding in mud, the world knew that the plane had got down safely.
“Not bad for 1934, in fact remarkable for 1934, this really was the early days of the wireless.”
The Uiver historian invites anyone with information to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think people enjoy going on treasure hunts and here’s treasure,” he said.
“I’m hoping that it creates additional awareness of the event of the Uiver and its significance to the people of Albury and you just never know, there’s just the odd chance that somebody might have something.”
- Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here