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Fraser, Harold Livingstone (1890–1950)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Harold Livingstone Fraser (1890-1950), aviator and grazier, was born on 21 December 1890 at Rockhampton, Queensland, twelfth child of William Fraser, wool-scourer, and his wife Annie, née Grieve, both Scottish born. Educated locally, Harold spent eighteen months apprenticed to an architect, but, with the exploits of his brother Donald before him, was not happy in an office. He chose instead to train in the pastoral industry as a jackeroo on Portland Downs, a huge sheep station in the central-west of the State, and at 24 was its overseer.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 15 January 1915, Fraser embarked for the Middle East in May. He served with the 5th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli from September to December and in the Sinai campaign of 1916. In July he was promoted temporary sergeant; on 5 August at Katia he was wounded in the right shoulder. Selected for the Australian Flying Corps, he was commissioned in April 1917, joined No.1 Squadron as a pilot in June and was promoted lieutenant in September. He supported the advance through Palestine by patrolling, by engaging in photographic, reconnaissance and bombing missions, and by participating in five aerial fights. For his part in the operations to December, he was awarded the Military Cross. In April 1918 he was sent to hospital and invalided to Australia where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 30 July.

Fraser obtained a selection block in the Richmond district of north-west Queensland and began wool-growing and dealing in sheep. On 4 July 1922 he married Alethea Marion King at St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane. Following severe drought and low wool-prices, he abandoned his block about 1927. He obtained a civilian pilot's licence, bought a Cirrus Mark I Moth, VH-UFU, and 'barnstormed' around Rockhampton and the central west. Black Bridge Flat near the Fitzroy River was his base, and along the coast he used beaches for landing-grounds.

Inspired by his example, half a dozen aspiring young aviators formed the Rockhampton Aero Club and began grubbing stumps from a disused racecourse for a landing-strip. When their Connor Park Aerodrome opened on 2 March 1930, 'Captain' Fraser gave an exhibition of stunt flying, demonstrating the 'Immelmann turn' which the German air-ace had used on raids over France. With another pilot, Fraser established a training school. Backed by local businessmen, next year he formed Rockhampton Aerial Services Pty Ltd, of which he was managing-director and chief pilot. In a Genairco biplane he flew passenger services between Rockhampton and Brisbane: the inaugural flight took 6½ hours.

Services were soon extended to mine-payroll and weekly newspaper deliveries in Central Queensland. On a return flight from Clermont on 19 July 1936, Fraser's DH50 lost its engine and propeller at 4000 feet (1220 m). The Morning Bulletin reported that, after a free-fall of 3000 feet (914 m), he 'manipulated the controls to stop the machine going into a spin' and by 'a series of falling-leaf manoeuvres . . . came down on a flat in a bit of open country'. He walked 15 miles (24 km) to Capella where the local publican was startled by his 'queer looking clothes' and 'bloody great silk scarf'. Having downed a stiff whisky, Fraser nonchalantly caught a train back to Rockhampton. Financial problems, exacerbated by the loss of his plane, forced the sale of Rockhampton Aerial Services to Airlines of Australia that year. Fraser returned to the land, buying a cattle property at Dingo where he privately flew a De Havilland twin-engine aircraft. For a number of years he was associated with his brother Donald in successful gold-mining at Crocodile Creek. In 1946 Harold moved to Greystonlea cattle-station, Kingaroy.

After being trapped by fire in Greystonlea homestead, Fraser died of burns on 1 November 1950 in Kingaroy District Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife, son and two daughters survived him. A plaque (1961) at Connor Park airport commemorates him as a pioneer of civil aviation.

Select Bibliography

  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • Evening News (Rockhampton), 14 Feb, 1 Mar 1930
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 27 Feb, 3, 6, 17 Mar 1930, 23 July 1936, 8 Nov 1958, 10 Apr 1992
  • Peak Downs Telegram, 25 July 1936
  • Age (Melbourne), 2 Nov 1950
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 2 Nov 1950
  • J. F. Hobler, The Birth of Aviation in Rockhampton (manuscript, 1978, privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Fraser, Harold Livingstone (1890–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fraser-harold-livingstone-10241/text18107, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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