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Kenneth Moreton Frewin (1905–1959)

by Kevin J. Fewster

This article was published:

Kenneth Moreton Frewin (1905-1959), aviator and inventor, was born on 31 August 1905 in Melbourne, second son of John Henry Frewin, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Maria Eleanor, née Patterson. After attending Melbourne Church of England and Caulfield grammar schools, he served from 1923 to 1926 as a midshipman in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve.

In 1926 Frewin joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an air cadet. He resigned later that year and obtained first a private pilot's licence in October 1927 then a commercial licence in July 1928. He worked for a time with Mandated Territory Airways, New Guinea. On returning to Australia Frewin flew airmail runs and was personal pilot to Osment Howard Jolley, a flamboyant insurance salesman with a liking for making quick sales to wealthy graziers on outback stations. After an air circus tour of the Darling Downs Frewin co-founded Downs Air Service Ltd, Toowoomba, then became manager and chief instructor of the Air Schools and Taxi Co., Brisbane. Late in 1933 he moved to Melbourne to become senior captain for Tasmanian Aerial Services (renamed Holyman's Airways Ltd in July 1934 and later to become Australian National Airways Pty Ltd). He obtained a special aircraft radio-telegraphy licence when Holyman's became the first airline in Australia to use radio on a routine basis. Two Holyman De Havilland 86 aircraft crashed over Bass Strait late in 1934 killing all aboard. Frewin became the airline's chief pilot after the accidents. The airline dismissed him in July 1936 after he was convicted of drunken driving. In November that year he went to the United States of America as a guest of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation, spending five months studying American aircraft and airline operation.

Before the war Frewin was an instructor at Cambridge aerodrome, Tasmania. He enlisted in the R.A.A.F. in January 1940 and served as flying instructor at Point Cook, Camden and Wagga Wagga. In July 1941 he became a test pilot for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and from August 1941 acted as aeronautical consultant to the Army Inventions Directorate. After the war he was appointed senior instructor and manager of the Geelong Aero Club then moved to the same positions at the Tasmanian Aero Club, Launceston.

In the early 1950s Frewin's restless spirit brought him back to Melbourne to concentrate on marketing various inventions he had patented over the years. These included a suitcase which allowed large items of clothing to be carried with minimum chance of creasing; the 'storpedo', a watertight cylindrical container with parachute, devised for dropping supplies to troops; and the Frewin arometer, a device permitting continuous mixing of a predetermined portion of liquid with a flowing body of water or other liquid. The 'storpedo' was used extensively during World War II and later in Malaya. His inventive mind visualized many other projects, including a flying car, which did not reach fruition.

Frewin had married Patricia Sarah Davies in Melbourne on 5 March 1936. They had one son before their divorce on 10 September 1942. On 30 August 1957 in Melbourne he married Joan Alison Beaumont. After a period of illness Frewin died of pneumonia on 2 December 1959 at his South Yarra home. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over Bass Strait by pilots from the Victorian Aero Club.

Select Bibliography

  • Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, Liber Melburniensis (Melb, 1937)
  • Aircraft, Oct 1927, p 336, July 1928, p 36, Mar 1932, p 46, Apr 1932, p 18, Dec 1933, p 11, Mar 1934, p 11, Nov 1934, p 31, Jan 1948, p 32
  • People (Sydney), 16 Oct 1957
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17 Mar 1932, 5 Mar 1936
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Nov 1936
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 3 Dec 1959
  • Australian patents and patents applications records, 117830, 119846, 167788.

Citation details

Kevin J. Fewster, 'Frewin, Kenneth Moreton (1905–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 August, 1905
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


2 December, 1959 (aged 54)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.