Many Australians will have heard of Charles Kingsford Smith, Douglas Mawson, Frank Hurley, Captain James Cook and Nancy Wake … what if I told you another name Hubert Wilkins deserved to be mentioned in those ranks of high achievers for his feats in adventuring and science?
In 1912 he was the 1st person ever to shoot film from an airplane and the first ever to record footage from a major international battle: the first Balkan War fighting between Bulgary and Turkey.
A few years later he joined famous war correspondent and historian C.E.W. Bean as a photographer in the Australian War Records section which had just been created by the Australian government. Wilkins went on to take many photos which served as a visual history of WWI, including many from the air, the Australian War Memorial WWI collection includes 8 films by Wilkins and hundreds of his photos.
While on the Western Front he was awarded the first of 2 Military Crosses during a battle on the Hindenburg Line in September 1918 and soon afterwards was described by Australian General John Monash as “the bravest man I have ever seen”, Australia’s counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia.
Wilkins went on to explore the Arctic and Antarctic by land/sea/air, became the first man to fly over Antarctica and the South Pole, was knighted for his services to aviation and exploration, travelled on the Graf Zeppelin during it’s trip around the world, was a spy for Britain and the USA as well as unsuccessfully attempting to travel to the North Pole in a submarine underneath the ice.
All this and much more is chronicled in the book “Hubert Who” by Malcolm Andrews, available from ABC Shops and other bookstores as well as an Amazon Kindle ebook. I highly recommend that all Australians as well as people interested in adventuring should read this book.