Nigel Love and the first Richmond flying school commemorated

Nigel B. Love was born at Belmont Park, now St John of God Hospital at North Richmond, and spent a lot of time there as a child.

Nigel B. Love was born at Belmont Park, now St John of God Hospital at North Richmond, and spent a lot of time there as a child.

THE contribution of a North Richmond-born man to the history of aviation is being celebrated twice this month. 

The NSW State Aviation School, July 21, 1916 on what is now the RAAF Base.  Timber for the western annexe of the hangar still lies stacked on the ground, as the first Curtis 'Jenny' trainer aircraft is checked out by Chief Instructor Billy Stutt (nearest camera) and the workers who had assembled and rigged the airframe.  Hurried patches in the aerodrome surface indicate the pace of preparations towards the official opening of the School on August 28, 1916. Picture: www.3squadron.org.au.  Charter Family Collection

The NSW State Aviation School, July 21, 1916 on what is now the RAAF Base. Timber for the western annexe of the hangar still lies stacked on the ground, as the first Curtis 'Jenny' trainer aircraft is checked out by Chief Instructor Billy Stutt (nearest camera) and the workers who had assembled and rigged the airframe. Hurried patches in the aerodrome surface indicate the pace of preparations towards the official opening of the School on August 28, 1916. Picture: www.3squadron.org.au. Charter Family Collection

On August 2 the Nigel Love Bridge was officially opened at Sydney Airport, and at the end of this month a plaque on Ham Common will be unveiled celebrating the centenary of the NSW State Aviation School.

Nigel Love was born at North Richmond and is considered one of Australia’s greatest aviation pioneers. He was the founder of Sydney Airport, marking out its site in a bullock paddock at Mascot in 1919. 

Nigel Love in the cockpit of his RE8 aircraft on the western front. Picture: John Love

Nigel Love in the cockpit of his RE8 aircraft on the western front. Picture: John Love

Nigel’s uncle was the legendary Major Philip Charley who built Belmont Park (now St John of God Hospital at North Richmond). While Nigel grew up at Homebush, he was born at his uncle’s property and spent a lot of time there as a child.

Nigel’s son John Love told the Gazette Nigel joined the army in 1915 at age 23, and was about to leave for Gallipoli as part of reinforcements for the 18th Battalion when he saw a circular about learning to fly.

He was selected in the first intake of 25, out of 230 applicants, who would train at the new Richmond Aviation School, where the RAAF Base is now. 

He graduated as an officer/pilot and received strategic battle training in England before joining 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in 1918. The squadron was attached to the newly formed Australian Army Corps on the Somme in northern France, under John Monash. 

“This was at the critical time in the war when Monash changed tactics from trench warfare to mobile warfare,” John Love said. 

“He changed the planes’ role to bombing and strafing ahead of the troops to clear the way.” 

On his return from the war he marked out the site of the new airport at Sydney, with the first passenger leaving from there in November, 1919. 

Nigel Love also established Australia’s first aircraft manufacturing company and piloted the airport’s first commercial flight from Sydney to Melbourne.

The centenary of the NSW State Aviation School at Richmond, where Nigel Love learnt to fly, is being celebrated at Ham Common on Sunday, August 28 at 11am. 

The ceremony will be at the semi-circular RAAF memorial on Ham Common. Hawkesbury MP Dominic Perrottet will unveil a plaque. 

Those who would like to attend are asked to gather at the western end of the carpark next to the visitor information centre. 

The ceremony will be followed by a lunch (at own expense) at Richmond Club’s Star Buffet. To ensure sufficient seating, RSVP to raaf3squadron@yahoo.com.au with attendee names, or ring James on 8212 9793.

The Nigel Love Bridge at Sydney Airport.

The Nigel Love Bridge at Sydney Airport.