Cancelled Jubilee Flight

The first through airmail from New Zealand to the UK was planned for 17 May 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The aim was to link up with the Australia - UK service at Sydney. The trans-Tasman air mail rate was 7d while the Australia - UK air mail rate was 1s 6d giving a total of 2s 1d.

New airmail stamps had been issued on 4 May 1935 so that they would be available for the flight.

Letters to UK

air mail cancelled, went by sea

As Kingsford Smith's trans-Tasman flight of 15 May from Australia to New Zealand had to be abandoned, the New Zealand to Australia return flight did not take place. The mail had already been postmarked by the time that news came of the failed crossing. On 17 May, around 11,000 items were sent from Auckland on the Monterey and around 2,000 from Wellington on the Monowai. Both ships arrived in Sydney on 20 May [2].

Two sets of special covers had been produced: one for the New Zealand to Australia flight and the other, shown here, for the through flight to the UK.

Mail addressed to the UK was not backstamped when it arrived in Sydney on 20 May. It was sent by rail to Cootamundra presumeably on the night of 21 May and then on 22 May by Butler Air Transport to Charleville where it joined the Qantas service to Singapore that had left Brisbane on 22 May. From Singapore, it was carried to the UK by Imperial Airways arriving on 3 June [1]. No backstamp was applied on arrival in the UK.

sea mail

I could not resist this second cover when I saw it on eBay as the address is just round the corner from where I lived as a boy.

When the Australia to London service had been set up in December 1934, Qantas had been unable to fly the Darwin to Singapore leg as their DH 86A planes had been grounded. They started flying this leg on 25 February, 1935 and so the mail on the Jubilee flight was carried to Singapore by Qantas.

The postage rate was set at 2/1 per ½ oz (7d trans Tasman plus the normal 1/6 to the UK) and so the second cover has the correct franking while the first cover has franking of only 1/10.


As well as mail for the UK, mail was addressed to intermediate destinations.


This cover is addressed to Batavia in Java in the Dutch East Indies (modern day Djkarta in Indonesia). The route from Darwin to Singapore was via Batavia where the cover was backstamped on 25 May.

The air mail rate from Australia to the Dutch East Indies was 9d and so, with the 7d Trans-Tasman rate, the cover is correctly franked with 1/4 in stamps.

Letters to Australia

sea mail

Letters addressed to Australia, although they give every appearance of being first flight covers, were never flown, but were sent to Sydney by sea.


The cover has the correct franking of 7d for the airmail to Australia plus 2d for the return journey by sea.

The mail arrived in Sydney on 20 May and was backstamped.


Covers addressed to New Zealand were then returned by sea. This cover is backstamped Auckland on 27 May.

Special covers were produced with the same design as those for the flight from Australia, but the printing is in brown rather than blue and the cover is a larger size.


All scans were made by the author. Information on this page is taken from:
Airmails of New Zealand, volume 2 (1986) compiled by Douglas A Walker, and The New Zealand Airmail Catalogue, (2nd Edition, 1994) by James Stapleton.
Both are published by the Air Mail Society of New Zealand
[1] Aircraft Movements on Imperial Airways' Eastern Route, Vol 1, 1927 - 1937, Peter Wingent, Winchester 1999.
[2] Evening Post Wellington and Auckland Star, Papers Past, available at: paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast