The Red Devil - The Legendary Airman: Minlation Airport Display, Yorke Peninsula
From a poor farming kid at the Koolywurtie school near Minlaton to a World War One flying instructor, Harry Butler was destined to soar above the others. As a twenty six-year-old he paid his own way to England in 1916 to join the Royal Flying Corps and within months was flying over France. Tom Chambers says he soon made a name for himself:
"He said that he trained two thousand seven hundred pilots and looped the loop a thousand times."
Harry was awarded the Air Force Cross but returned to Australia after receiving a head wound in active service. He made his way back to the peninsula with an AVRO Bi-plane and his beloved plane, the Red Devil.
"You can see inside. It's basically just a shell. It's only a wooden framework with a fabric skin stretched over it."
The engineering is extremely basic yet effective. The foot rods control sideways movement and the stick will take you up and down and when you tap the outer skin you realise the Red Devil didn't offer a great deal of protection should anything go wrong.
While others may have had their doubts Captain Harry Butler had infinite faith in the two planes he purchased at the army disposal sales in England and shipped back to Yorke Peninsula.
Soon he was up and away pulling crowds at his barnstorming displays at fairs around the State and dropping into places like Unley Oval. But he really made a name for himself on August 6th, 1919 when Harry Butler, the local Minlaton lad, brought the Peninsula just that little bit closer to the outside world.
"The first airmail flown over water in the Southern Hemisphere."
From the old photos we can see that Harry put on a bit of a show for the locals in Adelaide with a quick circuit of the Adelaide GPO before heading off with the mail to the Peninsula he loved.
The early postcards confirm the historic nature of this mail delivery. Throughout this famous flight Harry wore an inflated car tyre just in case he was forced to ditch the Red Devil in Gulf Saint Vincent.
"The authorities did put a tug-boat in the Gulf. Just in case."
But not even a car tyre would save the day on January the 11th, 1922 when Harry Butler took his Avro Bi-plane for a flight over the wheat fields near Minlaton.
"It would appear that they were about fourteen hundred feet up and the engine seized. They ploughed into the ground. Absolutely disintegrated. He suffered extensive injuries around the face particularly on one side of the face. He had numerous operations."
Harry never recovered fully and died eighteen months later. He was buried with full military honours on July 31st, 1924. Harry Butler's plane, the famous Red Devil is on display on the outskirts of Minlaton. The local National Trust Museum in the main street also features much of the Captain's memorabilia. If you have any further questions please email email@example.com