Landing of First Airman to Cross Bass Strait:
Lieut. Arthur Leonard Long, a Tasmanian Aviator, successfully flew from Stanley on the N.W. Coast of Tasmania to Melbourne on 16th December 1919. The monument was installed by the Victorian Historical Society after being approached by Mr. W. Russell Grimwade who paid for the monument.
During The Great War, Lieut. Long had been on active service with the Australian Flying Corps. After the Armistice he went to England to purchase some 90 h.p. R.A.F. air-cooled engines from the Aircraft Disposal Board. He then had a plane built appropriate for the engine, capable of carrying one passenger and fitted for acrobatical exhibition work.
He brought his plane, a single engine biplane, to Australia and set up in Tasmania giving flying exhibitions to help the Peace Loans. Subsequently the first aerial newspaper deliveries were made in Tasmania. He then started flights for photographic purposes over the rough Great Lakes district to assist in surveying the area for transmission lines from the Great Lakes to Launceston. After a crash in the area Arthur Long decided to attempt his dream of flying to Melbourne. The biggest hurdle to overcome for the small plane (24’ wide and 18’ long) was that the plane could not carry enough petrol and lubricating oil for the distance.
Long fitted an extra petrol tank in the front seat so the mechanic had to be left behind. A heavy north-westerly wind, with low clouds, necessitated flying at an altitude of about 900 feet. Experiencing bad flying conditions, he found that the release to the extra oil tank had broken, thus limiting the supply of oil to the engine; so he landed in “White’s Paddock” (location of current golf course) about a mile south-west of the town and adjusted it without stopping the engine. Without delay, the flight was resumed much to the amazement of the farmer.
After making two wide circles over the city, he safely alighted on Fishermen’s Bend alongside Mr. R.G. Carey’s aerodrome.
Mr. Long carried letters from Tasmanian dignitaries to Victorian counterparts.
To erect the memorial, Mr. Long visited Torquay with the Victorian Historical Society to identify the site of landing. As is was in an awkward position (now there are houses at the site), the trustees of the Torquay Reserve were approached. They agreed to the erection of the memorial in the reserve overlooking Bass Strait and just opposite Anderson Street. Alsop architects drew up the specifications and Messrs. J.C. Taylor and Sons, of Geelong built the memorial.
Inscription: “About one mile south west of here, on 17th December, 1919, Arthur Leonard Long landed from Tasmania, on the first crossing of Bass Strait by air.”.
On Saturday, 7 November, 1926 the ceremony of unveiling took place in the presence of Mr. Long, residents and members of the Government, Victorian Historical Society, Shire Council and trustees of the Torquay Reserve.
Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW ), 17th December 1919
Royal Historical Society of Victoria Victorian Historical Journal : 43 Volume 11 (3), 1927. Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 1927