Guide to the Papers of Norman Ellison


MS 1882, MS Acc07.184

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Norman Ellison
Papers of Norman Ellison
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 1882, MS Acc07.184
6.36 metres (41 boxes, 4 folio boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The collection comprises correspondence, drafts and typescripts relating to Ellison's journalistic and writing career, press clippings, ephemera and photographs.

A significant feature of the collection is the correspondence and other papers relating to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

The major correspondents include Hudson Fysh, Fergus McMaster, Bill Bostock and Sir Donald Hardman.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Norman Ellison, National Library of Australia [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.

Biographical Note

Norman Ellison was born in [1896?] and lived in Sydney most of his life. He was a journalist and writer, and after his service in World War I he became interested in aviation.

His career included working for daily newspapers, such as the Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and the Guardian, contributing articles to aviation journals and working for the ABC Radio. He was a well-known and highly respected in the aviation world, often being referred to as "Australia's leading aviation writer".

In 1950 he was a partner in a failed attempt to start a helicopter company in Sydney He was also an active committee member of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.

Ellison authored and co-authored a number of books, mostly on the subject of aviation, including Fangs of the Sea (1939, which was a book about sharks), Aces and Kings (1935), Daredevils of the skies (1941) and Flying Matilda (1957).

Norman Ellison died in 1971 at the age of 75, survived by his wife Leah, and children Rodney and Marilyn.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 1882. Original consignment

Comprises 1. Writings of Norman Ellison: drafts, research material for Flying Matilda, Aces and kings, and Fangs of the sea. 2. Correspondence, 1925-1971: mostly business. The major correspondents are Hudson Fysh, Fergus McMaster, Sir Donald Hardman and Bill Bostock. 3. Charles Kingsford-Smith: correspondence (including Kingsford-Smith's letters to his parents and sister), typescripts by Ellison, cuttings, and photographs, script for film "Smithy", press clippings, photographs, and a fuel guage from "Lady Southern Cross". 4. Butler Air Transport: comprises papers relating to C.A. Butler and Butler Air Transport. 5. Biographies: clippings, photographs and other papers relating to aviation personalities, including L.S. Bailey, Sir Gordon Taylor and Bert Hinkler. 6. Subjects: clippings, photographs and other papers relating to aviation subjects including aircraft, airports, QANTAS and RAAF.

Contained in 38 boxes, 3 folio items.

Series 1. Writings of Norman Ellison

This series contains drafts and partial drafts, typescripts, research material, notes, correspondence and photographs relating to Flying Matilda, Aces and Kings and Fangs of the Sea and articles published in journals and newspapers.

Series 2. Correspondence 1925-71

The correspondence retained by Ellison for the collection was largely undertaken in his professional capacity, although there is some private mail. It had been arranged into the following files by Ellison:

Correspondence 1938-44.

Correspondence 1953-63.

The rest of the correspondence has been arranged around these two files in order to preserve original order.

Ellison corresponded with a wide group of people and the major correspondents represented in this collection are British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), Sir Hudson Fysh, and Fergus McMaster, Bill Bostock, Sir Donald Hardman, the Department of Civil Aviation, and Athol Towney (Minister for Air). There are also some drafts of letters written to the National Library of Australia regarding the transfer and purchase of his collection.

Series 3. Charles Kingsford Smith, 1919-64

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was best known for his pioneer flights with Charles Ulm in the Southern Cross. This series includes correspondence (both personal and business), reports, typescripts, newspaper cuttings, photographs, filmscript for 'Smithy' and a fuel gauge belonging to the Lady Southern Cross which was removed before the disappearance of his plane in 1935.

The correspondence includes personal letters of Kingsford Smith, mostly written to his parents and sister, as well as business letters. It also includes letters sent to the editor of the Smith's Weekly. The correspondents include N. Brearley and G.R. Hamilton.

The typescripts were written by Ellison. Some of these were published in newspapers and journals, such as the Smith's Weekly.

Series 4. Butler Air Transport

The series comprises two groups of papers:

Papers relating to C.A. Butler. It includes biographical information about C. A. Butler, the founder of the airline, as well as press cuttings and photos relating to his flying career before he started the airline, articles and reports written by Butler, and the roller log he kept of his smallest-ever-aircraft flight from England to Australia in 1934.

Material relating to the Butler Air Transport: traffic manuals, in-house periodicals, photographs and correspondence. A substantial part of this group of papers deals with the battle between Reginald Ansett and C. A. Butler for ownership of the airline, which Ansett finally won in 1957.

Butler and Ellison were partners in the failed helicopter venture in the 1950's. A large part of the reason for its failure was that it coincided with the first stages of the corporate battle for ownership of Butler Air Transport.

Series 5. R. H. Buchanan, 1922-29

R. H. Buchanan was a flight inspector for the fledgling Department of Civil Aviation in the 1920s. This series contains biographical information about him, as well as official diaries, logs and reports belonging to him.

Series 6. Biographies

This part of the collection has been kept essentially as it was created by Ellison himself and consists of biographical clippings files on Australian aviators and other prominent personalities, and a separate file of clippings and photos relating to women pilots. The files had been arranged in alphabetical order by Ellison and this order was maintained.

Important figures represented in the series include Reginald Ansett, L.S. Bailey, Sir John Alcock, W. E. Hart, Bert Hinkler, Jerry Pentland, George A. Taylor, Sir Gordon Taylor, Ben Turner and Oswald Watt.

'A' (File 71) - Box 12
Sir John Alcock (File 72) - Box 12
R.M. (Reg) Ansett (File 73) - Box 12
Australian aces (File 74) - Box 12
'B' (File 75) - Box 12
L.S. Bailey (File 76) - Box 12
L.S. Bailey and Sir John Alcock (File 77-79) - Box 12
Hans Bertram (File 80) - Box 12
H.E. Broadsmith (File 81) - Box 12
'C' (File 82) - Box 12
Sir Francis Chicester (File 83) - Box 13
E.J. Connellan (File 84) - Box 13
Sid Cotton (File 85) - Box 13
'D' (File 86) - Box 13
'E' 'F' (File 87) - Box 13
Harold Fraser (File 88) - Box 13
Sir Hudson Fysh (File 89) - Box 13
'G' (File 90) - Box 13
Harold Gatty (file 91a contains copy of Gatty's The raft book (File 91-93) - Box 13-14
Father John Glover (File 94) - Box 14
A.W. Gregory (File 95) - Box 14
'H' (File 96) - Box 14
W.E. (Bill) Hart (File 97-104) - Box 14
Sir Edward Hallstrom (File 105) - Box 15
H.T. (Bunny) Hammond (File 106) - Box 15
Lawrence Hargrave (File 107) - Box 15
Harry Hawker (File 108) - Box 15
Bert Hinkler (File 109-110) - Box 15
'I' 'J' (File 111) - Box 15
Ida Isaacs (File 112) - Box 15
'K' 'L' (File 113) - Box 15
Max Lawson (File 114) - Box 15
R.A. Little (File 115) - Box 15
'M' (File 116) - Box 16
Sid Marshall (File 117) - Box 16
Fergus McMaster (File 118) - Box 16
Frank Minjoy (File 119) - Box 16
'N' 'O' (File 120) - Box 16
Harold Owen and J. Moir (File 121) - Box 16
'P' (File 122) - Box 16
Jerry Pentland (File 123-124) - Box 16
Edgar Percival (File 125) - Box 16
'R' (File 126) - Box 16
'S' (File 127) - Box 16
T.W. Shortridge (File 128) - Box 16
Ross Smith (chapter of book on) (File 129) - Box 16
Ralph Symonds (File 130) - Box 16
'T' 'U' (File 131) - Box 17
G.A. Taylor (File 132-133) - Box 17
Sir P.G. Taylor (File 134-136) - Box 17
'Henri' Tovell (File 137) - Box 17
Ben Turner (File 138-139) - Box 17
'W' (File 140) - Box 18
M.M. Waghorn (File 141) - Box 18
Oswald Watt (File 142-143) - Box 18
Hubert Wilkins (File 144) - Box 18
Women pilots (File 145-146) - Box 18
'Y' (File 147) - Box 18

Series 7. Subjects

This series was also arranged by Ellison. It contains information relating to all aspects of aviation, as well as a number of non-aviation subjects.

The first part of the series contains information about aviation and aviation history, while the rest comprises general subject files arranged in alphabetical order. Subjects covered include aircraft (military and commercial, Australian and overseas), airports, air races, parachuting, motorcycles and motoring, QANTAS, RAAF, pioneer and record flights, and poker machines.

The section relating to aircraft contains mostly photographs, while the other subjects comprises clippings and drafts.

Aviation - general (File 148-150) - Box 19
Early aviation (File 151-154) - Box 19
Early Australian aviation (File 155-156) - Box 20
Aviation - civil (File 157-158) - Box 20
Aviation - military (File 159-160) - Box 20
Aircraft - civil and military (mainly photographs) (File 161-175) - Box 20-21
Airmail (File 176-177) - Box 22
Airports (File 178-185) - Box 22
Air races (File 186-191) - Box 23
Aeroclub of NSW (File 192) - Box 23
Agriculture and aircraft (File 193) - Box 23
British aviation (File 194-195) - Box 23
Gliding (File 196) - Box 23
Hovercraft (File 197) - Box 23
Licenses (File 198) - Box 24
Motorcycling (File 199-200a) - Box 24
Motors (File 201) - Box 24
Noise; New Guinea (File 202) - Box 24
Parachutes (File 203) - Box 24
Patents (File 204) - Box 24
Pay (for pilots) (File 205) - Box 25
Place names (air history) (File 206) - Box 25
Poker machines (File 207-208) - Box 25
Prawns (File 209) - Box 25
Qantas Empire Airways (File 210-212) - Box 25
RAAF (File 213-216) - Box 26
Record flights (File 217-227) - Box 26
Sharks (File 228) - Box 27
Southern Cloud mystery (File 229) - Box 27
World wars (File 230-231) - Box 27
Flying doctor; Israel; Lord Howe Island; Air memorials (File 232) - Box 27
General reference (File 233-234) - Box 27

Series 8. Photographs

Where possible photographs relating to series 1 to 7 have been kept with the series. The photographs in this series depict to general aviation and miscellaneous subjects.

Series 9. Press cuttings

This series contains general clippings, including general aviation, and clippings collected by Ellison for general reference purposes on various subjects. The series also includes two large scrapbooks of general clippings and a file of articles from the National Geographic on Aviation.

Series 10. Printed materials

This series contains Australian aviation periodicals and newspapers, non-aviation magazines and 23 books (mostly on aviation). An interesting feature in this series is a copy of an unsuccessful tender by the English Electric Company for the design of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Series 11. Miscellaneous

This series contains various ephemera belonging to Ellison, including two almost empty ledgers, material relating to aviation commemorative dinners he organised, and a scrapbook of postcards.

Class MS Acc07.184. Consignment added 2007

Comprises correspondence, handwritten notes, press cuttings, photographs and negatives, and souvenir ephemera relating to early Australian aviation.

Contained in 3 boxes, 1 folio box.