Flying from Sydney to Athens in 1947 – how things have changed
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Narrabri’s local newspaper, The North Western Courier, ran a series of six stories in their 27 May 1948 to 14 June 1948 editions. These were written by Minas Magonezos (Aronis), known as Minas Aronis in Australia. Minas was born 27 January 1902 in Aroniadika, the eldest of five children of Vasilios Aronis (Magonezos) and Eleni Koumesopoulou. He emigrated to Australia from Kythera in 1924.
In these stories, Minas went into great detail about how he travelled from Australia to Greece in 1948. This is Minas’ story, many other Kytherians would have had the exact same experience returning to their birth place after WWII.
Today we take it for granted that we board a plane, one or two stop overs, and then we are on the other side of the world. Minas has described perfectly how long and tiring a trip to Europe was in the late 1940s.
The main reason Minas returned to Greece was to encourage his parents to live in Australia with him. His father had been to Australia in 1902, 1913 and 1919. He was unsuccessful.
The fare was £220 each way. This included all accommodation associated with the trip except the final destination. He had a baggage allowance of 30 kg or 65 pounds.
He knew conditions were not good in Greece and he was worried about what he would find when he arrived.
Minas left Narrabri a fortnight before his departure date. It is not known where he stayed.
Timeline of his travel to Athens
12 July 1948
Fifteen people boarded the plane at Mascot in Sydney. This was a special charter flight as QANTAS stewards were striking, and this threatened to delay the flight.
2:25 pm - the plane took off and they travelled at 6000 or 7000 feet in cloudy conditions
6:05 pm - the plane touched down in Charleville. Minas was impressed with the speed of the trip. The passengers all stayed at Corones Hotel
13 July 1948
6:00 am– the passengers boarded the plane and left for Cloncurry.
9:40 am – plane landed in Clonucurry for refuelling.
10:10 am – plane took off for Day Waters for a 15 minute refuel
10:25 am – took off for Darwin
4:30 pm local time – landed in Darwin. There was evidence of the bombing of Darwin still visible and many buildings were being built and repaired. Stayed the night in unknown accommodation.
14 July 1947
Early – a launch took the 21 passengers to a QANTAS flying boat that was moored on a stream.
9 am – took off for Sourabaya, Indonesia over the Timor Sea. On the way, points of interest with the war with Japan were pointed out to passengers.
Unknown time – landed in Rangoon to refuel. While this was happening, passengers were taken off the flying boat and put on a launch to tour the Irrawaddy River.
3:20 pm (local time) – took off for Calcutta. When the flying boat crossed the equator, the pilot dipped sharply then climbed steeply. All passengers were then handed a membership card, giving them membership to the Order of Equatorial Air Voyages. Written on the certificate was the following.
“Having this day flown over the Equator and having been cleansed by flying through the Heavens of all offences and malice and evils associated with demons, gremlins, poltergeists and other devils of the middle air, has become a member of our Royal Demesne (Aerial Division). All rights, privileges and benefits received for those who take to the sky in the air liners are graciously bestowed.”
7:30 pm – the flying boat landed on the Ganges. Passengers completed the customs obligations then drove one hour to the city, where they stayed overnight.
15 July 1947
6:00 am – onboard the aircraft heading to Karachi. Due to headwinds, they were forced to stop for fuel on Lake Rangasans in the middle of India.
4: pm – arrived in Karachi where they spent the night in barracks for a very hot and steamy night.
16 July 1947
10:00 am – Took off for Bahrein to refuel, then on to Cairo over the Red Sea.
17 July 1947
1:30 am – arrived in Cairo after travelling 2418 miles in one day.
Minas stayed in Cairo for a week in the Continental Hotel. He took this opportunity to fly to Alexandria to visit friends. He also visited the pyramid of Cheops where visitors walked down electrically lit passages to the two burial chambers.
About 24 July 1947
Unknown time - Left Cairo onboard a British air service to Athens. Throughout the journey passengers could see relics of the war beneath them, such as tanks and crashed planes.
1:30 pm - Took off from El Aden to Athens via Crete. As they passed Tobruk wrecks of ships could be seen.
6:30 pm – Plane landed in Athens after crossing over Crete.
Conditions in Athens
Minas also went into detail about what he experienced in Athens. He was expecting to see a large amount of war damage, but he found Athens relatively unhurt. The port about seven miles away was destroyed though. Most of the damage was inflicted in the closing stages of the war with Germany.
The number of people in Athens surprised Minas. He had never seen so many people. Not only were there locals, but there were also thousands of Greek refugees who had to flee their villages for safety. He also noticed many U.S. soldiers moving through the crowd. There were so many people that footpaths and walkways were full, and people were forced to walk in the streets, hampering the already chaotic street traffic.
Minas was told that as many as 10 families were living in small apartments, just trying to survive. Food was given out by the government for the refugees.
Minas also reported on the cost of everyday goods and how the prices were high and added to the struggle of the locals. He put things into perspective by saying that when he arrived one sovereign bought 135,000 drachmae. By the time he left it cost 232,000. It took 20,000 for a meal and 4,000 for a loaf of bread.
He did not spend much time in Greece. He travelled to Kythera to see his family, but his parents would not return to Australia with him. He did not explain the conditions in Kythera during or after the war.
While in Greece he married Haricleia Louisa Mikolaidou in Athens on 2 December 1947. Minas and Haricleia left Athens to return to Sydney on a Czechoslovakian plane. Two and a half hours out they landed back in Athens due to bad weather. A few hours later they took off again and this time made it to Cairo. Here they spent a few days and visited some tourist locations, including the museum.
The return to Australia in the flying boat was a repetition of his travel from Australia, except with more night-time travel. Their last flight landed in Rose Bay at 10:30 pm on an unknown day. Haricleia met her brother for the first time in 24 years.
Minas finished off his story by claiming that after everything he has seen, he believed Australia is the best county in the world to live in.
"To Greece by Air From Australia" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 27 May 1948: 2. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135021010>.
"From Australia To Greece" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 31 May 1948: 2. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135028713>.
From Australia To Greece by Air" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 3 June 1948: 3. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135026293>.
"Conditions In Greece" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 7 June 1948: 2. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135027986>.
"Conditions In Greece" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 10 June 1948: 2. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135023655>.
"Conditions In Greece" The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 - 1955) 14 June 1948: 2. Web. 6 Dec 2022 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135025370>.