marshall_1930_p_200.jpg Lawrence George Hatton 'Laurie' Marshall (1884-1966)

In 1909 the Commonwealth Government offered a prize of 10,000 pounds to encourage production of a flying machine suitable for Military purposes. Laurie Marshall, from Fairfield, Victoria, was one of 21 young 'aviators' selected to compete. He was an all round athlete and very determined by nature, and a butcher by trade. His inspiration to fly had been observation of vultures flying over the hills of South Africa during the Boer War.

Laurie Marshall, c.1930
Pacific Ultralights Monthly, Sept. 1996

A larger image may also be downloaded


Laurie Marshall's Aeroplane of 1909

Photograph courtesy of Defending Victoria

The only known photograph of the Marshall aeroplane constructed for a prize originally offered by the then Commonwealth government in 1909. The plane was 30 feet long with a wingspan of 32 feet and weighed 585 lbs. Photograph kindly provided (to Defending Victoria website) by Marshall's grandson, Craig Nielsen Little.


Laurie Marshall's Aeroplane of 1909

An alternative copy of the same image above annotated with data sourced from Pacific Ultralights Monthly, Sept. 1996

A 1000 pixel image may also be downloaded

The plane was a skeletal biplane tractor engined single seater, with four cycle wheels and skids as undercarriage, somewhat resembling the Avro designs. Engine designed by a garage owner in the High Street, Armadale. Flat four, air cooled with twin bladed laminated propeller. Unfortunately the pots blew off on ocasions which had an effect on reliability ! Neighbours complaints compounded the problems. The airframe was made in a shed adjacent to the Grand View Hotel, Fairfield, but an impregnated bolt of fabric caught fire once and burned out the back of a nearby house.

After many attempts over the next two years, he failed to fly within the requirements and imported a V-four air cooled J.A.P. motor from the U.K.; the resulting crash broke his arm and he was financially in trouble too by then. However, he persisted and flew 500 30 ft. on the 15th April 1912. This was 18 months after John Duigan's pusher flight, which he chose to make outside the Competition Rules. These same rules caused Laurie's downfall too, as they required the aircraft to `poise' in mid-air and carry two people. He was by then heavily in debt, mortgaging his house and business. He persisted, with the glittering prize ahead of him.

On June 3rd. 1912 he advertised, at 2 shillings 'a pop', (for a fare of 2 shillings approx 10 cents US) that he would fly from the Northcote Oval, Victoria. About 1000 people turned up and some 5000 were outside. The engine refused to start and a near riot ensued. His creditors seized the plane and auctioned it and there is no knowledge of it's final fate. The man himself went on to clear all his debts over the next decade and went on to try 11 times to get into Collingwood City Council. He finally succeeded in this and became Mayor in 1936-7, persistance being a feature of his campaigns.

J. Fullerton, Airsport Magazine

marshall_01_150.jpg Lawrence George Hatton Marshall was said to be the youngest man to enlist for service in the Victorian Contingents. Not accepted for service as a soldier, he managed to join as a farrier on the strength of previous part-time experience as a blacksmith's striker. He later transferred to the 4th Victorian 'Imperial' Contingent of the Victorian Mounted Rifles as a Trooper.

After returning from (service in) the Boer War, Laurie Marshall next earned attention as a great pioneer aviator. During the war he had time to study soaring vultures, and to consider the possibilities of flight. He experimented with glider designs during 1904-5, only a year after the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, but no records are believed to have survived. He then entered a Commonwealth competition in 1909 to devise an aeroplane, capable among other things, of 'poise' in the air. But since no-one understood what this meant, controversy resulted. ['To Poise' : the ability to turn and thus be able to land the aircraft where it had taken off. Ed.]

Lawrence George Hatton Marshall, Trooper No. 100 of the 4th Victorian Imperial Contingent. Detail from a photo taken in Allans Studios, Melbourne, prior to his departure. Photograph courtesy of Defending Victoria

The engine is thought to have been painstakingly constructed in an Armidale (Victoria) garage, and the aeroplane itself was constructed at Fairfield. The first attempt at flight is believed to have taken place in 1911, but the craft never left the ground before ending nose up with a broken wing and propellor. The daring would-be aviator, Laurie Marshall, suffered a broken arm. A successful hop with a new, imported engine took place on 18 February 1912, but this quickly ended in another crash. Marshall probably stalled it on takeoff.

On 14 April 1912, three successful flights were made, the best reaching 30 feet and covering 500 yards. The event was featured in the Melbourne Argus newspaper next day in a brief paragraph with the headline 'Melbourne Airman--Successful Flights'. Despite this, Laurie Marshall inexplicably did not win the 10,000 pounds Commonwealth prize. Writer Jim Fullarton wondered whether the imported J. A. P. engine scuttled Laurie's hopes. With mounting losses, the plane was soon seized by Northcote police and mortgages were foreclosed. It took 12 years for Laurie Marshall to recover financially.


Laurie Marshall, Politician, c.1930

Pacific Ultralights Monthly, Sept. 1996

A 500 pixel image may also be downloaded

He next tried to succeed in politics, being elected as a Labour councillor to the Northcote Council. He even served as Mayor between 1936-7, a grand comeback for someone bankrupt only a few years earlier. Attempts to enter State politics failed (he was once beaten by only 17 votes). Laurie Marshall died in 1966 aged 82.


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