Jean Batten Aviator CBE OSC Chev LH

Jean Batten [1]

Jean Batten was born in Rotorua in 1909 – her father Fred, a dentist, and her mother Ellen moved to Auckland when Jean was 5 and she attended Melmerley College in Parnell.


But in 1917 her father enlisted for WW1 service, even though he was nearly 38 years old with 3 children. Her brother John had been enrolled briefly at Kings College but had to be pulled out due to lack of money after the dental practice had closed with Fred’s departure overseas and Jean also had to leave Melmerley College as Ellen could no longer afford its fees. They moved from Grey Lynn to Remuera and rented houses on the south side of Remuera Road, possibly in Clonbern Rd where the New World supermarket is now. Jean attended Remuera Primary School.

Jean Batten 1923 — aged 15 [2]


When Jean was 13 in 1922 she was sent to board at Ladies College in Garden Rd, Remuera. Her father Fred had returned from WW1 and his dental practice was up and running again. Fred and Ellen had split up and Jean remained with her mother and her 2 brothers Harold and John had been sent to Australia and England respectively in 1921. Fred paid the school fees. Jean learnt ballet, art and piano with the intention of becoming a concert pianist. Jean did well in her exams and won prizes in scripture, English, music, history and botany. Just after her 15th birthday in 1924 Jean left Ladies College when she was in the 4th form. Jean said she refused to go back to college after an extended summer holiday due to a polio epidemic in Auckland. She then went on to have private tuition in dance and music, as well as learning shorthand and typing. [2]

Article by Jean Batten [3]


Jean’s mother took her down to Mission Bay to visit the Kohimarama flying school of Leo and Vivian Walsh, who lived at Orakei Road, Remuera. Jean decided to become a pilot after Charles Kingsford-Smith visited New Zealand in 1928. She qualified as a pilot at the London Aero Club’s base at Stag Lane Aerodrome at Edgware, London in 1930.

Jean Batten [4]

Jean Batten in plane [5]

Jean Batten at Ladies College [6]

Jean Batten being greeted by at Ladies College [7]


In 1934 Jean flew from England to Australia in 14 days in a De Havilland Gypsy Moth plane, beating Amy Johnson’s record by 4 days. The Gypsy Moth was too small though to fly the distance across the Tasman from Australia to New Zealand – it couldn’t carry enough fuel and was considered so dangerous, that when she was going to do it in the Percival Gull plane in 1936, her family and the authorities basically forbade her to do so, but she planned it and did it anyway, making the first direct flight from England to New Zealand in 11 days – it took 10 ½ hours to fly from Sydney to New Plymouth. This was a world record for solo flying by a man or woman.

Jean had meticulous planning and execution. She took risks but had always thought them through and had a plan B in the event of an incident or crash, unlike Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhardt who had both crashed their planes and died as a result. The Percival Vega Gull G-ADPR in which she made the journey now hangs in the Jean Batten International Terminal of Auckland Airport.

Sky High [9]


Sky High: Jean Batten’s incredible flying adventures, by David Morris Hill author and Phoebe Morris illustrator.

Penguin Group New Zealand, Limited, 31/07/2017 –  32 pages

“The little plane has been flying across the sea for eight hours. Huge black clouds surround it. Rain pours in. Wind slams. The aircraft is tossed around like a leaf. The pilot stares into the darkness. How much fuel is left? Is she flying in the right direction? How long till she reaches land? In 1934, Jean Batten set a world record for the fastest flight from England to Australia. Just two years later, she made the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand. Jean’s fearless determination and flying skills helped her survive storms and crashes, as she crossed great oceans and lonely deserts in her tiny plane. This gripping true story with its dazzling illustrations is the third from the award-winning creators of the picture books First to the Top and Speed King.NZ Listener 50 Best Books for Kids“.

GOLD MEDALS

Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

Aero-Club de France.

Royal Swedish Aero Club.

Academie des Sports.

Royal Danish Aeronautical Society.

Ligue Internationale des Aviateurs.

HONOURS

1935. Brazil: Officer of the Order of the Southern Cross. OSC

1936. France: Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Chev L.H.

Great Britain: Commander of the British Empire. CBE

PRINCIPAL FLIGHTS

1934. England-Australia solo flight (women’s record): 10,500 miles in 14 days 22 hours 30 minutes.

1935. Australia-England solo flight: 17 days 15 hours.

First woman to make return flight. England-Brazil solo flight (world record): 5000 miles in 2 days 13 hours 15 minutes.

First woman to fly solo across South Atlantic Ocean and make England-South America flight.

1936. England-New Zealand solo flight (world record): 14,000 miles in 11 days 45 minutes.

First direct flight between England and New Zealand.

England-Australia solo flight (world record, established on same flight): 5 days 21 hours.

1937. Australia-England solo flight (world record): 5 days 18 hours 15 minutes. First person to hold both England-Australia and Australia-England solo records at the same time.

Source: My Life, by Jean Batten. George G. Harrap and Company Limited, 1938. Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection