Stand Up and Cheer: a fierce storm, a lost plane, a flicker of hope

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Loretta Re, Stand Up and Cheer: a fierce storm, a lost plane, a flicker of hope,  Wild Colonial Company, 1 February 2015,  $14.99 (pbk),  $6.99 (ebook),  205pp.,  ISBN: 9780992306922

In Stand Up and Cheer, Loretta Re brings to life a largely forgotten episode in Australian aviation history – the London to Melbourne air race. In 1933, confectionery company founder Macpherson Robertson, announced his sponsorship of an air race as part of Melbourne’s centenary celebrations to be held the following year. The race, offering £15,000 in prize money, attracted 20 entrants from around the globe.

Re’s story, told through the eyes of ten-year-old Jack Newton, focuses on a Dutch entrant, a Douglas DC-2 named Uiver, and its emergency landing in Albury, New South Wales. Jack’s imagination is fired by the race. Using the communication tools available at the time – newspapers, ABC radio, and amateur ham radio – Jack tracks the preparations for the race and its unfolding drama, culminating in the storm that causes the Uiver to lose it bearings and make a forced landing.

Re’s extensive research is evident throughout the book. While at times the historical detail threatens to overwhelm the narrative, it does highlight the economic and social climate of the 1930s – the impact of the Great Depression; the hope imparted by daring and successful men like Charles Kingsford Smith and Don Bradman; and the status of women. (It is interesting to contrast the limitations of Jack’s mother’s life with the participation of a female pilot, Germany’s Thea Rasche, in the air race.)

Stand Up and Cheer, told in short three-to-four page chapters, offers plenty of scope for further research and project work. Digitised newspaper reports on the air race are readily available via the National Library of Australia’s Trove service, the Albury City Council’s website carries details of the Uiver’s forced landing, and Wikipedia provides an illustrated account of the air race including information on all the aircraft.

Recommended for ages 9+.

reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge

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