"The Migrant Caper"

Compiled by Geoff Goodall


New Holland Airways, Sydney flew migrants from Rome in their Douglas DC-5 VH-ARD

The long forgotten story of two hectic years 1947-1949 when ad-hoc charter flights carried thousands of migrants from Europe to Australia. The era commenced with Australian pilots flying war disposals aircraft on a shuttle from Sydney to Rome, Athens and London, using Hudsons, Lodestars, a biplane DH.86, DC-2s, DC-3s and even a DC-5.

The lucrative trade was soon joined by an eclectic mix of foreign operators, cramming wretched passengers into C-46s, DC-4s, Italian tri-motors and even Short Stirling bombers.

The Australian Department of Civil Aviation fought a frustrating battle to regulate these international arrivals, but the national airlines Qantas and BOAC did not have the seat capacity. The Australian operators were stopped first and the "The Caper" ended in late 1949.




The Migrant Caper

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SIAI-Marchetti SM.95 at Darwin in 1949, operated by SAIDE-Egypte on migrant charters to Australia