116. HALL, Oliver B.

"You cannot be overloaded with brains to venture out in a thing like that".

Fred Blakeley, Dream Millions. 128.

Oliver Blythe Hall, always known as Pat, was a journeyman aviator of the era, noted for a willingness to fly anything flyable anywhere and the number of crashes he survived relatively uninjured, unfortunately not the case for some of his passengers. He was hired by the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company to fly the Golden Quest II from Sydney to the Company's base at Illbilla where he arrived on the 2nd of September 1930 accompanied by Errol Coote. They received a frigid welcome from Blakeley who though aircraft expensive and ineffective gadgets, especially in the hands of Coote who had already wrecked the Golden Quest at Ai Ai Creek less than a month earlier.

the following day Hall took Lasseter on his first flight, the plane left Illbilla on a course slightly west of south and returned from the west about two hours later, according to Coote, all Lasseter had to say was that the Expedition was still 150 miles to the north of the objective and there were plenty of sandhills between. Hall then took Taylor on a short flight to the southwest to check the trail for the Thornycroft, he was not encouraged by what he saw. Several hours later Coote confronted Lasseter with the difficulties of the situation in which he had placed himself and the Expedition, and demanded to know if Lasseter had seen any of his landmarks. Lasseter had, "And what's more, I saw the reef! It's there as plain as a pike-staff", he then elaborated on the significance of Lake Christopher and the Three Sisters as landmarks. This more or less satisfied Coote, "although I felt that I had not got the right cue". Coote and Hall then discussed the flying range of the Golden Quest II and decided it was insufficient for the work ahead. The plane would have to be returned to Adelaide for modifications and to have an extra fuel tank fitted.

On the way to Adelaide, during the overnight stay at Marree, Coote questioned Hall very closely about his flight with Lasseter but learnt little of significance, Hall said that he and Lasseter had been flying in an unstated direction for about an hour and ten minutes when Lasseter became very excited about something he had seen but was not obvious to Hall, they then returned to Illbilla. Coote worried the question, troubled by the contradiction between the Expedition being 150 miles too far north of Lasseter's objective and the distance the Golden Quest II could travel in an hour and ten minutes and that was no more than eighty miles. Hall couldn't help, he was far more concerned with flying into unknown country than Lasseter's Reef or landmarks, although it was not his last adventure in search of the reef.  

Hall was the next generation aviator after Kingsford Smith and Ulm and occasionally  worked for them as a pilot and flying instructor, in fact he was always in work and became proficient in several types of aircraft and remote areas flying. He piloted Herbert Gepp, Dr. Woolnough and W. S. Robinson far and wide as they investigated the country's resources, all without mishap and they found him a fine travelling companion, appreciating his youthful enthusiasm and 'can do' attitude and especially his discretion. In 1936 he became involved with Morley Cutlack and the next wave of Lasseter Reef expeditions. This adventure cost Hall 5 and Cutlack 20 for overstaying their permits to enter the South West Aboriginal Reserve. It was one of the few occasions that Hall spoke to the press when he corrected wild reports that the Cutlack expedition had been attacked by Aboriginals, one spear had been thrown and two shots fired into the ground to see the attackers off, and as far as Hall was concerned that was the limit of the incident. Cutlack may not have appreciated Hall squashing the publicity.

During the second World War, Hall served his country well, and to lend lie to Blakeley's comment about him not being overloaded with brains, one does not become a Wing Commander in the Royal Australian Air Force through lack of intelligence. He became something of a 'Fireman' in the Air Force, setting up and establishing various squadrons and finishing the war in the thick of it flying Beaufort bombers with No. 8 Squadron out of various airfields in New Guinea and further afield, earning the Air Force Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross and the respect of all who served with him. After hostilities it was business as usual for O. B. Hall and he never publicly expressed an opinion about Lasseter and his reef.


R.Ross. 1999-2010

Fred Blakeley, Dream Millioms.128-134, 157. Errol Coote, Hells Airport. 135,136, 140, 144, 147-149, 163-166. 168, 169. Ion Idriess, Lasseter's Last Ride. 61, 64-69. W. S. Robinson Memoirs. 166,167.