The Double Sunrise

The Double Sunrise
Double sunrise 1943.jpg
Double Sunrise Catalina G-AGKS at Nedlands in 1943

The Double Sunrise service was formed in 1943 to re-establish the Australia-England air link that had been cut due to the fall of Singapore in 1942. The service initially operated from its base in Nedlands[1] in Western Australia to the Royal Air Force base at Lake Koggala near Galle in Sri Lanka. It was later extended to Karachi in Pakistan, which was the terminus for the BOAC service from England. The name of the service was derived from the crew observing two sunrises on each flight.



In 1943, Royal Australian Air Force personnel were seconded to operate Catalinas under the banner of Qantas. The plan called for flights between Crawley, Western Australia, and RAF Base Koggala in southern Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The flights were the longest non-stop air route of any airline, over 3,500 nautical miles (6,480 km, 4,020 mi) across the Indian Ocean. Navigating without the aid of radio, the crews relied solely on rudimentary navigation by compass and stars during the trip.[2][3]

Taking between 27 and 33 hours, with departure timed so that the flight crossed Japanese occupied territory during darkness, the crews would observe the sunrise twice, which led to the service being known as "The Double Sunrise".[4] The flight route flown was along the coast from Crawley to Exmouth then setting out towards Cocos (Keeling) Island or Christmas Island (though neither was actually sighted during the flight1) and onto Galle, a journey of approximately 3,580 nautical miles (6,630 km; 4,120 mi). After the success of the initial flights, it was decided to run a weekly service, with some services flying over Rottnest Island and then taking a direct line to Galle. As part of the Australia-England air route there was a surface component from Galle to Karachi that added considerable time to the service. This was later replaced by the Double Sunrise service, with Karachi to England flown by BOAC.[5] Air crews would change in Galle taking the next plane in either direction minimising the time taken to complete the journey. [6]1

Though stripped of all non-essential equipment, including de-icing equipment and insulation, the average takeoff weight was 35,100 to 35,300 lb (15,900 to 16,000 kg) (maximum takeoff weight for a PBY Catalina was 35,400 lb (16,100 kg)); this included 1988 gallons of fuel, which gave the Catalina a range of 3,600 nautical miles (6,700 km; 4,100 mi). The service made 271 crossings, delivered over 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of mail and carried 860 passengers, including among them British MP Edith Summerskill and the journalist Keith Murdoch.[7][6]2

After the war the five Catalinas that had flown The Double Sunrise service were destroyed.[2]

Secret Order of The Double Sunrise

a blank certificate for the Secret Order of the Double Sunrise

The Secret Order of The Double Sunrise was an illustrated certificate given to passengers aboard the flying boats of the Australia-England air link, to attest they had been airborne for more than 24 hours.[4][8]


  1. ^ Note that some references to the flying boat service use Pelican Point, and Crawley as the location, rather than Nedlands - see
  2. ^ a b Catanzaro, Joseph (28 December 2010). "Heroic squadron loses last pilot". The West Australia. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "WORLD'S LONGEST AIR HOP TO BE "KANGAROO SERVICE".". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 7 August 1944. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "FILM OF PERTH-CEYLON AIR SERVICE.". The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia): p. 10 Edition: 3rd EDITION. 23 December 1948. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  5. ^ "INDIAN OCEAN AIR HOP.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842-1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 4. 5 August 1944. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Senior, Rex. "Double sunrise service". Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER PROPRIETOR SAYS ENGLAND IS NOW THINKING FAR AHEAD.". Army News (Darwin, NT : 1941-1946) (Darwin, NT: National Library of Australia): p. 4. 26 July 1944. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Frank Stanley Stuart, Henri Charles Biard. Modern Air Transport. J. Long Ltd. 1946, page 95.


Rex Senior was the 1st Officer & Navigator on the first service, he was also on the crew for many of the subsequent flights serving with the unit until march 1944.
1.^1 Flight information is from Rex Senior's recollections there is no reference to official documentation for verification.
2.^2 These statistics are from Rex Senior's recollections. Alternate source Flight of the Double Sunrise by Elmo Jayawardena quotes the statistics as being 271 crossings, each flight carried 69kgs of mail and a total of 648 passengers. Neither source provides any reference to official documentation for verification.

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