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as told by Sir Reginald Barnewall


Polynesian Airlines Prince ZK-BYN. [Photo: Ted Clark]
Polynesian Airlines Prince ZK-BYO. [Photo: Jim Hilferty]

During recent deliberations on the origins of "Adastra Green", it emerged that its first application may have been on the Prince G-AMLW (later VH-AGF). (Please refer to "It's Not Easy Being Green #1") Subsequent examination of a photo of a Prince (see above) which served with Polynesian Airlines revealed that it was painted in a colour which shows remarkable similarities to "Adastra Green". In an attempt to establish if this was more than just coincidence, aviation historian Roger McDonald put the question to Sir Reginald Barnewall, who was one of the founders of Polynesian Airlines. His response follows:

"Yes, there is a story here...and it DOES have vague overtones involving Adastra. Better I take time to explain fully. When Southern Airlines was a little more than a figment of my imagination, I knew - somewhat longingly - of Hunting's new aircraft, the design of which they took over from Edgar Percival and engined with a radial to be known as the "Leonides" - the basic design of which was developed by the Alvis Company from captured German design plans. A small company basically concerned wih marine motors in North Melbourne by the name of Aeronautical Supply Company was Hunting's Melbourne agents. Through them I learned that a Prince was coming to Australia for a dry hire to an aerial survey company but was first doing a demo for the RAAF in connection with operations at Woomera. It was arranged that I would fly to Parafield and spend a day with the aircraft and make my own assessment. As a result, I was smitten and the Prince became my first choice for equipment when Southern's first prospectus was launched. (It failed to raise the necessary cash!) This aircraft, soon to join Adastra, was "cleanskin silver". I never saw it again. But when needing to hire a pilot in 1961 to go to Africa to ferry one of the two replacement Princes, I chose Ken Rowlands, a longtime pilot with Adastra who had flown that Prince on many surveys and also flew it back to UK at end of the hire. He became a captain with Polynesian and succeeded me as Chief Pilot when my contract expired in 1962. The two Princes I bought had been repainted over and over and some of the paints had "fought", leaving a very poor finish. I sought and got approval from my company to have them stripped and repainted in Singapore. But what colour to do them in? We agreed that the simple scheme I had "inherited" from the NSW Aero Club (on Prince VH-RSX) was not suitable. Rowlands asked for a day's lay-over in Calcutta where his sister, Betty Cotteril - an artist - and her husband lived. She viewed the aircraft and suggested something between turquoise and eau-de-Nil (a dull green colour literally, 'water of the Nile') and that night sketched a colour scheme for us. That became the colours to be painted in Singapore. Only later did I learn that, back in Sydney, that lady had suggested a similar paint scheme for the Prince her brother was to fly on survey work."

Reginald R Barnewall
7th February 2005


The only area of conflict between this account and the earlier account by Joe Tidey is how the green colour was chosen. Although it may not have been selected by Mrs Hammond as previously speculated, it's still possible that Mrs Hammond saw the sketches of the Prince and took a liking to the proposed colour and suggested to Bunny that he paint his car the same colour. The following chronology would appear to support both accounts:

c. April 55 The Adastra Prince was based in SA. Probably this is when Sir Reginald Barnewall did his evaluation. The aeroplane was then silver and he "never saw it again".
1957 Ken Rowlands joined Adastra.
late 57
/early 58
The Adastra Prince was repainted green.
Jan 59 The Adastra Prince returned to the UK.
1961 Ken Rowlands' sister was consulted on the livery for the Polynesian Princes.

Sadly, Ken Rowlands and his sister Betty are both deceased.


The Polynesian Princes

Ex Royal Aero Club of NSW. Polynesian Airlines retained the silver paint but changed the trim from blue to red. Accident 03DEC60. Noted derelict in 1966.
Acquired in Tanganyika and ferried to Australia via Singapore where it was painted in the green Polynesian Airlines livery.Withdrawn from use in JUL63.
Acquired in Tanganyika and ferried to Australia via Singapore where it was painted in the green Polynesian Airlines livery.Withdrawn from use in MAR63.
All three Polynesian Princes ended their days in Samoa where they were presumably scrapped. Thanks to Tom Singfield for assistance with this table.

Thanks to Sir Reginald Barnewall and Roger McDonald.

See also:

It's Not Easy Being Green #1


If you wish to contribute your experiences, please contact Ron