The Legendary Victory of The Uiver

It’s a great story, and will continue to be one that reads like a thrilling boy’s adventure — the London-to-Melbourne race involving the Uiver in 1934. Entire books have been written about it. In fact, real aviation aficionados need not read any further. There’s nothing new in this blog for them. But, if the terms DC-2 PH-AJU or the Uiver (a Dutch dialect word for Stork) and its crew don’t ring any bells, please read on. This is all about a remarkable bit of history, both for KLM and aviation in general.

Even in its earliest years — for it was only 15 years old in 1934 — KLM had shown repeatedly that it had great ambitions. KLM had made its first flight to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) as early as the 1920s. By the mid-1930s the route — which had long-since become the most distant intercontinental route — had long since proven its success. By late 1934, preparations for the first transatlantic flight were in full swing and KLM would achieve its ambition by the end of the year. It was important to KLM to show that the company could fly new, reliable, and safe routes using good equipment, eventually adding the destinations to our network.


DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver before the Melbourne Race, Nr 44 Schiphol, 1934.

Flight was exciting

That was the case for Jakarta, Paramaribo and Curaçao — and for Australia. And there began the story to which the Uiver will be inextricably linked for all time. In the years leading up to the Second World War, an air race was a remarkable phenomenon. In the early years of civil aviation, pilots were heroes. Navigation equipment was limited. Some aircraft were outfitted with radio and telegraph, but that was by no means a matter of fact. If pilots lost contact with the ground, all they had were maps, a compass, and their eyes. Aircraft flew much lower than they do now because there was no such thing as a pressurised cabin. But that made them far more susceptible to weather conditions. You couldn’t fly over the rainbow. But, for better or worse, you could try to fly through one. That called for a lot in terms of piloting qualities, and pilots had to be ready and willing to improvise. No matter how well you prepared, the chances were still pretty great that you would come up against a whole host of unexpected factors on the route, to say nothing of engine breakdowns or damage to the aircraft. This made an air race extremely challenging and exciting. Flight was exciting.

Fully packed grandstands at the arrival of the Uiver in the Melbourne Race . Schiphol, 1934

Handicap race

1934 saw the legendary London-to-Melbourne race, which was held to commemorate the Australian city’s one-hundredth anniversary. Officially the speed race was called MacRobertson International Air Race, and the handicap race was called — that’s right — the MacRobertson International Handicap Air Race. In the second race, factors such as greater weight in the form of passengers and cargo combined with speed all played a role. KLM’s ambition was clear to see, in that it entered into both race categories flying two brand-new aircraft — the DC-2 for the speed race and a newly designed Fokker F-XXVII for the handicap race. Because of problems that arose in taking possession of the Fokker KLM’s competition was limited to the DC-2’s flight. The handicap race was more interesting for KLM, for it wanted to show that it could transport passengers quickly, comfortably, and safely from one place to another, even if the destination was on the other side of the world.

DC-2, PH-AJU, Uiver, being pulled out of the mud in Albury.

Up to its axles in mud

The crew comprised four highly experienced men — captain Koene Dirk Parmentier, first officer Jan Moll, flight engineer Bouwe Prins, and telegrapher Cornelis van Brugge. They flew three passengers and 191 kilos of mail in 3 days, 18 hours, and 17 minutes to Australia from 20 to 24 October. Certainly in the Netherlands, people were hanging on to every bit of news about the Uiver and its crew. Everyone was following their every move on the radio — the only means of speedy communication. When the news broke that the Uiver had won the handicap class and had come in second in the speed category, a great party broke out in the street in front of KLM’s headquarters in The Hague, regardless of the fact that it was the middle of the night. Albert Plesman was very nearly hoisted onto the shoulders of the crowd. It had remained exciting down to the final moments.

Just before the finish, late at night, Parmentier was forced to land the plane in Albury 320 kilometres northeast of Melbourne because of the terrible weather. The stop was unplanned and they did not land at an airfield, but on a race course which the rain had turned into a quagmire. The residents of Albury had been called out to shine the headlamps of their cars on the race track so that Parmentier could set down the Uiver on the ground. As soon as it came to a halt, though, it sank into the mud up to its axles. It’s well known that, the following morning, the local population gathered again to pull the DC-2 out of the mud. After an eight and-a-half hour interruption, the Uiver set off on its final leg, landing in Melbourne at ten minutes to one in the morning, Dutch time. That is when the party broke out.

1934 telegram Wilhelmina ivm Uiver
Telegram of Queen Wilhemina to congatulate KLM an the Uiver crew.

Indelible memories

Queen Wilhelmina sent a telegram of congratulations and dubbed the crew members Knights of the Order of Orange-Nassau. A month later, the Uiver was greeted with great pomp at Schiphol. Enormous grandstands were set up on the grounds for the ceremony. On 21 November, the Uiver landed at Schiphol to the cheers of thousands of spectators. There was no shortage of memorabilia to commemorate the victory. Books, placards, pins, a song, epic poems, spoons, and plaques — nothing went too far. Sadly, the victory did not bring KLM the one thing it had hoped for the most — landing rights in Australia. Not until 1951 would a KLM aircraft land again in Australia, this time in Sydney.

Honouring Parmentier and Moll following the completion of the Melbourne Race.

But the thrill of victory resounded for a long time and KLM made headlines at home and around the world. Sadly, the Uiver fared less well. The aircraft crashed on 20 December of that same year in Iraq. All passengers and crew were killed. Nevertheless, there are two more “Uivers” extant. One is stationed at the Aviodrome in the Netherlands and, apparently, is still airworthy. For a long time, the other could be found in Albury as a memorial. However, it seems to be badly in need of repairs. Whatever the case, whoever says “Uiver” says “London-to-Melbourne” — and back again. No name and event are so inextricably linked. An act of heroism never loses its lustre.

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
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Wow simply wow!

I will be reading more on this subject. What books do you recommend?

Its a shame KLM don’t do direct routes to Australia still.

Thanks again for another amazing blog.

Frido Ogier

Hi Stephen,

I’m afraid that most of the books written about the Uiver are in Dutch, but there must be a book about air race in English. Maybe you can find at the site ‘addall’ some secondhand publications. It’s worldwide.

Best regards,


Fish Exist

Ik leeft in Australie en denkt het jammer dat er geen KLM vleigtuigen zijn in Melbourne. Is de plaats in Melbourne waar de MacRobertson Air race was afgelopen dezelfe plaats waar Melbourne Tullamarine Airport is?

Frido Ogier

Nee, dit is niet de luchthaven waar de Uiver landde. Melbourne Tullamarine Airport bestaat pas sinds 1970.



irene van Kuyk

My French Indonesian father was a “knikker vriendje” of Italian Indonesian Dominique Willem Berretty during the late 1800’s, when they attended the same school in Jogjakarta.
Berretty, who was very ambitious, became a very powerful NEWS magnate. He soon became back then what Rupert Murdoch is today…. a media baron.
Many journalists and politicians were not happy about his monopoly, including the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies Jonkheer B.C. de Jonge, especially since one of his daughters began a love affair with Berretty, rumoured to become his 7th wife when he returned from a business trip to the Netherlands.
Berretty never returned. He was among the 3 passengers and 4 crew, who died when the famous “UIVER” crashed in December 1934 near Mersa Matru in the Syrian dessert near the Iraqi border.
Rumours immediately began to circle in Batavia that B.C. de Jonge has used his position as Governor General and his close relationships with military circles and the RAF in England to get the DC 2 “Uiver”, to be shot down by RAF airplanes, thus sacrificing the heroic famous symbol of Dutch national pride, to prevent Dominique Berretty from marrying his daughter.
De unpopular Jonkheer Bonifacius Cornelis de Jonge was succeeded in September 1936 as Governor General by jhr. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer
Dominique Berretty’s death remains to this day as one of the greatest mysteries of the Dutch East Indies.
Stories began almost immediately after Berretti’s sudden death that his ghost has returned to “Ville Isola” the house he only enjoyed so briefly after its completion.
Many of his contempories, who knew him well, including Dutch architect Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker, who designed this stunning house, claimed to have seen Berretty after his death, wandering through Villa Isola and its gardens, attired in the evening clothes he wore during the opening ceremony.


Thank you Irène for the informations about Dominique Willem Berretty.
I was looking for such informations.
Thanks again.


that interesting story !! the story of a magnificent Dutch airline that still do a wonderful job !!!!

Frido Ogier

Thanks Paola! We’ll keep up the good spirit.

Best regards,



I do fly KLM from Nairobi to St.Petersburg by KLM and this article was very interesting

Frido Ogier

Dear Hemal,

Thanks! About 50 blogs to go :-) Hope you’ll have a pleasant flight!

Kind regards,


Johan Bankersen

Prachtig die historische fotos! Voor mij heeft de foto van de Uiver die met mankracht uit de modder wordt getrokken, iets speciaals

Johan Bankersen

Ik tekende toen ik in de 6e klas van de lagere school zat, in 1963, dit tafreel. Ik heb deze tekening nog steeds, alleen maakte ik er een nacht tafreel van, waarbij al deze mannen in de ontstoken landingslichten van het vliegtuig, hun krachtsinspanning leveden. Ik wist niet beter of dit was in de nacht gebeurd… ok weet ik nu zo voor mijn pensioen toch nog beter.

Frido Ogier

Dag Johan,

Dank voor je bericht. Ik ben blij dat ik nog een bijdrage heb kunnen leveren aan je kennis :-) Inderdaad gebeurde dat lostrekken ‘s ochtends, nadat ze aan het begin van de nacht geland waren. En ondanks deze lange tussenstop werden ze nog tweede!

Vriendelijke groet,

Frido Ogier

Gerard Krul

Het hele verhaal maakt my emotieel,heb nog steeds een enorme trots voor de KLM te hebben gewerkt!!
De periode was 5 Maart 1962 tot 31 January 1964,mijn taak bestond uit onderhoudswerkzaamheden aan electronische systemen van vliegtuigen.
Mijn dienstverband met de KLM werd op mijn verzoek beeindigd wegens emmigratie naar Canada.

Gerard L Krul

Frido Ogier

Dag Gerard,

Wat mooi om te horen. Dank voor je reactie. En goed om te lezen dat je KLM nog steeds een warm hart toedraagt. Blijf lezen, dan blijf ik schrijven.




I would like have any informations you could have about Willem Dominque Berretty, who died in a crash plane of KLM in 1934 or 1935.


I would like have any informations you could have about Willem Dominique Berretty, this indonesian-italian brilliant man who died in a Klm plane in Syria in 1934 or 1935.
Thank you for any informations you could have.

Frido Ogier

Dear Pierre, please look above your post to the message of Mrs Irene van Kuyk about Willem Beretty. Her story is very interesting. I’ve found a lot of information on the internet about him as well. So, I hope that this will help you.

Kind regards,



Maybe something to add would be that the plane in the race was eventually involved in a fatal crash.





Tony Gee

Can anybody put names to the crew in the picture. I know the names of the crew, but who is who?

John Hengstmengel

Can anyone remember any of the songs that were sung in Holland after the race? My mother used to sing one I don’t know the name but some of the words were “Jongens heb je het wel gehoren hoe de Uiver op zijn vlugt is in Melborne an gekomen hij is Koning vande lucht.”
Thank you


Ik weet van de Uiver, maar deze blog was heel interessant.


En Vis Bestaat


As aerophilatelist I have 3 letters flown O/B UIVER :
JAVA to Gravenhage 14/21 nov 34
Batavia 19/12 and Soerbaya returning to Amsterdam and damaged in accident in Syria 20th December 1934
Would like to send you the scan but seems to be impossible through this blog !

Jean Pierre Aragnetti

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