• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE6219

Bonney, Maude Rose

(1897 – 1994)
  • Born 20 November, 1897, Pretoria South Africa
  • Died 24 February, 1994, Gold Coast Queensland Australia
  • Occupation Aviator, Pilot


In 1931, aviatrix Maude ‘Lores’ Bonney broke the Australian record for the longest one-day flight by a woman and the following year she became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia by air. She was also the first person to fly from Australia to England and the first person to undertake a solo flight from Australia to South Africa.


Maude Rose ‘Lores’ Rubens was born on November 20, 1897, in Pretoria, South Africa and later settled in Melbourne with her parents. Whilst helping the war effort through the Red Cross during World War I, Lores met Harry Bonney. The pair fell in love, married, and decided to settle in Queensland.

It was Harry’s first cousin, airman Bert Hinkler, who sparked Lores’s interest in flying. She began taking lessons and soon after Harry bought her a Gipsy Moth biplane, which she named My Little Ship.

Lores began breaking aviation records in 1931. Setting off on Christmas Day, Lores flew from Brisbane to Wangaratta, completing the longest one-day solo flight by an Australian female pilot.

Next, Lores’s sights were set on becoming the first female pilot to circumnavigate Australia. Despite a failed first attempt, Lores successfully flew from Perth to Brisbane in August-September 1932, flying a totally of 13,000km and being airborne for 95 hours and 27 minutes.

Two records was not enough for Lores and soon she was determined to become the first female to fly solo from Australia to England. Setting off from Archerfield aerodrome on April 10, 1933, Lores’s journey was fraught with danger and along the way she crashed her beloved My Little Ship twice. Despite many setbacks, Lores landed in Croydon, England, on June 21 1933 after spending 157 hours and 15 minutes airborne.

Despite having crashed her aircraft, the Australian press described Lores as the first female to fly solo from Australia to England. In 1934 she was appointed a Member (MBE) of the Order of the British Empire for her feat. Today, however, Jean Batten is regarded as the first woman to have completed this journey. Lores broke another record in 1937, by becoming the first person to fly solo from Australia to South Africa.

In January 1991 Lores was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) ‘in recognition of service to aviation’. Despite her achievements, however, Lores’s story sadly remains largely forgotten.


Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Maude Bonney, circa 1920-circa 1990 [manuscript]
    • Notebook of Maude Bonney, approximately 1933
    • Diary of Maude Bonney, 1933
    • Diary of Maude Bonney, 1937
  • National Library of Australia
    • [Biographical cuttings on Lores Bonney, former aviator, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]
  • Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences
    • Lores Bonney aviation archive