Jessie Miller

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Bill Lancaster and Jessie Miller stand in front of the Red Rose.

Jessie Maude "Chubbie" Miller (1902 – 1972, London, England) was a pioneering Australian aviator.

England to Australia[edit]

In 1927 while visiting London from her native Australia, Miller met, helped finance and flew with R.A.F. officer Bill Lancaster in his Avro Avian Red Rose to try for a long distance flying record (England-Australia).[1] It was at the time one of the longest flights made in such a small aircraft—although they were overtaken en route by Bert Hinkler in another Avian.[2] Bad weather forced them down in Sumatra, but they continued on, and after 159 days she finally arrived as the first woman to complete an England-to-Australia flight.[3][4] Although 24 hours late, a huge crowd greeted them on arrival in Darwin, and on their subsequent tour around Australia.[5]

In 1928 Lancaster and Miller moved to the United States on the promise of a Hollywood movie which was never made. Miller became an aviator in her own right, competing in the famous "Powder Puff Derby" of 1929.[6]

Three years after Miller's pioneering flight, the first solo England - Australia flight by a woman was made in 1930 by Amy Johnson.

Clarke murder[edit]

In 1932, Lancaster was in Mexico looking for work. At the same time, Haden Clarke, a male American writer, was living in Lancaster and Miller's Florida home in order to assist Miller's writing of her autobiography. Clarke and Miller developed a relationship in Lancaster's absence, and Clarke convinced Miller to leave Lancaster and marry him instead. Upon receipt of this news, Lancaster returned promptly to Florida.

On 20 April, Clarke was killed by a gunshot wound to the head.[7] Despite the facts that the gun was Lancaster's, and that he admitted forging suicide notes found at the scene (one addressed to Lancaster and another to Miller), Lancaster was acquitted of murder.[1][8]

Popular culture[edit]

Verdict on a Lost Flyer, a book on Bill Lancaster by Ralph Barker, was published by Harrap, London, in 1969.

A TV miniseries called The Lancaster Miller Affair was made in Australia in 1985.[9][10]