Paul Joseph McGinness was identified by peers Sir Hudson Fysh and Sir Fergus McMaster as providing the first spark of the idea which led to the establishment of Qantas. He was born at Mortlake near Warnambool, Victoria, on 4 February 1896 and grew up on the family property ‘Riverview’ at Framlingham.
A month after World War I started in August 1914, McGinness enlisted in the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment and was in Egypt by April 1915. A month later, he was in the second wave of Australians landing on Gallipoli and over the next seven months was wounded three times. He was one of the few survivors of the 150 men who charged Walkers Ridge at The Nek in August. Promoted to Sergeant, McGinness later won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for scouting during operations at a Turkish outpost in the Sinai called Jifjaffa in April 1916.
He transferred to the Australian Flying Corps to train as a pilot in August 1917 and joined No. 1 Squadron as a Lieutenant in March 1918 flying Bristol fighters. Prior to this he had served briefly with a Royal Flying Corps unit attached to Lawrence of Arabia’s forces. After taking leave with an observer named Hudson Fysh, the pair often flew together. McGinness was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in August 1918 and finished the war as an ace with seven victories.
In August 1919, McGinness and Fysh were commissioned to drive a Model ‘T’ Ford from Longreach to Darwin to survey landing grounds for the England to Australia Air Race and McGinness was inspired with the idea of an air service to serve that region.
While waiting in Cloncurry he repaired a damaged car axle for grazier Fergus McMaster. This was the beginning of a crucial relationship.
In mid-1920, McGinness and Fysh approached McMaster with their air service proposal. In November 1920 they formed a company, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited, which started charter and joy-flight operations with an Avro 504 and BE2e aircraft based in Longreach in February 1921.
The company which became our national airline was McGinness’s idea, but three weeks after he flew the first scheduled service in November 1922, his restless energy took him to Western Australia where he married in 1924. A bank collapse then a drought forced him off the land after 10 years of farming in the Morawa area. Following an unsuccessful attempt to get into state parliament he went to Tasmania as an Aerodrome Caretaker. He later offered his services to the Chinese Air Force, but was rejected, and as the holder of a Commercial ‘B’-grade pilots licence promoted autogyros.
During World War II he served in RAAF administrative jobs including a period in New Guinea at Milne Bay as a Directorate of Air Transport Control Officer and he returned home suffering health issues. During 1946 McGinness tried establishing a meat processing plant at Katherine in the Northern Territory, but that ended when his second marriage failed. McGinness went to Queensland’s Atherton Tableland growing tobacco then moved to Northcliffe near Albany in Western Australia to grow tobacco there in 1951.
In November Paul McGinness was admitted to Hollywood Repatriation Hospital in Perth where he died of a heart attack on 25 January 1952. The hospital is just a short walk from the wartime Qantas flying boat base at Nedlands. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery and in early 1953 Qantas placed a plaque on his grave acknowledging his role in the formation of the airline.