Flying Doctor mourns Queen Elizabeth, who put the Royal in RFDS

Date published

20 Oct 2022

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II was felt deeply by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) and saw the organisation pass on its deepest sympathies to King Charles III and the Royal Family.

It was a visit from the Queen to the Flying Doctor’s Broken Hill base in 1954, less than eight months after her coronation, that would result in the Royal Assent being given to our organisation, a name change, and a link that has continues today. 

When Queen Elizabeth made her first visit to Australia in 1954, Broken Hill was one of the 57 communities she and the Duke of Edinburgh visited and her three-hour visit left an indelible mark on the city and us, giving us international recognition.  

In her short time at the Flying Doctor base, where she received a tour of an aircraft and an explanation of our services, the young Queen was left impressed with the work of the men and women, and the attitudes of the people who lived in rural and remote communities.

The queen in Broken Hill

“I have heard so much of the work of the Flying Doctor Service and the security and comfort it brings to every part of the outback. I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to its founder, the Reverend John Flynn, and of expressing my admiration for those, past and present, who have contributed to its splendid work,” the Queen said during her visit.

Her Majesty made an address via the Flying Doctor’s wireless to people across the Australian Outback.

"Your fortitude, your courage, your humour, and your friendliness, and of the magnificent way in which you have overcome the problems of living in this region of vast distances and great loneliness,” the Queen said.

"My only regret is that my husband and I cannot visit some of you on your stations and in you homesteads." 

The Queen also spoke with a young mother, Mrs Mitchell, from Muloorina, Lake Eyre. 

Mrs Mitchell told the Queen “I am speaking from a wireless transceiver 300 miles from your Majesty at Broken Hill. We have one child. My family is very isolated, our nearest settlement is 35 miles away.”

The chair the Queen sat on while making her address at the base continues to be displayed at the Outback Heritage Experience, as does a letter from the Office of the Prime Minister explaining that the prefix “royal” had been granted to the Flying Doctor. 

The link continues with King Charles having served as the Patron of the RFDS Friends in the UK since 2003 and 2012, he officially named an aircraft “RFDS Friends in the UK”.