Derek Edward Ed Ainscow

(9 December 1928 – 21 June 2002)



Family photograph of Ed (courtesy Peggy Ainscow).


Ed Ainscow gave some 17 years of dedicated service to Natmap. He joined the Division of National Mapping’s Melbourne office as a Field Assistant on 20 April 1965. Ed obtained his Commonwealth driver’s licence later that month. While his reason for joining Natmap, like many others was to experience the outback of Australia, Ed’s personal background was unique; as was his character - the essential bush man.



Ed’s father Albert Edward Bertie Ainscow had joined the British Army while under-age. Bertie was commissioned in the field and in 1915 saw action at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula north of Anzac Cove. Afterwards Bertie served on the Western Front. He retired from the Army with the rank of Major. After the First World War, Bertie settled in Bangalore (now officially Bengaluru) the capital of India's southern Karnataka State. Bertie came to Bangalore with his wife Norah Emilia née Stewart. Ed was born there in 1928; he was the fourth son in a family of eight; six boys and two girls; sadly, two of the children died in infancy.



Ed initially attended Junior School in Bangalore. Between 1942 and 1944 Ed boarded at the Montfort School for Boys about 150 kilometres south-east of Bangalore. This Anglo-Indian higher secondary school was located at the hill station of Yercaud; at an altitude of some 1,500 metres in the Shevaroy Hills in the Salem District of Tamil Nadu. Montfort School was established in 1917 by the French-born Reverend Brother Eugene Mary (Julien Marie Le Pevedic) of the order of the Montfort Brothers of Saint Gabriel.


Although the youngest of the then Ainscow boys, Ed was always the one to get into a bit of mischief. It was Ed who would leave the bell upside down in the rain so that the ringer would get an extra surprise when sounding the bell for morning service. It was Ed who would sneak under the fence to go hunting with the villagers, returning to school hours later and getting the strap for the trouble caused. In a school report, the principal described Ed as liking the open freedom of the country and being very interested in nature. How right he was!


Army service

Prior to joining the British Army in India, Ed worked in the textile mills managed by his father. However, there was much unrest in India leading up to independence from the British in August 1947 and the subsequent withdrawal of the British administration. This situation prompted Ed to enlist for a 12 year period in the Army’s General Service Corps on 24 April 1947 at the age of 18 years and 4 months, his Service Number was 19043891. Ed was transferred to England and left India on 22 May 1947. On 3 July 1947 Ed was assigned to the Royal Engineers. As part of the Middle East Land Forces, Ed was posted to the Middle East from 8 June 1951 to 5 November 1952. Here Ed served under Commander-in-Chief General Brian Hubert Robertson GCB GBE KCMG KCVO DSO MC DL (1896-1974), later First Baron Robertson of Oakridge. From 1950 to 1953, General Robertson was also Colonel Commandant of the Royal Engineers.


On 15 December 1952 Ed was released to the Royal Reserves and settled in England where he was eventually discharged from Army service at age 30 years on 23 April 1959; on Termination of first Period of Engagement. Ed’s military conduct was rated as Very Good. Many years later he became eligible for the newly promulgated Suez Canal Zone 1951-1954 medal. However, it was only after Ed’s death that his widow Peggy applied for this medal. 


Marriage to Peggy Dench

Violet Rosemary Peggy Dench was born on 16 October 1927 to Charles Augustus Dench and Blodwen Mary Richards of North Side, Clapham Common, London SW14. Peggy was initially educated at the Junior School in Clapham. Then from June 1939 to 1 September 1939 she attended the Balham Central School for Girls in Hearnville Road to the south of the Common. Owing to the outbreak of the Second World War, from 1 September 1939 Peggy attended Clapham Central School for Boys. This school had also been attended by her brother but was evacuated due to the war to Winkfield North in Berkshire to the south-west of Windsor. Later, Peggy was employed by a Secretarial Agency in Putney and worked temporarily for various companies.


After his Army discharge Ed remained in England and worked for LF Dove Motors in Wimbledon as a Service Station Manager until 1955. In November 1954, he met Peggy Dench and after three days had persuaded her to marry him and go to Australia to join his brothers who had already migrated to Melbourne. On 12 February 1955, Ed Ainscow and Peggy Dench were married. Afterwards they lived in Wimbledon until migrating to Australia.


Ed and Peggy sailed from Southampton on the Shaw, Savill and Albion Line’s 22,000 ton SS New Australia (formerly Monarch of Bermuda) on 2 November 1955. The New Australia was under the command of Captain JL Hart. On this voyage she carried 1,205 immigrant passengers and a crew of around 500. Ed and Peggy were listed as passengers No 112 and 113, respectively. Four weeks after sailing via the Suez Canal, Colombo and Fremantle the Ainscows arrived in Melbourne. Many of the passengers on the New Australia were bound for migrant reception facilities such as the camp at Bonegilla. Fortunately, the Ainscows had family members to stay with and initially resided at 12 Kireep Road Balwyn in Melbourne’s inner-eastern suburbs.


A few months after their arrival in Melbourne Ed and Peggy’s only child, son Mark Edward, was born on the 15 February 1956. After settling in Melbourne, Ed was initially employed at the Motor Registration Branch in Rathdown Street Carlton. Afterwards he was employed as a fibreglass worker for boat builders GBV Products Pty Ltd at the corner of Lower Dandenong and Boundary Roads Mentone and later for SH McCarthy in Upper Heidelberg Road Ivanhoe. 


The Ainscows lived for some years at Heidelberg West. Ed and Peggy were listed on electoral rolls for 1963, 1967, 1968 and 1972 as residing at 10 Eden Street Heidelberg West; they lived in a triple-fronted brick veneer home that is still standing.


National Mapping

Sometime in 1964, Peggy saw a National Mapping advertisement for field staff in a Saturday issue of The Age newspaper. Although realising that such a job would mean Ed being away in the field for many months a year, Peggy also knew it was the kind of work Ed would be both good at and happy in undertaking.


Thus beginning in May 1965, Ed’s first field trip with Natmap involved First Order theodolite and Tellurometer traversing from Gary Junction to Young Range in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia. The survey then continued across the Great Victoria Desert from Neale Junction in Western Australia to Voakes Hill Junction in South Australia. Later, in very hot conditions from October to late November 1965, Ed was part of the field survey party that constructed and surveyed the unique cairn to mark the Johnston Geodetic Station. Located on Mount Cavanagh Station south of Kulgera in the Northern Territory, Johnston was adopted as the origin for the then recently completed national geodetic survey.


1965 Johnston Origin cairn NT – (L-R) John Ely, Bill Sutherland, Ed Ainscow, Bob Bobroff, Ed Burke.


1966 saw Ed involved with the Helen Springs Northern Territory to Ord River Western Australia Second Order Mapping Control traverse across the northern Tanami Desert; the Cassilis to Burleigh Second Order Mapping Control traverse in northern Queensland; Aerodist station establishment on the Barkly Tableland and in Daly Waters-Borroloola area of the Northern Territory. Three smaller survey tasks that year included the Mills Cross connection outside of Queanbeyan, New South Wales, the Parkes Radio Telescope connection, and the Mt Kaputar - Culgoora, BC4 Camera site connection in the Narrabri area of northern New South Wales.


Peggy recalled in early October 1966 she received a letter from the then Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Brisbane. It contained a scorched letter that Ed had posted at Borroloola near the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory. Tragically Ansett-ANA Flight 149, a Vickers Viscount aircraft VH-RMI), carrying the mail, four crew and twenty passengers between Mount Isa and Longreach crashed and burned on Nadjayamba Station 25 kilometres short of Winton airport on 22 September 1966. There were no survivors. However, Ed’s letter survived the fiery crash and now some 50 years later can be viewed via this link. Over the years Peggy remembered that Ed mentioned in this letter of being on an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the description of its white sand and shark infested water stuck in her memory. (Ed was a member of the survey field party the made the geodetic connection between islands in the Sir Edward Pellew Group in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the mainland.)


By 1967, Ed had been promoted to a Technical Assistant Grade 2 position and undertook field work in the Onslow-Port Hedland-Marble Bar area of north-west Western Australia comprising Second Order Mapping Control traversing by vehicle and helicopter. Ed continued with Second Order Mapping Control traversing by vehicle and helicopter as well as spot photography work in in north-west Western Australia from early May 1968. Later in 1968 Ed worked on the Mt Kaputar to Maurice Hill (near Mackay in Queensland) section of the high precision traverse. During February-March 1969, beaconing of the Tooram (near Cobar) to Mt Kaputar section of the high precision traverse was undertaken by Ed’s party. Ed was then involved with observing on the Thursday Island to Cairns section of that traverse. The high precision traverse was part of the work needed to establish two Australian baselines to support a world triangulation project being undertaken using the United States’ Passive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite (PAGEOS).


In mid-June 1970 while tree clearing during ground marking for Aerodist field work in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia, Ed had an accident with a chainsaw. He was later repatriated to Melbourne for recovery. In late August 1970 after nearly two months back in Melbourne, Ed rejoined the field party at Alice Springs for the remainder of that season which included Aerodist station marking work in western Queensland and north-western New South Wales.


During the winter of 1971, Ed was involved with traversing to second order specifications, using MRA-2 Tellurometers for distance measuring and Wild T2 theodolites for angular observations, including observations for azimuth on the sun and on the magnitude 5.42 star Sigma Octantis. This field work was undertaken in northern Victoria, central New South Wales and western Queensland. In some locations the stations used had been previously established, otherwise the party had to establish the necessary survey marks.


In October 1971, Aerodist station establishment and measuring operations were undertaken in the Coral Sea and Torres Strait. A Bell 47J2-A helicopter (VH-THH) supported the positioning of an Aerodist remote party on Cape York in far north Queensland. That field sub-party comprised Ed, Laurie McLean and Lawrie O’Connor. This remote party occupied six survey stations between Cairns and Cape York to measure Aerodist lines to off-shore stations.


1971 Torres Strait Qld - Horne Island ferry (L-R) Laurie McLean and Ed Ainscow (courtesy Dave Abreu).


Ed was involved with Aerodist ground marking and later line measuring operations during 1972 in Western Australia and again between April and July 1973 through western Victoria and southern New South Wales.


By the early 1970s, the Commonwealth Public Service had decided to recruit future technical officers in fields such as surveying and electrical engineering from candidates who had undergone a four-year technical college based traineeship. These trainee technical officers, or TTOs as they were called, undertook about 6 months theoretical training each year at the Canberra College of Technical and Further Education and then spent about six months each year in hands-on training including survey work with Natmap field parties. The first of the TTOs commenced their field work training in the second part of 1972.


This new recruitment approach constrained the advancement of otherwise experienced Natmap staff who had not undertaken a formal TAFE training course. Hitherto such staff had been promoted to technical officer positions on the basis of the demonstrated ability to efficiently undertaken the higher-level work required of such positions. However, Natmap did not abandon such staff and arranged through the Public Service Board for sufficiently experienced people to undertake a test to demonstrate their eligibility for promotion; a minimum of five years’ practical survey experience was a precondition.


Owing to his extensive hands-on field work experience by then over some 9 years, in early 1974 Ed, together with several others, was selected to undergo a training course in geodetic surveying that could lead to eligibility for future promotion to positions within the Commonwealth Public Service technical officer (surveying) structure. The training course was conducted in the Oaklands area of southern New South Wales in two separate blocks, firstly from 18 February 1974 to 8 March 1974 and then from 18 March to 5 April 1974. The field training during the course was conducted by Natmap’s renowned training officer Reg Ford (1914-1994). 


Ed passed all practical field survey components of the course. However, unfortunately he was unsuccessful in the written examination that mainly comprised survey computations. The two-hour written examination was held in the board-room of Natmap’s Rialto office on 9 April 1974. The examining officer at both Oaklands and in Melbourne was Natmap senior surveyor Peter Langhorne. On leaving the board-room after the written examination Ed was heard to remark that he had messed up an azimuth computation question that carried about a 40 per cent weighting for the overall exam result. Thus Ed was to spend his remaining eight years with Nat Map in a Technical Assistant Grade 2 position.


1972 Featherstonhaugh WA – Aerodist 22 October - Ed Ainscow at Featherstonhaugh rock hole (courtesy Laurie McLean).


In April 1977 Natmap relocated its Melbourne office from the Rialto Building at 497 Collins Street to Ellery House at 280 Thomas Street Dandenong; some 30 kilometres to the south-east. Ed was based at Dandenong for the next five years.


Also around this time Ed, Peggy and son Mark shifted their residence to Belgrave. On electoral rolls for 1977 and 1980 they were listed as residing at Lot 29 Galagher Street Belgrave. Here the Ainscows lived amongst the gum trees on the northern slopes of the Violet Larsen Reserve.


It was not until 1980 that Ed returned to field survey duties. Together with Surveyor Darryl Williams (1955-2004), Ed used JMR Doppler satellite based receivers to fix the positions of two posts on the South Australia-Northern Territory border in the heat of October 1980.


The mid-1981, Elliston Offshore Survey on the western coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia was in a far more hospitable location. Despite being part of the land based sub-party and the fish not biting, Ed enjoyed the trip. It was back to the bush, however, from May to June 1981 for the Map Accuracy survey of the Eromanga 1:250,000 scale map sheet in western Queensland. In the 16 years Ed had been with Natmap miniaturisation of electronic distance measuring equipment and calculators had dramatically effected field operations as Ed saw during this survey.


1981 Eromanga Qld - Map Accuracy Survey – (L-R) Bob Goldsworthy and Ed Ainscow.


More details on Ed’s field activities, including summaries of his own diaries are provided via this link.



Ed resigned from Natmap on 20 February 1982 at age 53 years and soon after the family moved to Bealiba between Dunolly and St Arnaud in central Victoria. There Ed spent a lot of time with horses, training them on the lunging rope, and he was always helping the local farmers in one way or another, especially if the farm family went away on holiday, he would feed the animals etc. Ed enjoyed his animals, his fishing, and spending time with friends, helping where he could.



Sadly, Ed Ainscow died on 21 June 2002 at age 73 years. He was survived by Peggy and their son Mark. A Mass of Thanksgiving was held at St Patrick’s Church Bealiba on Wednesday 26 June 2002. Afterwards Ed’s remains were cremated. His son Mark later scattered Ed’s ashes on the Murray River.


Now some 16 years since his passing and 35 years since he left Natmap, Ed is still fondly remembered and sadly missed by his family and by the many Natmappers who knew him; especially those who worked with Ed in the field. He was at heart a bushman but also a generous and caring man, generally easy going but one who did not tolerate fools easily.


There is a memorial inscription for Ed in the Book of Remembrance at the Bendigo Cemeteries Trust’s Neangar Memorial Park at Eaglehawk; it includes some words from one of Ed’s favourite bush poems by William Austin Horn (1841-1922), The Call of the “Bush” :


Farewell, sweet land of sun-lit plains and stars that brightly gleam,

Life’s crimson tide is ebbing and I’m drifting down its stream

…Yet should perchance my Spirit hear the echo of your call,

‘Twill bid an Angel whisper back, How much I loved it all.





Compiled by Paul Wise and Laurie McLean, 2017 from information in the following :


Ainscow, Violet Rosemary (2017), Personal diaries and papers relating to her late husband Derek Edward Ainscow.


Anonymous (2012) New Australia-IMO 5024427 entry on website, accessed at :


Anonymous (undated) Middle East Land Forces entry on website, accessed at :


Australian Electoral Commission (various dates), Searches of various historical electoral rolls 1903-1980; from Ancestry website, accessed at:


Brown, Judith Margaret (1983), Horn, William Austin (1841–1922), an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed at :


Ford, Reginald Arthur (1979), The Division of National Mapping’s part in the Geodetic Survey of Australia, The Australian Surveyor, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 375-427; vol. 29, no. 7, pp. 465-536; vol. 29, no. 8, pp. 581-638.


Hatfield, Patricia (2017), Personal communications.


Horn, WA (1915), The Call of the “Bush” in Bush Echoes, pp 11-19; published by Simkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, London; Woods and Sons, Printers, London N., accessed at :


McLean, Lawrence William (2017), Personal communications.


McLean, Lawrence William (2015), The Aerodist Years : Recollections of the Division of National Mapping's Airborne Distance Measuring Program 1963-1974.


National Archives of Australia (undated), Passengers on SS New Australia on 2 November 1955 from Southampton to Freemantle, an entry on the Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963, Reel 147: October 1955-December 1955, accessed at :


Natmap Staff (various dates), Personnel-related entries in various issues of the NATMAP News.


Wise, Paul Joseph (2014), Aerodist Control Station Establishment : 1963 to 1974.