Datuk C.L. Chan, past president of the Sabah Society, presenting a memento to Blanche after his talk on The Early Pioneers of Flight in North West Borneo. Second from right is honorary secretary Maria Rowan and fourth from right is Sabah Museum director Joanna Datuk Kitingan.
KOTA KINABALU May 8, 2012: An aviation historian from Edinburgh, Scotland, Bruce Blanche, gave an interesting presentation entitled The Early Pioneers of Flight in North West Borneo to the Sabah Society in the Society’s secretariat here on Saturday evening.
His presentation included the aviation career of one of the early pioneers of aviation in Sabah, the late Dr Valentine Alexander Stookes MC of Sandakan, Sabah’s and Borneo’s first flying doctor, in the 1930s.
Blanche has visited Kota Kinabalu following a visit to Brunei and Labuan during which he gave several presentations on the early flight pioneers of northwest Borneo to the History Society of Brunei Shell.
He spent much of his early life in Brunei and Sarawak, first arriving in Borneo via Singapore in 1948 aged two. His late father, Mr H.J. Blanche, worked for the British Malayan Petroleum Company Ltd (BMPC), a predecessor of the Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd in Seria, Brunei.
His interest in aviation in northwest Borneo began in Brunei with his many early flights in BMPC aircraft and those of Malayan Airways Ltd, particularly the Douglas DC3 from Singapore to Labuan via Kuching and Sibu.
Blanche, a consulting geoscientist with over 40 years’ experience, has returned to Borneo many times in his professional petroleum geologist.
For the last 15 years, he has been compiling material for a book on the life and aviation career of Dr Stookes.
Dr Stookes had a private clinic in Sandakan in the 1930s and was also the panel doctor for Harrisons & Crosfield. He was murdered by Japanese soldiers in Keningau two weeks before liberation.
During Blanche’s visit to Kota Kinabalu, he visited the Sabah State Museum to research material on Dr Stookes. The curator and staff of the Sabah Museum kindly assisted him to visit Dr Stookes’ grave in the Old Christian Cemetery to pay his respects.
The grave remained unknown until a few years ago when it was discovered by members of the Sabah Society.
Blanche would be interested in hearing from anyone who has information or photographs of Dr Stookes. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Datuk C.L. Chan email@example.com