In 1919, the Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes announced the now famous 'AIR RACE'. A prize of £10,000 was to be awarded for the first machine to fly from London to Australia in thirty days or less. Taking up the challenge, Ross Smith applied to the British company Vickers to supply a Vickers Vimy bomber for the race, and the Smith brothers flew their way into Australian folklore.
The famous flight started in Hounslow, England on 12 November 1919 and ended 28 days later on 10 December 1919, when they landed at a makeshift airstrip near Fannie Bay Gaol. The Smith brothers and their two mechanics, Sergeant W.H. Shiers A.F.M. and Sergeant J.M. Bennett A.F.M., M.S.M., completed the flight from Hounslow in twenty-seven days and twenty hours. The brothers received a cheque for £10,000 which they insisted on sharing equally with their two mechanics. They also each received a knighthood for the achievement.
The legacy of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith should not be underestimated. Their epic flight highlighted that a ‘Kangaroo Route’ between England and Australia would one day be possible. It inspired a series of endurance flights around Australia and the South Pacific which reinforced that aircraft could overcome the tyranny of distance in the southern hemisphere.
In South Australia, the Smith brothers’ triumph helped to forge an entrepreneurial, can-do mindset in aviation and defence that continues to this day.
In South Australia, the Smith brothers’ triumph helped to forge an entrepreneurial, can-do mindset in aviation and defence that continues to this day. In May 2019, it was announced that a new state-of-the-art home will be built for Sir Ross Smith’s Vickers Vimy aircraft at Adelaide Airport.
Announcing a $2m funding commitment by the federal Government, South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham said it was a major win for South Australia’s cultural heritage, for tourism, and would serve to educate generations to come of our state’s pioneering and aviation history.
In 2019, the History Trust of South Australia celebrated the centenary of the first flight across the world.
From left to right: Sergeant W.H. Shiers, Lieutenant Sir Keith Smith, Captain Sir Ross Smith & Sergeant J.M. Bennett.
The cheque for £10,000 the two brothers received after winning the now famous 'AIR RACE'.