Anzac & Aviator
The remarkable story of Sir Ross Smith and the 1919 England to Australia Air Race
By Michael Molkentin
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781742379197
We are more familiar now with the exploits of the great names in aviation such as Kingsford Smith, Ulm, Hinkler and Earhart but it is Ross Smith’s early achievements – and subsequent tragic death – that tell another equally extraordinary story of pioneering aviation in Australia.
He was born in 1892 and raised on a remote sheep station in the dying days of Australia’s colonial frontier. There was nothing in his upbringing to suggest a future as one of the world’s great pioneering aviators.
In 1914, he served with the light horse at Gallipoli and in the Sinai. It was here that he gained the opportunity to learn to fly, volunteering for the fledgling Australian Flying Corps.
In a new dimension of warfare, Ross Smith survived two gruelling years of aerial combat over Palestine to emerge as one of the most skilled and highly decorated Australian pilots of the war.
But it was the challenge of the government’s £10,000 prize in 1919 to be the first aircrew to fly from England to Australia within 30 days that fired his imagination.
Together with his brother Keith, he entered the race having secured the backing of British firm Vickers, who provided the aircraft (a Vimy F.B.27 bomber), spare parts and fuel.
They landed at Darwin on 10 December 1919 having left on 12 November.
The book includes some wonderful photos (courtesy of sponsorship from Kodak for the air race).
Despite his tragic early death, his achievements stand the test of time as one of Australia’s great pioneering aviators.