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Distinguished aviator remembered 100 years on

written by Staff reporter | July 11, 2022

Sir Ross Macpherson Smith, one of Australia’s most distinguished military aviators and one of the first pilots to fly from England to Australia has been remembered in honour of the 100th anniversary of his death.

Sir Macpherson Smith was honoured at a commemorative service held at St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide on 15 June. He tragically died aged 30 while testing a Vickers Viking aircraft for the first around-the-globe flight.

Along with being one of the pilots aboard the first flight from England to Australia in 1919, he also served in the Australian Imperial Force in Gallipoli and in the Battle of Romani.

Later, Sir Macpherson Smith transferred to the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), serving with distinction as an observer and then a pilot with No. 1 Squadron in the Middle East.

According to Defence, his funeral — held on 15 June 1922 — brought Adelaide to a standstill with over 100,000 people paying their respects for the pioneering aviator.

Group Captain Greg Weller, who led the planning for the commemorative service, called Macpherson Smith one of Australia’s most decorated and accomplished aviators.

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During his career, Sir Macpherson Smith was awarded the Military Cross and Bar, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Bars as well as the Air Force Cross.

“He recorded 11 aerial victories in the Middle East where air combat was not as prolific as on the Western Front,” Group Captain Weller said.

“Having flown with Lawrence of Arabia and completing an epic flight from Cairo to Calcutta, he turned his sights on flying from England to Australia in the 1919 Great Air Race.

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“Teaming up with his brother Sir Keith Smith — a Royal Flying Corps veteran — and former AFC mechanics Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, [Sir Ross] led the daring aviators on the first-ever incredible, epic flight across the globe in the renowned Vickers Vimy G-EAOU over 28 days.

“It was a feat unparalleled at the time, equated to man landing on the moon and Columbus discovering the Americas.”

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