Smith Brothers
 

Plot 6089 : Path 23 South

Another well visited grave is that of the Smith brothers in Path 23 South. All three served during the First World War, although with different services

Keith Macpherson Smith, the eldest of the brothers, enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in England in July 1917, initially flying with the 58th Squadron, later becoming a Gunnery Instructor with the 75th squadron.

Ross Macpherson Smith served at Gallipoli with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment. In October 1916, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and volunteered for the Australian Flying Corps in 1917. He was later twice awarded the Military Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times, becoming an air ace with 11 confirmed aerial victories.

The youngest of the three brothers was Colin Macpherson Smith, who served in Belgium with the 10th Infantry Battalion and was killed at Passchendaele on 6th October 1917. Although buried overseas, he is memorialised on the Calvary cross that marks the centerpiece of the Smith family plot. He died before his brothers flew into the history books.

Ross Macpherson and Keith Macpherson Smith are best known for their record-breaking flight from London to Australia in 1919. With flight still in its infancy, Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes announced an Air Race, offering a prize of £10,000 to the first aviator to fly from London to Australia in 30 days or less.

Together with mechanics Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, they achieved this flight in just under 28 days in a Vickers Vimy aircraft, which was supplied by the Vickers corporation for the event. They left Hounslow, England on 12th November, 1919, making stops in Europe, the Middle East, India and South-East Asia, and landing at the newly constructed Darwin Aerodrome on 10th December.

On 23rd December, 1919, in recognition of their success, Knighthoods of the British Empire were awarded to Captain Ross Smith and Lieut. Keith Smith, and Sergeants W.H. Shiers and J.M. Bennett were commissioned and awarded bars to their Air Force Medals. The 10,000 pounds prize money was divided equally among the four men.

Following this epic flight, the brothers planned more flights, but these came to an abrupt halt when Sir Ross Smith and Jim Bennett were killed in 1922. On 13th April, 1922, while testing a Vickers Viking plane at Brooklands in England, the plane went into a spin and nose-dived into the ground killing both occupants. They were to have started a round the world flight on April 25th.

Their bodies were returned to Australia, where they were buried with full military Honours on the same day, 15th June 1922 – Sir Ross in Adelaide, and Lieut. Bennett in Melbourne.

A poignant epitaph on Sir Ross’ memorial reads:

“I BARE YOU ON EAGLES’ WINGS AND BROUGHT YOU UNTO MYSELF.”

The Vickers Vimy plane is still on display at the Adelaide Airport.

Keith Macpherson Smith, Ross Macpherson Smith, Sergeants James Bennett & Wally Shiers pose in front of their Vickers Vimy aircraft in England before their epic flight to Australia. (SLSA B17706)

Keith Macpherson Smith, Ross Macpherson Smith, Sergeants James Bennett & Wally Shiers pose in front of their Vickers Vimy aircraft in England before their epic flight to Australia. (SLSA B17706)

Funeral of Sir Ross Macpherson Smith on 15 June, 1922

Funeral of Sir Ross Macpherson Smith on 15 June, 1922