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Exhibition: God ‘Elp All of Us: The Centenary of Ross & Keith Smith’s Epic Flight

Exhibition: Level 1, Barr Smith Library
1 May – 15 June 2019
Curator: Cheryl Hoskin, Rare Books & Special Collections Librarian

It was to be a great adventure – this skimming through ‘unknown skies’, over strange lands, and vast spaces of oceans. We were attempting something which had never before been done, so it is no wonder we went about our work with eagerness and light hearts.
Ross Smith. God ‘Elp All Of Us, p. 124.

In 1919, the Adelaide brothers Ross and Keith Smith and their two engineers, Jim Bennett and Wally Shiers, won the Australian Government’s prize of £10,000 for the first flight from England to Australia completed in under 30 days.

In the largely untried Vickers Vimy aeroplane GEAOU (dubbed “God ‘Elp All Of Us” by the crew) they completed the dangerous journey in just under 28 days despite lack of instrumentation, makeshift landing strips, poor maps and bad weather, achieved through determination and planning, initiative, courage and a bit of luck.

Their success fostered the realisation that connecting the empire through air travel was practical and promoted the development of the aviation industry within Australia and around the globe.

This pioneering feat is portrayed through photographs and memorabilia from the collection of Sir Ross and Keith Smith held in Rare Books & Special Collections’ manuscripts collection.

Among the many unique items on display are:

  • childhood and family pictures of Ross and Keith Smith and Mutooroo Station
  • Ross Smith’s medical certificate for scarlet fever (1915) and his’ Vocabulary of Bedouin dialect: To be carried in the coat pocket by all pilots and observers on desert reconnaissance’
  • Keith Smith’s Medical certificate of unfitness for war service, July 5th, 1916
  • Keith’s pilot’s licence and his Royal Air Force Appointment to the rank of Lieutenant (1918)
  • Warrant of Appointment for Keith Smith’s Order of the British Empire to Lieutenant [by George the Fifth], 6th December 1919
  • Air Ministry Certificate of airworthiness for the Vickers Vimy, November 3rd, 1919
  • Hounslow Aerodrome Weather bulletin for conditions over France, November 12th, 1919
  • ‘London to Australia’ photograph of the Vickers Vimy and crew by the famed photographer Harold Cazneaux.
  • Illuminated address welcoming Capt. Sir R. M. Smith back to Queensland from the King and Empire Alliance Organization
  • First aerial photographs taken for many of the cities on the route to Australia.

This exhibition is part of South Australia’s History Festival.

To discover more centenary events visit the Epic Flight Centenary website.

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