Treasured memento chronicles first England-Australia flight 100 years ago

John Cooper of Angledale with his treasured book chronicling the first flight by an Australian from England to Australia. Photo: Ben Smyth

John Cooper of Angledale with his treasured book chronicling the first flight by an Australian from England to Australia. Photo: Ben Smyth

November will mark 100 years since the first flight from England to Australia set off.

The story behind the flight, and some incredible aerial photos of our major cities and towns at the time, were collated in a book that Angledale's John Cooper counts among his treasured belongings.

He brought it in to the Bega District News office this week thinking readers would also be interested in seeing this great snapshot of history.

In 1919, the Australian government offered up a 10,000-pound prize for the first successful flight by from England to Australia provided it was an Australian crew and took no longer than 30 days. Six entries started the race.

Australian Flying Corps pilot Ross Smith and his brother Keith, along with air mechanics Sergeants Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, took on the challenge, leaving the mother country on November 12, "delighted to find clear, frosty weather".

The plan was to fly their Vickers Vimy bomber biplane from England to France, then via "Italy, Crete, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Burma, Federated Malay States and Netherlands Indies [now Indonesia] to Darwin".

They successfully touched down on the afternoon of December 10, making the journey of 11,340 miles (18,250km) in just under 28 days, with 135 hours of flight time.

The Smith brothers were knighted as a result of their efforts, with the prize money shared among the four.

Mr Cooper said the book chronicling Sir Ross Smith's journey was likely his grandfather's, Thomas Cooper.

"I've had it for about 60-70 years after it came out of Grandfather's house in the early '50s," Mr Cooper said.

"It's something I've kept all these years. I believe it's very rare.

"I've tried finding a value for it but no-one seems to have copies of it anymore."

The aerial photos included in what was surely a souvenir publication of the time were taken by Frank Hurley, a famous photographer and adventurer in his own right. It's believe Sir Ross Smith was the pilot when Mr Hurley was taking these images.

They include fascinating historic shots of Sydney and Wollongong, as well as Orange, Dubbo and Goulburn among others.

Bega District News