Two original vintage gelatin silver photographs of the Smith brothers' Vickers Vimy aircraft at Northfield airfield, near Adelaide, South Australia, on 23 March 1920, during the celebratory tour after their historic flight from England to Australia in 1919

Two original vintage gelatin silver photographs of the Smith brothers' Vickers Vimy aircraft at Northfield airfield, near Adelaide, South Australia, on 23 March 1920, during the celebratory tour after their historic flight from England to Australia in 1919

The photographs (visible image size approximately 77 × 127 each) are mounted behind a double-window wood-grained mat, framed and glazed (external dimensions 340 × 225 mm). The photographs are lightly cockled, with spme silvering-out visible at a rakingangle; there is a thin irregular strip of varnish on the glass where it abuts the timber frame; the original backing paper and prize plate are brittle and a little chipped; overall it is a very appealing piece in excellent condition.

Affixed to the verso of the frame is a school prize label (to one Jack Pedler, for 'Composition, Xmas 1920') from Laurieston School in St Andrew's Street, Walkerville, an inner suburb of Adelaide. It is signed by the school's principal (and possibly its only teacher), Miss G.E. Bignell. The Smith family home was in Walkerville, and the brothers flew over the suburb before landing at Northfield, but despite this tantalising proximity we have not found any definite link between Miss Bignell, Laurieston School and the Smiths (who went to Walkerville Primary School). Be that as it may, any vintage images recording any aspect of this pioneering feat are of significance, not least in this year of its centenary. The story is probably too well-known to repeat, but the State Library of South Australia makes easy work of it, so why not: 'In 1919 Australian Prime Minister William Hughes offered a £10,000 prize on behalf of the Australian government for the first Australians to fly an aircraft from England to Australia, in under 30 consecutive days. Of the six teams that entered the race, the winning crew and first to arrive in Australia, flew in the Vickers Vimy G-EAOU bomber, departing London on 12 November 1919, and arriving in Darwin 27 days and 20 hours later, on 10 December 1919. They flew via Lyon, Rome, Cairo, Delhi, Calcutta, Singapore, and Surabaya in Indonesia (where the aircraft became bogged and bamboo mats were placed on the airstrip), finally arriving in Darwin. The crew consisted of South Australian pilots and brothers Captain Ross Macpherson Smith and Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, with mechanics Sergeants Walter Henry Shiers and James Mallett Bennett. The four men shared the prize money, Keith and Ross Smith were knighted, and Shiers and Bennett were awarded bars to their Air Force Medals and honorary commissions. After the flight, the crew flew to Sydney and eventually returned to Adelaide in 1920, making many stops along the way for spectators to welcome home the victors'.

Item #113498

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