The suburb of Lightsview, 7km northeast of the Adelaide CBD, now covers much of the original Harry Butler aerodrome where the Vickers Vimy made its triumphant landing in 1920. To celebrate the significance of the location and an historic pine tree planted in the early 20th century to mark the landing spot, Lightsview developers Peet Ltd created some terrific Vimy-inspired landscaping along Hampstead Rd in 2019.
The South Australian Aviation Museum is home to a permanent display of Smith crew memorabilia, and a significant collection of resource materials related to the epic flight. Highlights include personal items owned by the crew, a plaster maquette of John Dowie’s sandstone sculpture of the four men at Adelaide Airport and a vintage video reel with commentary.
The collection also includes two 1919 Royal Aero Club lead seals, removed from the Vimy’s engines after arrival in Darwin. The RAC supervised the race rules, one of which was that engines on competing aircraft could not be removed and replaced en route. Five seals were placed on each engine before departure from Hounslow, two of which had to be intact on arrival in Darwin. Hudson Fysh from the Australian Flying Corps, who went on to co-found Qantas the following year, was there on 10 December 1919 as the Australian Government’s representative to ensure the seals were intact.
Ross Smith left Adelaide in 1914 with the 3rd Light Horse and technically remained in the Army throughout WWI, because the Australian Flying Corps (although the only independent flying corps of all British dominions) remained under Australian Imperial Force command.
He landed at Gallipoli in May 1915 and also fought in the Battle of Romani before joining the AFC as an observer in late 1916. By war’s end he was one of Australia’s most decorated airmen, according to the Australian War Memorial. The Army Museum of South Australia, located within Keswick Barracks on Anzac Highway, features photographs, the original 3rd Light Horse Headquarters Flag and Ross Smith’s Colt .38 revolver.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regional office can be found at Shiers & Bennett House, 4 Kel Barclay Avenue, Adelaide Airport. Photos courtesy of Terry Horsam.
Completed in 1958, the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith War Memorial was designed as a purpose-built enclosure for the Vickers Vimy G-EAOU aircraft and situated directly adjacent the original Adelaide Airport passenger terminal. The memorial can still be found today at the rear of the modernised airport precinct, with free, 15-minute Vimy parking available just opposite the entrance to the long-term car park. The Vimy is set to be relocated in 2021 into the new airport terminal. To view a PDF showing images of the Vimy enclosure over the years, please click here. To learn more about the aircraft itself, please visit the SA History Hub. The images below, including the John Dowie sandstone sculpture of the four men, are courtesy of Helen Stein.
The Smith Brothers Walking Trail features a series of 21 plaques linking the Adelaide Airport main terminal and the Vickers Vimy in its 1950s memorial hangar. To view a PDF of all plaques and inscriptions, please click here.
In 2019, Adelaide Airport Ltd commissioned the creation of an animated interactive trail to take Vimy enthusiasts on a fun, fascinating journey from the main terminal, past the bronze markers and down to the Vickers Vimy hangar. Narrated by Sir Ross Smith, the story comes to life on your phone or tablet, and only works if you’re at the airport and scan the QR Code. For all the details, visit the Adelaide Airport website.
Aviemore was the Smith family home in the first half of the 19th century. An historic plaque was installed on the house at 158 Stephen Terrace, Gilberton, in 1997 to commemorate its role as the former home of Ross, Keith and Colin Smith. Please note this is a private residence. Read the full story on the SA History Hub.
The Queen’s College Honour Board, containing the names of all three Smith boys, can today be found in Christ Church Hall in Palmer Place, North Adelaide. Keith and Ross are the 3rd and 4th names down in the last column. Colin Smith is in the centre column, which honours those who died on active service. After spending their early years on Mutooroo Station in the South Australian outback, the boys boarded at Queen’s College in the early 1900s. The school closed in 1949. To view a PDF with further details of the honour board, please click here.
This monument was erected by the Lions Club of Enfield and unveiled on 18 February 1966 at 200 Fosters Road, Gilles Plains to commemorate the Vimy’s final landing place in Australia. The plaque was relocated to Vickers Vimy Reserve in 2001. To read a PDF offering further information, please click here.