6 December, 1919
Ross Smith and the Vimy crew had some “breathless moments” as they just cleared the rails on takeoff from the very short racecourse in Singapore. The 20th leg of the epic flight presented localised lightning storms and bumpy conditions on the nine-hour journey down to Sumatra and Java, with the men realising they’d passed the equator after “one immense vacuum into which we fell made us hold tight and wonder”.
The Dutch Flying School at Kalidjati sent out a escort of four machines to welcome the crew, but passed within 500 feet without seeing the Vimy.
“Kalidjati is one of the best aerodromes I have ever seen,” Ross later wrote in 14,000 Miles Through the Air. “It is a huge place nestling at the foot of the mountains and it is no wonder that the Dutch flying officers and their mechanics are a cheery lot in such ideal surroundings.
“We were treated with the greatest hospitality and kindness; nothing was too much trouble for our friends, and the Governor-General himself gave orders that we were to be the guests of his Government while passing through the Netherlands East Indies.
“After a well-enjoyed meal, we set to work on the machine. The petrol available was very heavy, and it took us six hours to filter 350 gallons through the chamois leather strainer into the tanks.”
The image top left shows the Vimy over Java and was first published in 14,000 Miles Through the Air.