World War One was a long and tiresome war involving many campaigns, countries and lives. One such campaign took place on the Gallipoli peninsula. Turkey was required by international law to remain neutral but failed to block military shipping into the Dardenelles and allowed German ships to enter. Turkey had made their allegiance to Germany. At the time, two Australian brothers had no idea that they would be the first to carry airmail from England to Australia.
The Battle of Gallipoli was an important battle for Australia and New Zealand as those nations’ “Baptism of Fire” – the first war that they fought as independent countries and the first war where Australians fought as Australians. The Australian Imperial Force, which was initially one infantry division and one light horse brigade, was sent to assist in the Gallipoli Campaign. Later they were strengthened with a second division and a further three light horse brigades. The 3rd Light Horse Regiment landed on 13 May 1915. Within this regiment was a young Captain Ross Macpherson Smith who also volunteered for the Australian Flying Corps. A hero, who by the end of the First World War had earned the Military Cross twice and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times with eleven confirmed aerial victories.
At the end of the war this accomplished pilot entered a civilian world where long distance air travel and the thought of airmail in Australia was in its infancy. Together with his brother, Keith Smith, and two other pilots, he took on the challenge to fly from England to Australia within a period of thirty days. The four pilots flew from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, England to Darwin, Australia in a Vickers Vimy. Although the journey took twenty eight days the total flying time was only 135 hours. They were awarded £10,000 by the Australian government for completing the journey within thirty days.
A few months later on 26 February 1920 Keith Smith flew the first airmail in a Vickers Vimy from England to Australia. He wrote himself a letter and signed it. This was one of twenty-three covers out of 364 that were signed by the Pilot Keith Smith.
Filat AG currently has available an Australian aerophilately showpiece:
This 1933 handpainted envelope was flown on the Kingsford Smith England-Australia Record Flight and is addressed to artist “Ernest A Crome Esq, 32 Cavendish Street, Stanmore, NSW, Australia”. Only 6 such handpainted covers were included in the small mail of 20 covers carried.
Visit Filat AG for further Australasian airmail.