One of Australia’s most distinguished military aviators, Sir Ross Macpherson Smith, was honoured at a commemorative service held at St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, on June 15, marking the 100th anniversary of his funeral.
Having served in the Australian Imperial Force in Gallipoli and in the Battle of Romani, Sir Ross transferred to the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), serving with distinction as an observer and then a pilot with No. 1 Squadron in the Middle East.
Tragically, he died on April 13, 1922, alongside Jim Bennett while test flying an aircraft for the first aerial circumnavigation of the world.
Sir Ross’ funeral at St Peter’s Cathedral, held on June 15, 1922, brought Adelaide to a standstill, with 100,000 people lining the streets to pay their respects and mourn the fallen hero and aviator.
The commemorative service was co-hosted by the Air Force Association (South Australia) and RAAF Base Edinburgh.
In his keynote address, acting Senior Air Force Representative for South Australia, Group Captain Andrew Figtree, said Sir Ross served as a fine example for not only today’s aviators and the Australian Defence Force, but for the nation, inspiring endeavour, initiative and achievement.
Group Captain Greg Weller, who led the planning for the commemorative service, said Sir Ross was one of Australia’s most decorated and accomplished aviators, whose awards included the Military Cross and Bar, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Bars, and the Air Force Cross.
“He recorded 11 aerial victories in the Middle East where air combat was not as prolific as on the Western Front," Group Captain Weller said.
“Having flown with Lawrence of Arabia and completing an epic flight from Cairo to Calcutta, he turned his sights on flying from England to Australia in the 1919 Great Air Race.
“Teaming up with his brother Sir Keith Smith – a Royal Flying Corps veteran – and former AFC mechanics Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, [Sir Ross] led the daring aviators on the first-ever incredible, epic flight across the globe in the renowned Vickers Vimy G-EAOU over 28 days.
“It was a feat unparalleled at the time, equated to man landing on the moon and Columbus discovering the Americas.”