In the early years of manned flight, people around the world were infatuated with the booming aviation industry, and pilots were the ‘rock stars’ of the era. It is thus no surprise that there are numerous publications on the ground-breaking flights from the early 20th century. However, there are four stand-out publications on the 1919 Great Air Race.
Let’s look at these four tremendous publications:
Sir Ross Smith, 14 Thousand Miles Through the Air. 1922
This is Sir Ross Smith’s own account of his 28-day flight from London to Darwin. This book has been out for almost a century now, and it is still popular amongst aviation enthusiasts. Its preface outlines the 136-page account of the ‘Vimy’s’ flight: “My thanks are due to Captain Frank Hurley for his generous and energetic help in writing this book. When it was suggested to me that I should write an account of the ‘Vimy’s’ flight from England to Australia, I thought it a splendid idea and at once said I would. I have tried to tell the story just as I remembered it and in doing so my brother’s diary has been of the greatest assistance. A slightly shorter account of the flight first appeared in the “Washington National Geographic magazine (March 1921) and in “Australian Life”, and I am indebted to these publications for allowing me to reproduce it.”
Ross Smith, London, September 21.
Nelson Eustis. The Greatest Air Race.
This 252 page publication on the Great Air Race was published in 1969, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first flight from London to Darwin. Nelson Eustis’s passion for all things relating to the Great Air Race has its genesis in his life long hobby – aerophilately (collecting air mail carried by famous pilots). Eustis’s research into the 1919 Air Race is incredible, and his work displays his love of aviation. The Greatest Air Race is a delight to read from front cover to its final page.
Sir Archibald Grenfell-Price. The Skies Remember – The Story of Sir Ross and Keith Smith.
This book was written by Sir Archibald Grenfell-Price and was published in 1969 for the 50th anniversary of the Great Air Race. Grenfell-Price had the advantage of knowing the Smith brothers personally, as he was a long-standing family friend of the Smith family. The Skies Remember is a loving and historical account of the lives of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith. Its opening paragraphs provide an insight into Grenfell-Price’s loving perception of the Smith family: “Owing to the Smith’s intense dislike of publicity, the inside history of the brothers’ feats lay in the family papers for half a century until the last survivor, Lady Smith (Keith’s widow), placed the substantial collection of material under seal in the state and university libraries of South Australia, and asked me, as a schoolfellow and lifelong friend of the brothers, to publish the story for the 50th anniversary of the flight, which had he lived, Ross would no doubt have written from his own vigorous and colourful letters. Thus the chief credit of initiating this work goes to Lady Smith, whose loyal wishes I have tried to follow by giving, as Keith always insisted, the first place to Ross.”
Peter McMillan. The Greatest Flight – Reliving The Aerial Flight That Changed The World.
The foreword of Peter McMillan’s beautifully written book outlines what will follow in this mammoth 255-page odyssey: The seventy fifth re-enactment of Ross and Keith Smith’s pioneering flight from England to Australia is one of the most refreshing flying events of the twentieth-century, ranking with the original voyage. This exciting project, mammoth in its scope and so daring in its undertaking, was made possible by the vision of a few men of courage. These men not only recreated a flight, they also recreated the whole climate of adventure that characterised the early days of aviation! Peter McMillan and Lang Kidby piloted the aircraft and managed the entire project in all its financial, engineering, managerial and aerodynamic complexity. McMillan and Kidby prevailed over the multiplicity of obstacles in the path of the project, just as they overcame the engineering problems implicit in recreating an aircraft designed during World War I.