Inside Ross Smith’s Diary and the National Geographic Magazine

We take a look at the National Geographic Magazine's edition on Sir Ross Smith!

Date Published January 11, 2019
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15 months after Ross Smith’s England to Australia flight, the National Geographic Magazine devoted an entire issue to Ross Smith’s heroic accomplishment!

The National Geographic Magazine’s March 1921 issue was 109 pages long and focused solely on Sir Ross Smith’s experiences during the 1919 Great Air Race. The issue discussed Ross Smith’s experiences in great detail, from pre-race to post-race! This wonderful issue was titled “A Personal Narrative of the First Aerial Voyage Half Around the World – from London to Australia by Aeroplane”. The edition consisted of 80 plus pages of text written by Ross Smith and 36 photos that he had taken en-route, both from air and from the ground of all 21 stops!

From the moment that Ross Smith’s Vickers “Vimy” had lifted off from London, he was writing every detail of the experience in his diary. It was this impressive diary that the National Geographic Magazine utilised for the article. Today, the diary is held at the State Library of South Australia.

It’s safe to say that The National Geographic Magazine’s March 1921 edition has become a valuable collectors’ item; few are known to exist today!

National Geographic Magazine
Front page of The National Geographic Magazine’s Ross Smith edition

Read below for some of the best excerpts from the issue!

“…Our heart pangs were mitigated when I learned that the Australian Commonwealth Government had offered a prize of 10,000 pounds for the first machine to fly from London to Australia in 30 days: and it stimulated in me a keenness, more than ever, to attempt the flight”.

“Once Vickers had decided to give us their “Vimy” machine for the great adventure. They threw themselves whole-heartedly into the project and practically gave me a free hand to make whatever arrangements I deemed essential”.

“After landing at Piza we were all very tired and turned into bed very early but very happy. On opening my personal kit that night, I found it, too, had suffered the rigors of the sky journey. It was still frozen stiff- my solitary tooth-brush!”.

“When we landed at the Ramadie Battlefield strip, we were delighted to learn there was a small supply of aviation petrol there for us. An Indian guard was then mounted over the machine and the “Vimy” was securely lashed down for the night”.

“There was great excitement at the Allahabad Aerodrome next morning. While we were taxi-ing to the far end, prior to taking off, a fine bull broke onto the ground, and as we swung around to take-off, he charged ahead toward the machine. The position, though ridiculous, was extremely hazardous. No doubt, to quote the celebrated railway engineer, it would have been extremely bad for the “Vimy”. I frightened him for the moment by a roar from the engines. Evidently he took the roar for a challenge, and stood in front of the “Vimy”, pawing the ground and bellowing defiantly. At this point a boy scout rushed out from the crowd to move the monster, and, much to the amusement of ourselves, and the big crowd, the bull changed his intention and turned on our boy scout hero! Our brave toreador then retreated to the fence, pursued in haste by the bull. What fun!”

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