In 2019, South Australia is celebrating the Centenary of the Epic Flight; the record breaking flight from England to Australia undertaken by Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith. Under the auspice of the History Trust of South Australia, and in collaboration with various Government, Defence, business and community stakeholders, events and activities are being held throughout 2019 to celebrate the extraordinary achievement and inspire South Australians to strive for new horizons.
As a keynote event of the Epic Flight Centenary, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the RAAF Association partnered with the History Trust of South Australia to hold a commemoration service in recognition of the 97th Anniversary of the funeral and burial of Sir Ross Macpherson Smith at St Peters Cathedral, North Adelaide, on 15 June.
Sir Ross Smith, a South Australian born at Semaphore in 1892, was one of the most highly decorated airmen of the Australian Flying Corps, earning a Military Cross twice, the Distinguished Flying Cross three times, and the Air Force Cross. He was one of Australia’s leading air aces of World War I, credited with 11 destroyed aircraft while serving with No. 1 Squadron in the Middle East from 1917-1918.
Sir Ross Macpherson Smith and his brother, Sir Keith Macpherson Smith, were knighted for their epic endurance flight in a Vickers Vimy aircraft from Britain to Australia in 1919; one of the most incredible feats achieved in the history of aviation. On 14 April 1922, Sir Ross Smith was tragically killed in England in front of his brother while testing an aircraft for an around-the-world endurance flight. His body was returned to Adelaide where it lay in state at St Peters Cathedral, Adelaide, and was later buried at North Road Cemetery on 15 June 1922 with full military honours. 100,000 South Australians lined the streets to farewell their local aviation hero.
His Excellency, The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor SA and Honourary Air Commodore, and Air Commodore Phil Gordon, Commander Air Warfare Centre (RAAF Base Edinburgh) and Senior Air Force Representative SA, laid wreaths during the commemoration service. Air Commodore Gordon also delivered an Address commemorating Sir Ross Smith, his incredible achievements and contributions to aviation. The Archbishop of Adelaide, South Australian Government and Defence dignitaries, Australian Defence Force members and other official guests also attended the service. The Service was a key note event of the Epic Flight Centenary celebrations in South Australia in 2019.