Ross Macpherson Smith

Sir Ross Macpherson Smith, KBE, MC & Bar, DFC & Two Bars, AFC (4 December 1892 – 13 April 1922) was an Australian aviator. He and his brother, Sir Keith Macpherson Smith, were the first pilots to fly from England to Australia, in 1919.

Ross Macpherson Smith
Ross Macpherson Smith.jpeg
Born(1892-12-04)4 December 1892
Semaphore, South Australia
Died13 April 1922(1922-04-13) (aged 29)
Weybridge, England
Cause of deathAviation accident
Known forFlying ace, pioneering aviator
RelativesSir Keith Macpherson Smith (brother)
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross & Bar
Distinguished Flying Cross & Two Bars
Air Force Cross
Aviation career
Famous flightsPioneer flight from Cairo to Calcutta
Pioneer flight from England to Australia
Air forceAustralian Flying Corps
BattlesFirst World War

Early lifeEdit

Smith's father migrated to Western Australia from Scotland and became a pastoralist in South Australia. His mother was born near New Norcia, Western Australia, the daughter of a pioneer from Scotland. The boys boarded at Queen's School, North Adelaide, and for two years at Warriston School in Scotland.[1][2]

Military serviceEdit

Capt. Ross Smith (left) and observer with their Bristol F.2B Fighter, in Palestine, February 1918.

Smith enlisted in 1914 in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, landing at Gallipoli 13 May 1915. In 1917, he volunteered for the Australian Flying Corps. He was later twice awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times, becoming an air ace with 11 confirmed aerial victories.[1][2]

Smith was pilot for T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and fought in aerial combat missions in the Middle East. He is mentioned several times in Lawrence's book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Chapter 114.

The Great Air RaceEdit

In 1919 the Australian government offered a prize of £A10,000 for the first Australians in a British aircraft to fly from Great Britain to Australia. Smith and his brother Keith, Sergeant James Mallett (Jim) Bennett and Sergeant Wally Shiers, flew from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, England on 12 November 1919 in a Vickers Vimy, eventually landing in Darwin Australia on 10 December, taking less than 28 days, with actual flying time of 135 hours.[3] The four men shared the £10,000 prize money put forward by the Australian government.[1][2]

Later lifeEdit

Smith was killed (along with the recently commissioned Lieutenant Bennett) while testing a Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft which crashed in Byfleet soon after taking off from Brooklands on 13 April 1922. The same aircraft type had also killed John Alcock, another WW1 veteran and pioneering long-distance aviator. Captain Stanley Cockerell, test pilot for Vickers, had flown Smith and Bennett as passengers on the aircraft's maiden flight earlier that day and testified to the inquest that the machine seemed to be in perfect working order. The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.[4] The bodies were transported to Australia and Smith was given a state funeral and later buried on 14 June at the North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.[1][2]


Sir Ross Smith memorial statue in Creswell Gardens, Adelaide

The Australian cricketer Keith Ross Miller (born 28 November 1919) was named after Smith and his brother.

Ross Smith Avenue in the Darwin suburb of Parap is on the alignment of the airstrip that completed the journey from England to Australia. Their aircraft is preserved at Adelaide Airport. There is a statue of him near Adelaide Oval.


  1. ^ a b c d John McCarthy. "Smith, Sir Ross Macpherson (1892–1922)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988.
  2. ^ a b c d John McCarthy. "Sir Ross Macpherson SMITH KBE MC & bar DFC & 2 bars AFC". Digger History.
  3. ^ "The Great Air Race". Library & Archives NT.
  4. ^ "Sir Ross Smith's Death: No Failure of the Machine", The Times, 17 April 1922

External linksEdit