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British Industrial History

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Ross Smith

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

His father migrated to Western Australia from Scotland and became a pastoralist in South Australia. His mother was born in Western Australia, the daughter of a pioneer from Scotland. The boys boarded in Adelaide, at Queen's School and for two years, in Scotland.

He 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 and air ace with 11 confirmed aerial victories.

In 1919, he and brother Keith, Sergeant Jim Bennett and Sergeant Wally Shiers flew from Hounslow, 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. The four men shared the £10,000 prize money put forward by the Australian government.

Ross Smith was killed (along with Sergeant Bennett) while testing a Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft which crashed in Byfleet soon after taking off from Brooklands on 13 April 1922. The bodies were transported to Australia and Smith was given a state funeral and later buried on 15 June at the North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.

1922 "The accident to Ross Smith occurred on the 13th during his first trial flight in the Vickers amphibian machine on which he, Sir Keith Smith and Mr J. M. Bennett proposed to attempt a flight round the world. The machine had previously been satisfactorily flown for half an hour by the builder's test pilot. There can, we think, be no doubt that the spinning dive, in which it crashed to earth from a low height, was produced by the pilot's lack of familiarity with the control of aircraft og the flying boat type, combined with a want of recent flying practice generally. Sir Ross and Mr. Bennett, who accompanied him on the fatal flight, were both killed." from "Aeronautical Accidents" The Engineer 1922/05/05.

The great Australian cricketer Keith Ross Miller was named after Smith and his brother.

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