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  • Title
    [Bottle, containing a message which was dropped from the plane by Ross Smith and party on the first flight from England to Australia, and picked up by HMAS Sydney, 1919; with typescript statement by Capt. Cayley of HMAS Sydney, 1922]
  • Creator
  • Call number
    SAFE/R 109
  • Level of description
  • Date

    1919; 1922
  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Issue Copy
  • Physical Description
    Objects - 1 square-bodied glass bottle or jar, approx. 16.5 cm. high x 7.8 cm. wide x 7.8 cm. deep, with 7 cm. diameter round mouth - in string cradle tied to 2.5 cm. diameter metal ring ; Without lid or stopper
    Textual Records - 1 note handwritten in pencil - approx. 17.7 x 11.3 cm. - Paper bears fingerprints and soiling and three transverse creases where previously folded into quarters
    Textual Records - 1 typescript statement on Royal Australian Navy letterhead - 25.8 x 21.6 cm.

    The Commonwealth Government announced a prize of £10,000 for the first Australian to fly from England to Australia. Ross and Keith Smith, with mechanics Wally Shier and Jim Bennett, set out from Hounslow, near London, for Australia while flying a Vickers Vimy plane as part of the Great Air Race of 1919. Ross and Keith Smith, claimed the prize when they landed in Darwin, NT, after nearly 136 hours flying time over 28 days


    The bottle and message are accompanied by a typescript statement by the donor, Capt. H. Cayley, who was in command of HMAS Sydney when the vessel picked up the message 180 miles from Port Darwin. Capt. Cayley's statement records the time and position of the encounter, and refers to the prior arrangement to guide the aviators by steering for Port Darwin. When first sighted by the ship, the plane was on course and no correction was necessary. The statement is dated 24 May 1922. For information about Capt. H. Cayley (but which omits this episode), see Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1891-1939 (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1979).
    For information about Ross and Keith Smith and their mechanics on this flight, James Bennett and Walter Shiers, see individual entries in Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1891-1939 (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1979).
  • Scope and Content
    a. Glass bottle in string cradle
    b. Aviators' handwritten message
    c. Typescript statement by Capt. Cayley of HMAS Sydney
  • Access Conditions

    Access via appointment
  • General note

    Digital order no:Album ID : 823695
  • Signatures / Inscriptions

    "The Air / 10/12/19 / Vickers Vimy / The Commander, H.M.A.S. / Very glad to see you. / Many thanks for looking after / us. Going strong. / Keith Smith / Ross Smith / Sgt. J. Bennett / Sgt. W. H. Shiers" -- message dropped in bottle from Vickers Vimy; also transcribed in statement by Capt. H. Cayley accompanying his donation of these items in 1922
    Printed label on jar reads "Prepared by Escoffier Limited, 6 Ridgmount Street, London WC". Product name on label is partially torn off and is obscured by string cradle.
  • Creator/Author/Artist
  • Name
  • Subject
  • Topic
  • Exhibited in

    Australian icons: an exhibition of things that make us what we are - Greenway Gallery, Hyde Park Barracks (20 June - 23 August, 1992)
    Nelson Meers Foundation Heritage Collection - State Library of New South Wales (July-December 2008)
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