Race that changed the world

The pilot and crew that successfully flew from London to Darwin to win the Great Air Race in 1919 now feature in a large-scale street art mural in the Territory’s capital, as part of a new program of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ‘race that changed the world’.

The striking artwork is painted by Darwin Artists Jesse Bell(l) and David Collins(r).

On 19 March, 1919, the Commonwealth Government announced that they would offer a prize of £10,000 - nearly one million dollars in today’s money – for the first successful journey by an Australian-crewed aeroplane from London to Darwin in under 30 days. The event came to be known as the Great Air Race.

The winning Vickers Vimy aircraft touched down in Darwin on 10 December, 1919, crewed by Captain Ross Smith (Pilot), Lieutenant Keith Smith (Co-Pilot Navigator) and Sergeants Wally Shiers and James Bennett (Mechanics).

The race was the first major ‘good news story’ post WWI. With aviation in its infancy in 1919, the Race made headlines not only in Australia but around the globe.

The flight that took 28 days in 1919 takes around 20 hours today.

The brand new mural located on the corner of Bennett Street and Cavenagh Street features the winning team of Sergeant James Bennett, Captain Ross Smith, Sergeant Wally Shiers and Lieutenant Keith Smith.

Also illustrated in the mural is the famous Vickers Vimy biplane and a map of their journey from London to Darwin 100 years ago.

Events commemorating this amazing achievement will take place from September through to 10th December 2019, when the Vickers Vimy landed in Darwin. Full program details will be announced soon.

Jesse Bell and David Collins