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Day 102: 23 March: Melbourne to Adelaide: (690 km)

The aircraft took off from Point Cook at 7 am, with an early escort of Point Cook machines. The whole event was described in glowing tones in a full front-page of the Melbourne Herald. As well as the usual paraphernalia such as the Kewpie doll mascot and the various letters from dignitaries, they carried pigeons, to be set free over Ballarat to bring back news to the Herald. Basically, the flight  of 430 miles, 700 km, was as planned.

The aircraft followed the railway lines, taking it over many townships, all of which came to a standstill to watch the aircraft fly into history. It was the first to fly direct from Melbourne to Adelaide. At 2 30 pm exactly it landed at Northfield, where a crowd of over 20,000 cheering spectators welcomed the airmen.

A brief extract from the Adelaide Register report gives a flavour of the reception:

The City's Greeting.— Flags flew joyously in the pleasant breeze …Business was practically at a standstill, and never were the proprietors more indifferent. For the half-hour prior to the arrival the city was practically deaf to everything but that which concerned the coming aeroplane. … Minute followed minute, almost breathlessly, as the hour of 2 approached, and it was known that much time had been 'made' 'by the powerful machine.

Suddenly, when tension was at straining point, the Town Hall bells rang out blithely, factory whistles joined in a medley of joyful greetings, people cheered and shouted with one thought in common. The great moment had arrived. The heroes were here.

The Arrival.— Sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish, a vapour, sometime like a bear, or lion, a tower'd citadel, a pendant rock. All of these illusions might have fitted the hazy speck which suddenly rewarded many minutes of anxious scrutiny, and was greeted with a chorus of varied greetings from street and air, for the various buildings were 'decorated' with crowds of people, who resembled ants when viewed from the ground.

The aerial 'ant' gradually assumed form as field glasses anticipated the arrival. [From Glenelg airfield Captain Moore … with Brigadier-General Antill (State Commandant) on board, [in a DH-6]  and Lieut. Miller,[in a Sopwith] … formed a winged guard of honour to escort the famous visitor with its 'home-comers' on board. …. Suddenly, at 1.35, guns boomed out successively, whistles screamed their exultant notes, the bells at the Town Hall rang happily, and the last link on the British-Australian journey had been forged.

Out of the white misty line formed by the sentinel clouds on Mount Lofty and the adjacent peaks, the monster gradually emerged from nebulous form in the gully to the left of Mount Lofty, and assumed the graceful aspect of a soaring bird.

The town clock boomed out the chimes of the last quarter before 2, and Sir Ross Smith and party were then well in sight. Without haste, the Vickers-Vimy performed a manoeuvre which brought it, escorted on either side by the local 'planes, in the form of a huge V, over the city at 1.33 p.m.

Captain Butler's absence caused various conjectures, but he arrived in time for the landing, and 'looped the loop' in celebration of it. It transpired that he had travelled to the Murray to meet the party, and had missed his bearings in the clouds. …

—The Final Lap.— The opalescent colours of the sky formed a lovely 'background' for the travelling aeroplane, with its brown-and-gold shades. As it turned gracefully about, emitting a humming sound, it resembled a giant wasp. … The aeroplane also 'visited' the emporium of Messrs G P Harris, Scarfe & Co. [Ross had worked there before he joined the armed services].

—At the Aerodrome.— As soon as the giant machine touched earth the crowd, which numbered more than 20,000, broke through the cordons of police and soldiers and rushed pellmell towards the aviators. They cheered and shouted until they were hoarse. Never has anything more impressive or exciting been witnessed in Adelaide. Hundreds of people exposed themselves to danger in their attempt to pay homage to the gallant crew.

 For some time after the 'plane had come to a standstill Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith refused to leave their seats. They explained that they feared the crowd might do damage to their machine. Time and again efforts were made to push the people back, but every endeavour failed. At last at the special request of the Premier the two Knights alighted. Once more the cheering became tremendous.

The brothers were seized by soldiers and carried shoulder high through the still shouting multitude. The two mechanics remained in charge of the machine.

(Photograph from the SA History Hub website. For full information on the Smiths' activities in their home town, see