100 years of European air mail in Australia
Exactly 100 years ago, on 10 December 1919, the first air mail arrived in Australia from Europe. As the envelope in the photograph shows, the letters were addressed to the director of the Commonwealth War Museum (Australian War Memorial) on board the Vickers Vimy, with which the Australians Ross Macpherson Smith (1892-1922), his brother Keith (1890-1955) and two mechanics had taken off from Hounslow near London (UK) on 12 November.
The flight via Cairo (Egypt), Kolkata (India) and Singapore to Darwin in Australia was a competition between six people or teams, respectively. Two of the aircraft reached their destination and two planes suffered fatal crashes. Since they had taken fewer than 30 days for the 17,500 km long journey, the aviation pioneers received the prize of GDP 10,000 offered by the Australian government and were awarded the Order of the British Empire.
The commemorative label was attached to the mail after arrival in Melbourne. 576 labels were made, 150 were destroyed. 364 were attached to the air mail. Some of the unused 87 labels were presented to officials and the crew members of the aircraft. (ah)