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Day 11: 23 December: Longreach to Charleville: (530 km)

Takeoff was recorded as 7 05 am, and the flight duration was 3 hours 40 minutes. En route, the Vimy flew over Barcaldine. Mr Cotton, Vacuum oil representative at Barcaldine, had driven quickly to Longreach to greet the arriving aeroplane and arranged for messages to be dropped from the Vimy as it flew over Barcaldine. The local newspaper received a letter of Christmas good wishes and another card was signed by the entire crew. Individual messages were also carried.

Barcaldine decked itself out in decorative flags. Keeping posted by telegraph, the arrival of the plane was announced by two blasts from the whistle of the power house.

The population gathered to watch the aeroplane as it ‘sailed majestically over the town at a slow speed. People waved handkerchiefs and the youngsters hurrahed. Near the woolscour a packet tied to a piece of lead piping and decorated with long coloured silk streamers, had been dropped and thus was delivered the first aerial mail in Barcaldine. … ‘At the woolscour the plane took a turn and shot away south as if it were projected from ‘Big Bertha’, and in a few seconds was lost to view’.

Arrival at Longreach, at 11 30 am, was the usual sensation, with everyone attending. The aviators had decided to take an extra rest day here.

According to the Darling Downs Gazette, on Wednesday 24 December the aviators attended two functions.

‘At the School of Arts last night a public banquet was held. All the notables of the district were present’.

The Mayor, Alderman A J Carter, congratulated the Smiths on the recent announcement that they had been awarded knighthoods, and spoke of their great achievement. Ross Smith spoke for nearly an hour, retelling the story of his flight to a very enthusiastic audience. They intended to leave the following day, Christmas Day, for Sydney via Bourke. The Charleville Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council, the Murweh Shire Council, and the Soldiers League, also the local bankers, gave Sir Ross Smith and his party a special dinner at the Hotel Charleville. Ross suitably responded to the speeches of the dignitaries at this function.

On 25 December they took off early: the exact time was not recorded, but they were watched by a large crowd. There is a description of the take-off here.

Soon after taking off at Charleville they had major engine failure, which is completely omitted from Ross Smith’s book.

Wally Shiers’ description is quoted in Grenfell Price’s book The Skies Remember. 'After spending two days at Charleville we decided to move on, so we went out early in the morning, … found the petrol was O.K., oil and everything, the maggies were all right, everything was going good … We took off. We were in the air about 3,000 feet, and Ross was just giving us the signal that he was heading for home. The next thing was a terrific bang, and a flash of fire came out past Benny and me, and we wondered, and thought we were gone. Next thing we saw Ross juggling with the throttles. He switched off the port engine and down she went into the deck, and there we landed just outside Charleville’.

Wally suggested that the makeshift propeller may have affected he engine balance. A connecting rod had completely broken, and fractured the sump, causing the flash of fire.

The website Monuments Australia shows this picture of a monument marking the landing spot. It is about 25k north west of Charleville. This needs more investigation.

 

Ross and Keith Smith

Address: Adavale Road, 19 kilometres north, Charleville, 4470
State: QLD
Area: AUS
GPS Coordinates: Lat: -26.327222
Long: 146.0975