James Mallett BENNETT AFM and Bar, MSM, MID

BENNETT, James Mallett

Service Number: 275
Enlisted: 14 July 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Warrant Officer Class 1
Last Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
Born: St Kilda, Victoria, Australia, 14 January 1894
Home Town: St Kilda, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Aviator, Soldier, Motor mechanic
Died: Aircraft Accident, Weybridge, England , 13 April 1922, aged 28 years
Cemetery: St Kilda Cemetery, Victoria
Memorials: West Beach The Vickers Vimy Collection
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World War 1 Service

14 Jul 1915: Enlisted Australian Flying Corps, Melbourne, Victoria
16 Mar 1916: Involvement Australian Flying Corps, Warrant Officer Class 1, SN 275, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
16 Mar 1916: Embarked Australian Flying Corps, Warrant Officer Class 1, SN 275, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, HMAT Orsova, Melbourne
24 Apr 1920: Discharged Australian Flying Corps, Warrant Officer Class 1

St Kilda Stops for one of its sons

Football being brought to a halt mid-quarter is unusual, and with a couple of exceptions like lights going out, sprinklers coming on or perhaps even "Plugger's Pig", the interruptions have usually been predictable and linked to Someone Or Other booting his 100th goal for the season. But for a funeral ... ???

It was expected by many, but some of spectators at the St. Kilda and Essendon match on June 17, 1922 at the Junction Oval got a surprise late in the third quarter when a lone bugler in military uniform strode onto the ground just after a goal had been kicked by the Saint's Cyril Gambetta.

Outside the ground, the State Funeral procession of Lieutenant James Mallett Bennett had come to rest on its way to St. Kilda Cemetery from Parliament House.

Players running back to their positions stopped as the somber notes of The Dead March drifted across the oval from the R.A.A.F. Band accompanying the procession, and the crowd of over 20,000 stood bare-headed as the bugler sounded the plaintive notes of the Last Post.

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The First Airmail to Australia - onboard the VIMY 26/2/1920

A Postage STAMP was ordered by the Prime Minister's Department (by no less than PM 'Billy' Hughes!) via Treasury, and printed by the Note Printing Branch on watermarked paper - the same wide crown watermark as we find on 1914 KGV heads or 'Second' watermark Kangaroos.

The records show that the "On Active Service" mail written Jan 10 and 11 1919, was collected from the AIF 1st Australian Wireless Squadron ex Baghdad around that date and this "OAS" tropp mail was handed to Brigadier General MacEwen.

MacEwen handed this mail to Ross Smith in Simla India, knowing he planned a flight to Australia. Smith carried it on the historic flight ex London in November 1919.

Trooper Sainsbury was in fact de-mobbed from the Army, and safely back in Australia for SIX MONTHS, before his letter arrived in Darwin in 1919! Some EIGHTEEN months after he wrote it.

It took near 3 more months for his letter to arrive in Melbourne, where the "26 February, 1920" date-stamps were all applied to the hastily affixed Vignette "stamps" and all delivered under separate cover.

My cover is signed on back by the Engineer “James Bennett, Darwin 12/12/1919”. AAMC says 29 are recorded in total signed by Jim Bennett. It is also “O.A.S.” (On Active Service) ex Baghdad, that AAMC says only 26 covers are recorded with.

How many are from Mesopotamia AND also signed by Bennett - they will be VERY few!

It is from Lance Corporal Rupert Sainsbury. He was in "Baghdad" from 18-9-1918,and "Basrah" returning to Bombay on 5/3/1919, then shipped to Sydney.

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan. 26 September 2014. Lest we forget.

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Personal Story & the ENGLAND to AUSTRALIA AIR RACE in the Vickers Vimy IV G-EAOU (God 'elp All Of Us)

(A compilation by Julianne T Ryan, John McCarthy and the Australian Flying Corps)

After the Armistice England became enamoured with the idea of planes flying across the Atlantic to North America.

In 1919 the Australian Government in an attempt to raise enthusiasm for opening up air lanes to the Antipodes decided to put up prize money of 10,000 pounds for the first successful flight from England to Australia by an Australian Airmen. The prize money was constrained by the requirement for the flight to start in Great Britain and end in Australia within 720 consecutive hours [30 days], the offer would remain open until the 31 of December 1920, the aircraft and all components having been constructed within the British Empire, the pilots and crew must be of Australian nationality, the entries must be submitted through the Royal Aero Club in London, one machine only is to be used through the flight, the starting place is to be Hounslow aerodrome or Calshot seaplane station in England, the final landing place is to be in the area of Port Darwin.

A total of six entries started in the race, plus Frenchman Etiennne Poulet who departed from Paris for Australia ahead of the pack but had to withdraw from his attempt to fly to Australia at Moulmein, Burma.

The first Australian entry to depart was the Vickers Vimy G-EAOU under the command of Captain Ross Smith and his crew, the navigator (his brother) Keith Smith, Sergeant J.M. Bennett and Sergeant W.H. Shiers in the Vickers Vimy G-EAOS. Keith Smith was a veteran of the Royal Air Force, the two mechanics and riggers (Jim M Bennett and Sergeant Wally H Shiers) for the trip were both veterans of 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps campaign through Syria and Palestine. The Vimy was capable of carrying 865 gallons of petrol and was capable of a cruising range of 2,400 miles. Smith had previously reconnoitred by sea for possible landing places and fuel supplies points through the East Indies for the planned trip, returning to England in September with the route in mind and a spiel for the Vickers aircraft manufacturer.

The last to depart was the only other entry to actually make it to Australia - Airco DH9 G-EAQM P.D. under the command of Lieutenant Ray Parer. Parer and his co-pilot Lieutenant John McIntosh departed London on 8 January 1920 and completed their flight in an epic 206 days later, earning Parer the sobriquet "Battling Ray Parer".

The Vimy and crew left Hounslow, England on 12 November 1919, between bursts of freezing bad weather. Leaving the aerodrome at 8.00 AM and flying in the bitter cold of the Northern Hemisphere. The flight across Europe to Taranto in Italy taking five days through rain, frost, snow and constant heavy cloud. The Crew avoided Rome due to bad weather and travelled to Crete, staying at Suda Bay before arriving at Cairo at 1 Squadrons old stamping ground of Heliopolis. Smith wrote;

"On November 19th we left Cairo for Damascus. Our route lay over the old battlefields, Romani, El Arish, Gaza and Nazareth. It revived many memories for me, for this land over which we were passing was the arena of my war service."

Flying conditions were very poor and most hazardous until they reached Basra on 22 November 1919.

As the Vimy and crew flew over Mesopotamia they finally hit good weather and continued on to Delhi, spending twenty six hours out of fifty four in the air before flying onto Calcutta and then to Rangoon.

From Basra to Delhi, a distance of 1600 miles (2575 km), they spent 25½ hours in the air out of 54.

A poor landing-area at Singora and torrential rain almost brought disaster on 3 December.

The Vimy now on the end leg of its journey travelled through Siam [modern day Thailand] and the Dutch East Indies [modern day Indonesia]. The aircraft and crew landed at a specially constructed landing ground at Kalidjati where the East Indian Governor learning of the Australian Air Challenge had aerodromes constructed at different points in the island chain.

The crew landed the aircraft at Sourabaya where the aerodrome had no surface but soft reclaimed land. Ross Smith wrote;

"The thirty days of the competition were now closing in, and anxieties increased. We extracted the machine with the greatest difficulty, and at one time I feared it would be impossible ever to start off from that aerodrome again. I had a roadway of bamboo mats laid down, 350 yards long and 40 yards wide. The machine was hauled from the bog by a swarm of natives to this improvised pathway. We made a perilous take-off, with bamboo flying in all directions from our propellers."

December 1920 - Had a brief ‘emergency’ stop in Charleville (north Queesland).
Harry Corones 1883-1972
Recognition of his business acumen and his popularity came first in 1916 when he was invited to serve on the Charleville Hospital Board. Then in 1919 he was a member of the original committee of the Ambulance Centre and some time after that he was invited to serve on the Fire Brigade Board. He gave himself wholeheartedly to these activities, yet still he wanted to do more to help end the town’s isolation.
His inspiration for this came in 1919 when, on a flight from England to Australia, Sir Keith and Sir Ross Smith made a landing at Charleville for fuel and urgently needed repairs.
Harry entertained the two aviators as his guests (naturally) while repairs were carried out on the plane and it was refuelled from four-gallon petrol tins. Overwhelmed by the hospitality they received for three months and the splendid farewell dinner which Harry provided, the two aviators offered to take Jim up in their plane. Though very nervous, Jim went for a flight over Charleville and the surrounding countryside, seeing the vastness of his new homeland from the air for the first time, and being the envy of many other young men in the town!
The spectacle of a plane landing at Charleville fired Harry’s imagination as a way to end Charleville’s remoteness, and he became passionately interested in the fledgeling aviation industry in Australia.

The Crew passed over the HMAS Sydney in the Torres Strait where Smith had asked it to be in case they hit difficulties, before landing in Darwin on 10 December 1919, after travelling 11,240 miles in 28 days. Smith wrote;

"The land speedily assumed more definite contours; and details became manifest. Darwin came into view. In a few minutes we were circling above the town. Then down, down, in a steep descending spiral - and we had touched Australian soil."

By 9 December, however, they were at Timor, only 350 miles (563 km) from Darwin.

The crossing was made next day and at 3.50pm on 10 December they landed in Darwin.

The distance covered in this epic flight was 11,340 miles (18,250 km).

It took just under 27 days 20 hours with an actual flying time of 135 hours at an average speed of 85 mph (137 km ph).

Both Ross and Keith were immediately knighted; Sergeants Wally H Shiers and Jim M Bennett, the mechanics, were commissioned and awarded Bars to their Air Force Medals, and the £10,000 prize money was divided into four equal shares.

Interestingly a Frenchman, Lieutenant Poulet had left France before the Vickers Vimy of Smith but had been overtaken by the Vimy enroute. The Caudron aircraft Poulet was flying was under-powered for the task and Poulet abandoned his flight at Rangoon. When the Smith brothers with Bennett and Shiers landed in Port Darwin, two of the onlookers to greet the crew were Hudson Fysh and "Ginty" McGuiness, both former squadron members with Smith. Seeing the Vimy land convinced Fysh and McGinness there was future in commercial civil aviation, the pair would soon after start the Queensland And Northern Territory Aviation Service, or better known by its modern name, QANTAS.

As a result of the 1919 Air Race knowledgeable people speculated that, with relays of crews and machines, the trip from England to Australia could be reduced to five days. However, it would be another quarter century before such a service would be available to the public.

After arriving in Australia in 1919, the Smiths, Bennett and Shiers flew Vickers Vimy IV G-EAOU (God 'elp All Of Us) to Point Cook, Victoria.

Ross Smith visited Katoomba in 1920 and was afforded a civic welcome in front of a large crowd at the top of Katoomba Street, near the site of the present roundabout and former railway crossing.
On 19 March 1920 it was formally handed over from Vickers to Billy Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, on behalf of the Commonwealth. The handover caused something of an outcry, Hughes apparently being the only member of the Government who was aware of the arrangement!

The Prime Minister immediately gave the crew permission to fly the aircraft to their home town of Adelaide, and they duly departed on 23 March, arriving at 1.55 pm into Northfield - to great excitement and a cheering crowd of 20,000.

In 1921 the aircraft was entered on the RAAF Register as A5-1 (the only Vimy to officially serve with the RAAF).
The next proposal, to fly round the world in a Vickers Viking amphibian, ended in disaster.

Both brothers travelled to England to prepare for the trip and on 13 April 1922, while Ross and his long-serving crew member Bennett were test-flying the aircraft at Weybridge near London, it spun into the ground from 1000 feet (305 m), killing both.

Keith, who arrived late for the test flight witnessed the accident, he cradled his dead brother in his arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
Ross had not flown at all for many months and had never flown this type of aircraft. The investigating committee concluded that the accident had been the result of pilot error. The flight was abandoned.

Keith, after corresponding with his and Jim Bennett’s parents, had the bodies embalmed and accompanied them back to Australia where they were honoured with a State Funeral. Ross was buried at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide, SA.

The bodies of Sir Ross Smith and Lieutenant Bennett were brought home to Australia and after a state funeral Sir Ross Smith was buried in the North Road Anglican Cemetery, Adelaide on 15 June 1922.


Football being brought to a halt mid-quarter is unusual, and with a couple of exceptions like lights going out, sprinklers coming on or perhaps even "Plugger's Pig", the interruptions have usually been predictable and linked to Someone Or Other booting his 100th goal for the season. But for a funeral ... ???

It was expected by many, but some of spectators at the St. Kilda and Essendon match on June 17, 1922 at the Junction Oval got a surprise late in the third quarter when a lone bugler in military uniform strode onto the ground just after a goal had been kicked by the Saint's Cyril Gambetta.

Outside the ground, the State Funeral procession of Lieutenant James Mallett Bennett had come to rest on its way to St. Kilda Cemetery from Parliament House.

Players running back to their positions stopped as the somber notes of The Dead March drifted across the oval from the R.A.A.F. Band accompanying the procession, and the crowd of over 20,000 stood bare-headed as the bugler sounded the plaintive notes of the Last Post.

The aircraft was never flown and it was successively stored, then exhibited by the Australian War Memorial until 1957.

The bodies of Sir Ross Smith and Lieutenant Bennett were brought home to Australia and after a state funeral Sir Ross Smith was buried in the North Road Anglican Cemetery, Adelaide on 15 June 1920.

Sir Keith Smith was appointed Australian agent for Vickers and retained the connexion with this British company until his death. Between the wars, however, Vickers took little interest in the small Australian market and despite Smith's efforts, there was no sale of aircraft until the arrival of the Viscount in 1954. One promising venture strongly supported by Smith in the early 1920s was to employ Vickers-built airships on Imperial air routes. A British airship had successfully crossed the Atlantic in July 1919, but projects failed to materialize. The British government changed and so did policy while the airship itself which had crossed the Atlantic, the R34, was destroyed in a sudden and violent storm.

Keith remained, however, possibly the leading Australian spokesman on aviation matters and travelled extensively on Vickers' behalf. He held firmly to the view that Imperial co-operation was vital in aviation and looked for complete standardisation of British and Australian equipment. Superior American aircraft and British indifference were to defeat this aspiration.

He was to become, however, vice-president of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, a director of Qantas and Tasman Airways and by the end of his career was in control of the many Australian-based Vickers companies.

In World War II he was vice-chairman of the Royal Australian Air Force Recruiting Drive Committee and strongly supported the idea of an Empire air force.

In 1924 Keith married Anita Crawford of Adelaide who survived him when he died of cancer in Sydney on 19 December 1955. He had no children. He left an estate valued in two States at £33,723. Included in his will was a bequest of £100 to Wally H. Shiers, the sole remaining crew member of the England-Australia flight.

Sir Keith Smith was buried near his brother, father and mother in the North Road Anglican cemetery, Adelaide.

In 1986 Lady (Anita) Smith, widow of Sir Keith Smith, bequeathed her entire estate to the establishment of the Sir Ross & Sir Keith Smith Fund and directed that the income of the Fund be applied in perpetuity for "advancement in the State of South Australia of the science of aeronautics and of education therein".

Lady Smith recognised the need to stimulate local knowledge and innovation in aerospace technology. Her vision encompassed "each and every aspect of all means of human conveyance or transportation through the air and inner and outer space". (see website attached).

More recently a replica Vickers Vimy built in Queensland, Australia retraced the England to Australia route flown by Smith and his crew. The same Vimy is currently been repainted to represent the Vimy flown by Alcock and Brown which crossed the Atlantic.

With the opening of the new Adelaide/West Beach Airport in 1954, the opportunity arose to create a fitting permanent home for G-EAOU. Although the aircraft was partially burnt during transfer, and had to be rebuilt, in 1958 it was installed in a purpose-built, fully enclosed shelter located adjacent to the airport passenger terminal. The shelter also includes a statue depicting the aircraft's crew.

In 2009 exterior shelter screens had been erected around the glass front and sides of the shelter to prevent the aircraft being damaged by exposure to sunlight. The original Terminal closed in February 2006, replaced by a new Terminal some distance away, and the Vimy shelter is now something of an orphan. Nevertheless, the Vimy G-EAOU remains perhaps the most historically significant aircraft in Australia today.

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan. 26 September 2014. Lest we forget.

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Biography

James Mallett Bennett (1894-1922)

A detailed description of the men the air race and subsequent events is contained in a resource provided by the South Australian Aviation Museum Incorporated, authored by Michael Milln, located HERE (rslvwm.s3.amazonaws.com)

 

James Mallett Bennett was born in St. Kilda and lived with his parents James and Henrietta at ‘Argyle’, 21 Punt Road when he enlisted in the Australian Flying Corps on 14 June, 1915 at 21 years and seven months of age.

He served with the Corps in Palestine for the duration of the War and then transferred to the R.A.F., initially in India, but then on reconnaissance operations in Burma, the Malay State, Dutch East Indies and British North Borneo, even spending a month on duty in Afghanistan servicing Bristol fighters before returning to England in mid-September.

12 November 1919 with Captain Ross Smith, Lieutenant Keith Smith and fellow mechanic Wally H Shiers entered the "England to Australia Race”.

The epic flight left Hounstow, England on 12 November, and after an incident-packed adventure over largely uncharted territory (including a forced landing in the middle of a racecourse in Malaya while a meeting was in progress), arrived in Darwin at 3.50pm on 10 December after a flight of 27 days 20 hours. (Bennett and Sheirs were the only two of some 330,000 Australians that enlisted to return by means other than sea).

He entered the Flying Corps as a Private on enlistment, was promoted to Second Corporal, 1 March, 1916; to Corporal, 24 August, 1916, and to Sergeant, 1 March, 1918 and finally Sergeant/Mechanic, 13 December, 1918.  

Bennett was later promoted to Warrant Officer, First Class (19 March, 1920 and backdated to 10 December, 1919), and then Honorary Lieutenant (1 September, 1920) following the epic flight to Australia.  The Smith brothers were knighted nine days after their landing.

While on service. Bennett was Mentioned in Despatches on 7 November 1918 (the recommendation from no less than General Allenby, the Australian commander in the Middle East), awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on 6 October, 1919, and the Air Force Medal, again on 6 October,  He was awarded a Bar to his Air Force Medal on 15 April 1920 following the historic flight.

Back in civilian life, Bennett opened a motor garage at 663 St. Kilda Road, two doors north of the Junction and almost adjacent to the St. Kilda ground (from the mid-1970s, the site had been Cadbury-Schweppes House).

However that was not to last without interruption. Sir Ross Smith had raised the idea of another record attempt - circum-navigation of the  globe, while they were undertaking the London to Australia flight.  So in late 1921 he was looking to round up 'the old team' toundertake the flight in a Vickers Viking amphibian (flying boat) aircraft.  Less dependant on airfields than a conventional aircraft, the amphibian chosen was a Vickers design, but much smaller than the Vimy.

In 1922, three of the 'old team' returned to England and was preparing to attempt another record, this time in a flying boat.  Their chosen aircraft was a Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft.  With Keith Smith late for their first flight Ross Smith and Bennett took off for their first flight.  Smith had not flown for some time and they were not familiar with the new aircraft.  It was seen to get into a spin from about 2,000 feet, recovered then spun again and crashed.

Keith Smith, who had arrived just after takeoff, witnessed the death of his brother, who was not yet 30. He was first to the accident scene and cradled his dead brother in his arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

Keith, after corresponding with his and Jim Bennett’s parents, had the bodies embalmed and accompanied them back to Australia where they were honoured with a State Funeral.

Ross Smith was buried with full military honours at a state funeral at St Paul's Cathedral, befitting his status as a "national hero" and was buried at the North Road Anglican Cemetery, South Australia

Jim Bennett is memorialised on an obelisk arected in his honour at St Kilda Cemetery, Victoria.

Their famous Vimy aircraft was displayed in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial until 1958, when it was placed on display at the Adelaide Airport Museum, South Australia (the Smith brothers home town).  A comprehensive description of the circumstances around this are contained in the Resource.

 

Sourced and Submitted by Julianne T Ryan.   26 September 2014.  Lest we forget. 

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Residents and Friends of St Kilda Cemetery

BURIED ST KILDA CEMETERY

Sgt James Mallett BENNETT, Airman and mechanic; mechanic on Ross and Keith Smith’s winning flight in 1919 from England to Darwin within 31 days

James Mallett Bennett (1894-1922), airman and mechanic, was born on 14 January 1894 at St Kilda, Victoria, son of James Thomas Bennett, tick-maker, and his wife Henrietta Augusta, née McKendrick. After schooling he trained as a motor mechanic. In 1912 he joined the militia and served for three years with the 49th Battalion. Bennett enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 July 1915 and, on the formation of the Australian Flying Corps early next year.
After the Armistice Bennett and Sergeant W. H. Shiers were invited to act as air mechanics for Captain Ross Smith, then attempting the first Cairo-Calcutta flight in a Handley-Page aircraft. Both mechanics received the Air Force Medal for outstanding work under hazardous conditions during the flight. In 1919 the Australian government offered a prize of £10,000 to the first aviator to fly from England to Australia within thirty days. Ross Smith and his brother Keith entered the race with Bennett and Shiers as their mechanics and were the first to reach Darwin. Their success aroused world-wide interest and acclaim. On 13 April 1922 Ross Smith and Bennett were killed during a test flight at Weybridge, when their Vickers Viking Amphibian crashed. The pioneer aviators were mourned as national heroes and their bodies were brought back to Australia.

Read more here:
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bennett-james-mallett-5211
https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/james-mallett-bennett/
https://trove.nla.gov.au/people/1468171?c=people
Photos: State Library of South Australia

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