Pilot “wings”

Ross Smith and Keith Smith both earned their pilot “wings” during WWI.

Ross joined No. 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps as an observer in late 1916. After training for his pilot’s licence in Cairo and earning his wings, he rejoined No. 1 Squadron as a pilot on 16 July 1917.

Keith was twice rejected by the Australian Imperial Force on medical grounds, so he paid his own way to London and was accepted into the officer cadet wing of the Royal Flying Corps in July 1917 (within weeks of his brother). His wings were awarded in Wales in February 1918.

NOTE: The pilot wings were placed in a perspex box by Artlab before they travelled into space with Adelaide-born astronaut Dr Andy Thomas aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1998. In 2019, Andy was reunited with the wings when he presented and narrated The Greatest Air Race, a documentary retelling the incredible story of the Smith brothers and their epic flight.

Astronaut Andy Thomas. Photo courtesy of NASA

Design on wings is in silk embroidery thread. Wings, initials (RFC for Royal Flying Corps) and crown in bone-coloured thread and wreath in olive thread. Background and outlines in navy blue.

For additional biographical references see Australian Dictionary of Biography; and Series List PRG 18, Mortlock Library. For information on badges see R D Williams, Medals to Australia with Valuations, 1989.