Northern Territory Government Newsroom

New street art mural pays homage to Great Air Race Centenary

The pilot and crew that successfully flew from London to Darwin to win the Great Air Race in 1919 have been depicted in a large-scale street art mural in the Territory’s capital, as part of a new program of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ‘race that changed the world’.

Painted by Darwin Artists Jesse Bell and David Collins, the brand new mural located on the corner of Bennett Street and Cavenagh Street features the winning team of Sergeant James Bennett, Captain Ross Smith, Sergeant Wally Shiers and Lieutenant Keith Smith.

Also illustrated in the mural is the famous Vickers Vimy biplane and a map of their journey from London to Darwin 100 years ago.

Northern Territory Major Events Company is working with key stakeholders to build a program of events with a strong focus on local participation, commemoration and community engagement.

The events will take place from September through to 10 December 2019, when the Vickers Vimy landed in Darwin. Full program details will be announced soon.

Quotes from Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC) General Manager Tim Watsford:

“As the first in a series of events this year to commemorate the Great Air Race Centenary, it’s very exciting to see this fantastic street art mural unveiled in the heart of Darwin.

“Local artists Jesse Bell and David Collins have done a fantastic job in illustrating the four heroes behind the Great Air Race through this mural, which not only raises the profile of this major milestone but also helps activate and bring the city centre to life.

“This year we recognise a very special anniversary in aviation history and we look forward to revealing the full program of events to the public very soon.”

Quotes from Darwin Artist David Collins:

“It’s been a really fun project to work on as we’ve been able to do a lot of research about the Great Air Race, which is a really important part of Darwin’s history.

“Reading about the Great Air Race was so interesting, and we found ourselves just marvelling at what these guys achieved while painting the mural.”

Quotes from Darwin Artist Jesse Bell:

“This was a great project to work on because I got to learn about a part of Darwin’s history I didn’t know, hopefully this artwork will inspire others to look into it and get involved in the celebrations around the Great Air Race Centenary.”

Media contact: NTMEC Media and Communications Officer 0439 065 321

Media background:

The Great Air Race

On 19 March, 1919, the Commonwealth Government announced that they would offer a prize of £10,000 - nearly one million dollars in today’s money – for the first successful journey by an Australian-crewed aeroplane from London to Darwin in under 30 days. The event came to be known as the Great Air Race.

The winning Vickers Vimy aircraft touched down in Darwin on 10 December, 1919, crewed by Captain Ross Smith (Pilot), Lieutenant Keith Smith (Co-Pilot Navigator) and Sergeants Wally Shiers and James Bennett (Mechanics).

The race was the first major ‘good news story’ post WWI. With aviation in its infancy in 1919, the Race made headlines not only in Australia but around the globe.

The flight of the Vickers Vimy bomber has been described as the flight that changed the world, paving the way for efficient transportation of post, and later people, across the globe. The flight that took 28 days in 1919 takes around 20 hours today.

Great Air Race Centenary Mural

The four aviators in the mural is a recreation of images taken at Cobbs Creek in the Northern Territory sometime between 14 - 17 December 1919.

The plane is taken from the cover of The Sir Ross Smith Flight Official Souvenir program believed to have been published in 1920.

The map appears in Lowell Thomas Travelogues present 'The Ross Smith Flight: England to Australia' and is noted ‘Courtesy of The Times’.  It was published approximately 1920.


Darwin Artists Jesse Bell and David Collins 1

Darwin Artists Jesse Bell and David Collins 2