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Lieutenant James Bennett
Lieutenant James Bennett

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson / Graeme Saunders

The monument commemorates the airman and mechanic, Lieutenant James Bennett (1894 - 1922)

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 22 December the Smith brothers were knighted; Bennett and Shiers received Bars to their Air Force Medals. Early in 1922 the Smith brothers decided to attempt a round-the-world flight; Bennett and Shiers were again chosen as mechanics. The crew planned to take off from England on 25 April, but on 13 April 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. Bennett was buried in St Kilda cemetery on 19 June 1922 after a lying-in-state at Queen`s Hall, Parliament House.

A memorial to the late Lieut. J. M. Bennett. M.S.M., A.F.M was unveiled on the reserve opposite Acland street, St. Kilda. today by W. A. Watt. M.H.R.  Lieut. Bennett accompanied Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith in their flight to Australia. In 1919, and was killed with Sir Ross Smith in an aeroplane crash at London. England, on April 13, 1922. The memorial is in the form of an obelisk, on which there is a bronze tablet bearing the inscription:— "In honored memory of Lieut J. M. Bennett, M.S.M,. A.F.M., of the Australian Flying Corps. who accompanied, as engineer, Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith on the first fllight from England to Australia, 1919.  Killed in aeroplane smash at Hendon, England. April 13 1922."

Those present at the ceremony were Mr. J. T. Bennett, (father of Lieut. Bennett), the Misses Bennett, Mr Trumble (Secretary for Defence), Group-Captain Williams (Chief of the Air Staff). Col Brinsmead (Controller of Civil Aviation), Wing-Commander Brown, Col White (president of the Aero Club), Major Coleman (Secretary of the Air Board). Lieut. General Sir James McKay, the president, secretary and committee of the St. Kilda Army and Navy Club, president, secretary and committee of St Kilda Fathers' Association, the Master and members of Hawksburn Masonic Lodge, of which deceased was a member, the Mayor (Cr. Burnett Gray), and councillors of St. Kilda.  An apology for his absence was received from Lieut. Shiers, who, as Sergeant Shiers, also accompanied Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith on the England-Australia, flight. The Mayor of St. Kilda (Cr. Burnett Gray), placed a wreath on the memorial on behalf of citizens, of St. Kilda, after which the Last Post was sounded by Messrs. McAuley and Frank, of St. Kilda City Band. 
Herald (Melbourne), 25 April 1927.


Address:The Esplanade (Carlisle Street), O`Donnell Gardens , St Kilda, 3182
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.867347
Long: 144.978042
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Monday 25th April, 1927
Front Inscription

In honoured memory of Lieut. J. M. Bennett, M.S.M., A.F.M., of the Australian Flying Corps.  

Who accompanied as engineer, Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith on the first flight from England to Australia 1919;

Killed in aeroplane crash at Hendon, England, 13th April 1922

Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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