Guide to the Aviation History Souvenir Collection. Collection number: Souvenirs 11.




Contains souvenirs of events in the aviation history of Australia and its allies, including items relating to the First and Second World Wars.

SERIES 1: Peacetime Aviation, 1900 - . Description: The series contains souvenirs relating to aviation before, between and after military conflicts.; SERIES 2: First World War, 1914-1918. Description: The series contains souvenirs relating to aviation during the First World War.; SERIES 3: Second World War, 1939-1945. Description: The series contains items souvenirs relating to aviation during the Second World War.

Early Aviation: The first documented flight in a powered heavier-than-air aircraft was made by Orville and Wilbur Wright on 17 December 1903 in the ""Wright Flyer"". In 1909 the Commonwealth Department of Defence offered a 5000 pound prize for the invention of a flying machine that could be used for military purposes. This competition resulted in the first aircraft designed and built by an Australian, John Duigan, which achieved powered flight at Mia Mia, Victoria in 1910. Over the next few years the government maintained interest in demonstration flights by people such as DeFries in a Wright biplane, Custance in a Bleriot monoplane and Harry Houdini in a Voisin box-kite, because they recognised the potential of air travel for defence purposes. In 1914 the government established a Central Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria in 1914. This school enabled the operation of the Australian Flying Corps during WWI, which first saw service in May 1915 at Basra, Mesopotamia (now Iraq). World War, 1914-1918: During WW1 the usefulness of aviation to the military was realised and aircraft and training were greatly improved. It was during this period that the capabilities of aircraft (in observation and reconnaissance, tactical and strategic bombing, ground attack, and naval warfare) were discovered, experimented with, and refined. Also during WW1, Australia became the only British dominion to set up a flying corps of its own. Known as the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) and organised as a corps of the Australian Imperial Force, its four line squadrons usually served separately under the orders of Britain's Royal Flying Corps. The AFC's first complete flying unit, No. 1 Squadron, left Australia for the Middle East in March 1916. By late 1917 three more squadrons, Nos. 2, 3, and 4 had been formed to fight in France. A further four training squadrons based in England formed an Australian Training Wing to provide pilots for the Western Front. The AFC was a pioneering corps, laying the groundwork for the Royal Australian Air Force and making a significant contribution to Australian civil aviation. Inter-War Years: The period after WWI saw a period of great aviation development in Australia. Endurance and distance records were set and broken, leading to races, competitions and the emergence of numerous aviation personalities, as well as a steady number of search and rescue missions to recover missing or crashed aircraft. In 1919, Harry G. Hawker (Australian aviation pioneer and co-founder of Hawker Aviation) attempted to fly across the Atlantic in a triplane and disappeared. Six days later he turned up in Europe aboard a tramp freighter without a radio. 1920 saw Australian brothers Captain Ross and Lieutenant Keith Smith set off from Hounslow, near London, in a Vickers Vimy bomber in an attempt to be the first men to fly from England to Australia. They successfully landed in Darwin on 10 December, having flown a distance of 18,170 kilometres (11,290 miles). Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, born in Brisbane in 1897, had served with the Royal Flying Corps during WW1. He became a hero of Australian aviation, completing the first Trans-Pacific flight in the ""Southern Cross"" in 1928, and winning an England to Australia air race in 1930. He also completed the first non-stop crossing of the Australian mainland, and was the first to complete the more difficult eastward Pacific crossing from Australia to the United States in 1934. The inter-war period also saw the development of civil aviation with regular survey flights across Australia in search of air routes and possible aerodrome sites. It was these flights, conducted by or on behalf of the RAAF, that led to the development of air trade routes within Australia, from which sprung airmail services and air freight services, soon growing to passenger flights. World War, 1939-1945: World War II saw 15,746 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners and engineers sent to British squadrons and 11,641 to Australian squadrons. These men exemplified themselves in every major campaign front from the Battle of France, Battle of Britain, Normandy invasion, Egypt, the Middle East, Germany, Battle of the Atlantic, the defence of Malta, liberation of Italy, the Battles of the Coral and Bismarck Seas, Defence of Australia, to fighting in India, Burma, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Pacific. When the armistice with Japan was signed on 15 August 1945, the RAAF in the Pacific had a total strength of 131,662 personnel and 3,187 front line aircraft. In addition, the RAAF had also pioneered the development and operation of radar and operated its own shipping in the South West Pacific Area. The RAAF legacy of the Second World War is a proud one, with it now the world's 4th largest Air Force.

Contact Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.

Open - Contact Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.

Selected additional and related material available at using the search terms described under 'subject _local'. Copies of many items from the Memorial's collections may also be purchased @


Air Force; Amy Johnson; Aviation; Bert Hinkler; Charles Henry Copp; Charles Kingsford-Smith; Harry G. Hawker; Ross Smith; Souvenirs

Air transport; Pilots

Coverage Temporal


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2012-05-30 23:41

2011-03-07 14:54