In early 1919, the government of then prime minister William “Billy” Hughes issued an official statement announcing the offer of £10,000 for the first Australian to fly from England to Australia within 30 days. Hughes was keen to bolster civil aviation in Australia and to bridge the “tyranny of distance” between Australia and the rest of the world.

The announcement of the Great Air Race, as it became known, received a mixed response: some were excited about the prospect of such an epic achievement, others were sceptical, and many were concerned about the potential loss of life. After all, the race would entail a flight of almost 18,000 kilometres, when the longest flight, completed in December 1918, was just over 5,000 kilometres from Cairo to Calcutta. There was also concern that the route had not been properly surveyed beyond Calcutta, and in many parts of Asia airfields were non‑existent. The planes of the era were also very basic by modern standards, constructed from wire, fabric and wood.

Regardless, within five months of the announcement, six crews qualified to enter the race. All were experienced airmen and World War I veterans. Yet of the six official entrants, only two crews completed the journey. Four aviators perished during their attempt. So, when highly decorated pilot Captain Ross Smith, his brother Lieutenant Keith Smith (co-pilot and navigator), and mechanics Sergeants Walter Shiers and James Bennett, landed their Vickers Vimy twin-engine bi-plane at Fannie Bay airfield, Darwin, on 10 December 1919, the event was met with national and international excitement and acclaim.

Carried on board the record-setting flight was the first overseas airmail to reach Australia.

Read our blog article about the incredible story of the Great Air Race of 1919, including expert interviews.

Technical specifications

Issue date
Issue withdrawal date
1 x $1, 1 x $3.20
Stamp design
Janet Bochen Design
Product design
Janet Bochen Design
Paper: gummed
Tullis Russell
Paper: self-adhesive
Tullis Russell C100
Printing process
Offset lithography
Stamp size $1 (mm)
26 x 37.5
Stamp size $3.20 (mm)
52 x 37.5
Minisheet size (mm)
170 x 80
14.6 x 13.86
Sheet layout
Module of 50 ($1)/Module of 25 ($3.20)
FDI Postmark
Fanny Bay (Parap), NT 0820
FDI withdrawal date

Stamps in this issue

$1 - Centenary of First England to Australia Flight

This stamp features a photograph, from the State Library of South Australia, of Captain Ross Smith, Lieutenant Keith Smith, and Sergeants James Bennett and Walter Shiers, in front of their Vickers Vimy.

$3.20 - First Overseas Airmail to Australia

Hundreds of covers were carried on board the first England to Australia flight, some from England and others deposited at various points along the route. Once the letters arrived in Melbourne, a special stamp-like label was applied as well as a date stamp. Ross Smith had requested a ‘special stamp’ in honour of the epic journey. Instead, a stamp-like label, without a denomination, was produced. It was designed by Lieutenant George Benson, an official war artist at Gallipoli and the Western Front.

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Set of stamps:

Set of Centenary of First England to Australia Flight stamps

This set of stamps contains teh two stamps from the Centenary of First England to Australia Flight stamp issue.


Centenary of First England to Australia Flight minisheet

The Centenary of First England to Australia Flight minisheet consists of the two stamps from the issue incorporated into a miniature stamp sheet.

Stamp pack:

Centenary of First England to Australia Flight stamp pack

The Centenary of First England to Australia Flight stamp pack contains the two stamps and minisheet from the stamp issue presented in high quality folder.

Set of maxicards:

Centenary of First England to Australia Flight maxicard set

This maxicard set contains the two maxicards from the Centenary of First England to Australia Flight stamp issue.

Additional products:

This content was produced at the time of the stamp issue release date and will not be updated.