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"The Imperial Gift"

Author: John Bennett

John Bennett has written the history of Australia's 'Imperial Gift' aircraft - the aircraft gifted by Britain after the First World War that enabled the formation of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921.

John (ex-RAAF and a reserve WgCdr) has already written the history of  2 Squadron RAAF, ("Highest Traditions") as well as writing the history of 453 Squadron RAAF ("Defeat to Victory").

Reviewed by Neil Smith:

In May 1920, when a khaki and grey-coloured D.H.9a aircraft, numbered A1-16, took off from Point Cook military air base in Victoria, it was the first step towards the creation of an Air Force for Australia’s defence forces, then still a part of the Australian Imperial Force but soon to be formed into the Royal Australian Air Force.

This particular D.H.9a was, in fact, the first aircraft to be flown of Britain’s "Imperial Gift" to Australia of 128 different aircraft of various types, which had been surplus to Britain’s Royal Air Force’s needs and offered to the Australian Government to enable them to form a modern air force.

The Australian Government of the day was happy to accept the offer and consequently, between March 1920 and the end of 1921, the components of the Gift continued to arrive at Point Cook (although because of budget restrictions, only a fraction could be immediately put to good use).

In this excellent book, John Bennett has researched the history of each aircraft within the four production types that were given free of cost (except for the freight from England).  Australia received 30 x D.H.9a, 28 x D.H.9, 35 x S.E.5a and 35 x Avro 504K and all came with spare engines, spare parts, portable hangers, armament, radio, clothing, tools and even workshop lorries and other transports … All valued at the time at about £1,000,000 - but probably now translating to more like Aust. $50M.

John has dedicated his book to the pilots of the RAAF who flew these early aircraft and to those who maintained them.  Many of these early pioneer airmen receive detailed mention … some with their own descriptive verbatim reports reproduced throughout the eight Chapters in the book.


The five Appendices provide invaluable references and the Endnotes against each Chapter and Appendix detail all reference sources for the plentiful facts contained therein.

Action black-and-white photographs appear frequently, together with beautifully-coloured detailed drawings of many of the aircraft referred to.

Neil's Verdict:
This book clearly is an aviation-historian and collector’s prize and I do highly recommend it as a valuable library reference for everyone interested in researching Australia’s early air force aircraft and their pilots.

John's books are available from Banner Books: 122 Walker St,  Maryborough, Queensland, 4650, Australia.

or visit www.banner-books.com.au for details.

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