Serpentine Air Race
Published on 15 May 2020
PLEASE NOTE: Date changed from 27 September 2020 to the new date of 22 November 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions.
On Sunday 22 November 2020, Tiger Moth pilots, owners and enthusiasts as well as crowds of spectators will converge on the temporary ‘Serpentine Airfield’, 6km south of Serpentine, to honour the centenary of Australia’s first official air race – the Peace Loan Derby.
In August 1920, during the golden age of flying, the rural community of Serpentine attracted national attention as the starting point of the first government-sponsored aerial derby to raise funds for the repatriation and care of service personnel following World War One.
The residents of the locality raised funds to support the Peace Loan and to purchase a Winner’s Cup. In the days leading up to the Serpentine to Melbourne race, members of the then East Loddon Council entertained the visiting airmen, all former Australian Flying Corps servicemen. The airmen enjoyed the hospitality of the district and in turn amazed the gathering crowds with stunt flying and aerial tricks.
The four veteran aviators and their crew had been flying around the country to raise funds for the Peace Loan in support of repatriated soldiers and nurses who were returning to civilian life. They required help with such things as medical care and rehabilitation, employment training and housing. Business and individuals together raised twenty-five million pound in support of returned service personnel.
On the day of the derby, four Avro aircraft took part and covered the distance of 116 miles in 75 minutes. A crowd gathered around the Melbourne Town Hall to see the winner, Lieutenant Treloar, take the line honours just seconds ahead of the other competitors.
In 1983 a monument to Serpentine’s role in aviation history was erected at Rudkins Park, Serpentine and features a propeller of the type used in the race. The 75th anniversary of the race was celebrated 1995 with the flying of the Serpentine Aerial Derby and now the centenary promises to be an even more momentous event.
The gates will open at the Serpentine Airfield at 9am on Saturday 21 March 2020 for the commemorative celebration ‘Wings of Peace’. The airfield has been specially created for the occasion by a local farmer, as the original airfield has since had communication towers erected in close proximity.
Vintage aircraft and vehicles will be on display on the day, along with displays of historical memorabilia including a vintage Rolls Royce Le Mans, T Model Fords and more. A flyover will warm up the crowd before the competitors set off at 11am for a 70-mile air race, which is expected to take about an hour.
As part of the celebrations, the skies over Serpentine Airfield will roar into life with heart-stopping aerial entertainment and death-defying aerobatics from historical warbirds featuring Wolf Pitts Pro and the World War Two planes; Grumman Avenger, CAC Wirraway and T-28 Trojan.
The Air Race trophy presentation will take place at 2pm with plenty of activities to entertain both children and adults on the ground before and after the race, including a jumping castle, face painting, coffee, street food and static displays.
Tickets, which cost $25.00 each, with no charge for children under 17, are available online at serpentineairrace.com.au and also at the gate. East Loddon Historical Society and the community will raise much needed funds in support of Bendigo Legacy in homage to the original fundraising effort.
For more information and to book tickets, visit the website serpentineairrace.com.au or the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/serpentineairrace/.
For more information on the history of the Peace Loan Derby, contact Mary Davidson, Historian, 0439 552 467.
For more information on aviation and the event on March 21, contact Russell Mountjoy, Aviator, 0429 189 473.
For more information on Veterans, contact Bendigo Legacy 03 5443 6332