Charles Edward (Smithy) KINGSFORD-SMITH MC, AFC


Service Numbers: 1017, Commissioned Officer
Enlisted: 10 February 1915
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: Royal Flying Corps
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, 19 February 1897
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Sydney Technical High School
Occupation: Aviator
Died: AIr Crash , Bay of Bengal, 8 November 1935, aged 38 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
At sea (air crash)
Memorials: Sydney Technical High School WW1 Roll Of Honour
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World War 1 Service

10 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 1017, 4th Light Horse Brigade Signal Troop
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 1017, 4th Light Horse Brigade Signal Troop, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '6' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Ajana embarkation_ship_number: A31 public_note: ''
16 Mar 1917: Transferred Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps
30 Aug 1917: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, AFC / RFC operations Western Front / Middle East
30 Aug 1917: Wounded Lieutenant, SN Commissioned Officer, Royal Flying Corps, AFC / RFC operations Western Front / Middle East, No. 63 Squadron RFC

Help us honour Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Robert Devlin

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, otherwise known as ‘Smithy’, was born on the 9th of February 1897 in Hamilton, Brisbane. He was the fifth son and seventh child of William Charles Smith and Catherine Mary Kingsford.[1] The family lived in Canada until Kingsford Smith was ten, when they returned to Australia. Kingsford Smith attended St Andrews College and then Sydney Technical High School where he primarily focused on mechanics and electrical engineering. He graduated from Sydney Technical High School as an electrical engineer at the age of 16.[2]

Extremely keen to join the Australian army, Kingsford Smith enlisted a day after his 18th birthday (10/2/1915) to the Australian Imperial Force as an electrical engineer, with service #1017.[3] Kingsford Smith embarked from Sydney on the 31st of May 1915  on the ship HMAT Ajana A31 to Egypt for training. He served at Gallipoli as a sapper and then, months later served as a dispatch rider in Egypt and France.[4] In October 1916, he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps, and after training in England for a few months, he was discharged from the Australian Imperial Forces and commissioned as second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps (British army), on March 1917.[5] Kingsford Smith wrote to his parents saying, “I have discovered one thing about flying and that is that my future, for whatever it may be worth, is bound up with it.” [6]

On August 1917, while serving with No.23 squadron, Smithie (Smithy?) was shot in the foot, and as a result had 3 toes amputated. For conspicuous gallantry, Kingsford Smith was presented the Military Cross by King George at the age of 20. In the last six months of the war, he served as a Royal Flying Corps flying instructor.[7]

After the war in 1919, Kingsford Smith was refused permission to compete in the England/Australia air race. The race organisers considered him to have minimal knowledge of navigation, so he decided to make a living as a movie stunt pilot in Hollywood. Kingsford Smith returned to Australia on January 1921 after failing to attract sponsors for his trans-Pacific flight to the United States. He worked in a joyriding company called Diggers’ Aviation Co, and then as a pilot at Western Australian Airways LTD. On the 6th of June, 1923 in Western Australia, Kingsford Smith married Thelma Eileen Hope Corboy.[8]

Kingsford Smith needed money because aviation was an expensive business in Australia, so he started a trucking venture, sold the business out in 1926, and bought two Bristol aircraft with the profit. With the aid of Charles Thomas Philippe Ulm, Kingsford Smith made a record breaking flight around Australia which they completed in 10 days, 5 hours and 30 minutes. This was a significant deal in Australia as they beat the record set by Captain EJ Jones and Colonel H Brinsmead in half the time with very minimal navigational aids. Charles Ulm and Kingsford Smith received a 9,000 pound grant from the NSW government, as well as financial support from Sidney Myer (founder of Myer), and the Vacuum Oil Company. With this money, they purchased the Fokker plane, installed three Wright Whirlwind engines and a few extra fuel tanks, and re-named the modified plane the ‘Southern Cross.[9]

This was still not enough money for the necessary equipment needed to make the 7084 mile flight possible, and so the men were faced with selling the Southern Cross and abandoning their plans.  However, a chance meeting with Los Angeles millionaire, George Allan Hancock, resulted in financial backing which covered the flight’s outstanding expenses.

On the 31st of May 1928, Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Harry Lyon and Jim Warner took off from Oakland and arrived in Brisbane on the 9th of June. They were the first to ever make a trans-Pacific flight from the USA to Australia. The flight was achieved in three parts, and the total flying time was 83 hours and 38 minutes. They flew from Oakland to Honolulu, then to Suva in Fiji, and finally to Brisbane, Australia. The men were presented with a 5000 pound cheque from the honourable Stanley Bruce, which nowadays is equal to around $340,000. On the 3rd of June 1929, for their astounding achievements, Kingsford Smith was awarded honorary squadron leader in the Royal Australian Air Force, and both he and Charles Ulmwere awarded the Air Force Cross.[10]

In 1930, Kingsford Smith won the England to Australia air race that took 9 days, 22 hours and 15 minutes to complete in an Avro Avian plane called the ‘Southern Cross Junior.’ Three years later, he broke his own record, flying from England to Australia in 7 days and 4 hours.[11]

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith disappeared near Burma on the 8th of November 1935, while he attempted to beat his own England to Australia speed record. The plane he named the ‘Lady Southern Cross’ was his final flight.

Sydney’s international airport is called Kingsford Smith in honour of his accomplishments.

Mahmoud Hamade
Year 9 - Sydney Technical High School

[1] F Howard, Kingsford Smith, Sir Charles Edward (1897–1935), Australian Dictionary of Biography. Viewed on 10 July 2018,

[2] Editors,, Charles Kingsford Smith Biography, The Famous People. 12 November 2017, viewed on 10 July 2018,

[3] Editors, The Australian War Memorial, First World War Embarkation Roll, Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, Australian War Memorial. Viewed on 10 July 2018,

[4] Editors, The Australian War Memorial, Fifty Australians - Smithy, Australian War Memorial. Viewed on 10 July 2018,

[5] Howard, op. cit.

[6] Staff Reporter, The Sunday Telegraph, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith: The flying ace that soared into a nation’s hearts and then vanished, The Daily Telegraph. 7 November 2015, viewed 12 July 2018,
[7] Howard, op. cit.

[8] Editors, National Library of Australia, Guide to the Papers of Charles Kingsford-Smith, National Library Of Australia. 2009, viewed on 10 July 2018,

[9] J Wilson, Charles Ulm Collection, National Museum Australia. 2013, viewed on 12 July 2018,

[10] Wilson, op. cit.

[11] Editors, Skwirk Online, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Skwirk Online Education. Viewed on 12 July 2018,


Primary Source Websites

Memorial, T. (2018). Charles Edward Kingsford Smith. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

Memorial, T. (2018). Sir Charles Kingsford Smith | The Australian War Memorial. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

Secondary Source Websites (2018). Who is Charles Kingsford Smith? Everything You Need to Know. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]. (2018). Biography - Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith - Australian Dictionary of Biography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

wiliam, S. (2018). Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Contribution and significance of an individual in the 1920s, Australia between the wars: 1920s, History Year 9, NSW | Online Education Home Schooling Skwirk Australia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

Wikipedia. (2018). Charles Kingsford Smith. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]. (2018). Charles Edward KINGSFORD SMITH. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

World War I. (2018). World War I glossary P-Z. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].









Biography contributed by Robert Devlin

Australia’s finest and most prominent aviator, Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, or ‘Smithy’ as his companions called him, was born on the 9th of February 1897 in Hamilton, Brisbane. He was the seventh child of Catherine Mary and her husband William Charles Smith, who was a bank manager. His family left for Vancouver, Canada when Charles was just 5 years old. His father worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and this was where the name ‘Kingsford’ was added to the family’s surname of Smith. They returned to Sydney, Australia in 1907 where Smith attended St Andrews Cathedral Choir School. When he turned 13, Smith attended Sydney Technical College where he studied electrical engineering and at 16 years of age, he became an engineering apprentice for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Two years later in the February of 1915, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force to serve in World War I.

He was sent to Egypt for basic training and became a signaller and despatch-rider and later that year served in Gallipoli alongside other Australian and New Zealander soldiers. After serving in France and Egypt in October 1916, as a Sergeant, Kingsford Smith was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where his magnificent career as a fighter pilot began[i]. The first stage of his career as a fighter pilot consisted of him pulling off daring stunts and cunningly outrunning and fooling enemy planes. However, the true highlight of his career was of course in battle. In his first four months of operational flying, Smith shot down four German aircrafts[ii]. He also survived a battle against two other German planes. His plane withstood 150 bullets of German fire but fortunately, he managed to safely land his plan. Due to this battle, Smith was shot in the foot, and was forced to have three of his toes amputated.

In April 1918, Smith was promoted to lieutenant and was unable to participate in the rest of the war due to his foot injury, so he become an instructor and role model for other pilots. Later that year he was given the Military Cross award by King George for his struggles in the war and the outstanding bravery that he embodied[iii].  After the war, Smith realised that flying was his passion and he never stopped finding ways to gain experience. Smith and two other aviators created a joy ride business called ‘The Diggers Aviation Co’ where he went overseas with passengers and did various tricks and stunts as a means of entertainment. Unfortunately, this business soon came to an end as Smith’s stunt flying became too adventurous for the passengers to handle[iv]. After the downfall of his business, Smith went into the Hollywood stunt industry where he did various stunts for Hollywood movies. Eventually, he quit this job as well, as he had nearly lost his life doing a stunt and one of his colleagues lost their life in the industry.

When Smith had left the stunt industry, he found out what his true passion was: long distance flying. Smith went to the Australian public to raise funds so the he and his partner, Charles Ulms, could go on to break long distance flying records. After fortunately receiving funds from various donations from the Australian Public, Smith bought a Fokker FVII-3m mono-plane that he would use for travelling Australia. He dubbed the plane ‘The Southern Cross’. In 1926 Charles Ulms and Charles Kingsford Smith flew around the whole of Australia in a record time: 10 days and 5 and a half hours. Only a year later in 1927, Ulms, Smith and two other aviators from America (Harry Lyon and Jim Warner), with the help of funds from wealthy business men and the government, became the first men to cross the Pacific Ocean, and survive to tell the story. In the following years, Smith and his crew proceeded to do things that no aviators have ever done before. They had crossed the Tasman Sea (Sydney to Christchurch) and had also broke the record for a flight between England and Australia. In 1932, Smith received a knighthood for his services as an aviator in World War I and his contributions to aviation in general.

In Kingsford Smith’s last flight, he flew out of England in November 1935 in an attempt to set a new record for Australian aviation. However, he disappeared completely over the Bay of Bengal, near Burma, the following morning. The plane was eventually recovered, but Charles Kingsford Smith was never seen again. In honour of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s achievements and his contributions to Australian Aviation, Sydney’s international airport was named ‘Kingsford Smith’.

By Muhammed Kumsuz

Year 10 – Sydney Technical High School

References (2018). Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith - Australian Dictionary of Biography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jul. 2018]. (2018). Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Facts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]. (2018). Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith | Discovering Anzacs | National Archives of Australia and Archives NZ. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jul. 2018].

Memorial, T. (2018). Lieutenant Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jul. 2018].

[i]Australian War Memorial, Home>Collection> Lieutenant Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith,
[ii] Ibid
[iii] Frederick Howard, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Kingsford Smith, Sir Charles Edward (1897–1935),Volume 9, 1983
iv Ibid