Charles Edward (Smithy) KINGSFORD-SMITH DFC, 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)
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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 Royal Flying Corps, Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps
30 Aug 1917: Wounded Royal Flying Corps, Lieutenant, SN Commissioned Officer, Royal Flying Corps, AFC / RFC operations Western Front / Middle East, No. 63 Squadron RFC
30 Aug 1917: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, AFC / RFC operations Western Front / Middle East

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 Steve Larkins

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith (1897–1935)
by Frederick Howard

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith (1897-1935), aviator, was born on 9 February 1897 in Brisbane, fifth son and seventh child of William Charles Smith, banker, and his wife Catherine Mary, née Kingsford. The name Kingsford was added to the family surname in Canada; William went into real estate business there in 1903 and later became a clerk with the Canadian Pacific Railways. The family returned to Sydney in 1907. Charles was educated at Vancouver, Canada, at St Andrew's Cathedral Choir School, Sydney, and at Sydney Technical High School. At 16 he was apprenticed to the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.

In February 1915 after three years with the Senior Cadets Kingsford Smith enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He embarked with the 4th Signal Troop, 2nd Division Signal Company, on 31 May as a sapper and served on Gallipoli and, as a dispatch rider, in Egypt and France. In October 1916, as sergeant, he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps. After training in England he was discharged from the A.I.F. and commissioned as second lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps, in March next year; he was appointed flying officer in May and in July joined No.23 Squadron in France. Wounded and shot down in August, he was awarded the Military Cross 'for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty'; he had brought down four machines during his first month at the front and done valuable work in attacking ground targets and hostile balloons. After promotion to lieutenant in April 1918 he served as an R.F.C. flying instructor.

Barred from participating in the 1919 England to Australia air race because of supposedly inadequate navigational experience, Kingsford Smith and his friend Cyril Maddocks piloted joy-flights in England as Kingsford Smith, Maddocks Aeros Ltd. 'Smithy' then went to the United States of America where he failed to attract sponsors for a trans-Pacific flight and was briefly a stunt flier in a flying circus. Back in Australia in January 1921 he worked first in Sydney with another joy-riding organization, the Diggers' Aviation Co., and then as a salaried pilot for Norman Brearley's Western Australian Airways Ltd. On 6 June 1923 at Marble Bar, Western Australia, he married Thelma Eileen Hope Corboy.

Realizing the great potential for air transport in Australia, Kingsford Smith formed a partnership in 1924 with fellow pilot Keith Anderson. They raised the capital to buy two Bristol Tourers by operating a trucking business from Carnarvon, the Gascoyne Transport Co., and in 1927 they returned to Sydney to operate with Charles Ulm as Interstate Flying Services. After tendering unsuccessfully for an Adelaide-Perth mail service, the partners launched a series of important demonstration flights.

On the first of these in June 1927 Kingsford Smith and Ulm completed a round-Australia circuit in 10 days, 5 hours, a notable achievement with minimal navigational aids. Kingsford Smith at once sought support for a trans-Pacific flight and obtained a grant of £9000 from the New South Wales government as well as backing from Sidney Myer and the Californian oil magnate G. Allan Hancock. In a three-engined Fokker plane, the Southern Cross, with Ulm and two American crewmen, Harry Lyon and Jim Warner, he took off from Oakland, California, on 31 May 1928 and flew via Hawaii and Suva to Brisbane, completing the historic crossing in 83 hours, 38 minutes, of flying time. The fliers received subscriptions of over £20,000; Kingsford Smith was awarded the Air Force Cross and appointed honorary squadron leader, Royal Australian Air Force. Anderson, no longer a partner, sued unsuccessfully for part of the prize-money.

In August Kingsford Smith flew the Southern Cross non-stop from Point Cook, Victoria, to Perth. In September-October with Ulm and an Australian crew he piloted the plane from Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand, demonstrating the feasibility of regular passenger and mail services across the Tasman Sea. He then set out to fly the Southern Cross to England to place orders for a fleet of four aircraft with which he intended to begin an inter-capital air service in Australia. However, on 1 April 1929, losing radio contact with the ground and meeting bad weather over north-west Australia, he was forced to land on the flats of the Glenelg River estuary. Before help reached the stranded party on 13 April, Keith Anderson and Robert Hitchcock had perished in the search. After an official inquiry exonerated Kingsford Smith and Ulm from a charge of having staged the incident for publicity, the flight to England was resumed in June and completed in the record time of 12 days, 18 hours.

Kingsford Smith's airline, Australian National Airways, began operations in January 1930 with Kingsford Smith piloting one of the new Avro Ten planes, the Southern Cloud, on the Sydney-Melbourne route. But 'Smithy' was far from ready to settle down. Collecting his 'old bus', Southern Cross, from the Fokker Aircraft Co. in Holland where it had been overhauled, in June 1930 he achieved an east-west crossing of the Atlantic, from Ireland to Newfoundland, in 31½ hours. New York gave him a tumultuous welcome. He then returned to England to take delivery of an Avro Avian biplane, Southern Cross Junior, and attempt a record-breaking solo flight to Darwin in October. This he accomplished, within ten days, beating four competitors who had left England ahead of him and breaking Hinkler's time by 5½ days.

He was now 34 and world famous. Divorced in May 1929, he married Mary Powell on 10 December 1930 at Scots Church, Melbourne. A little later he joined Eric Campbell's New Guard. He had been made honorary air commodore in November, and the future of his airline appeared bright.

However, on 21 March 1931 the Southern Cloud, flying from Sydney to Melbourne with pilot, co-pilot and six passengers, was lost in severe storms over the Snowy Mountains. There were no survivors and the wreckage was not discovered until 1958. This loss and the deepening Depression crippled the airline. Yet to a man with Kingsford Smith's ambitions the pressure to continue flying was constant. In April 1931 he flew the Southern Cross on an emergency mission to pick up mail for Australia from a damaged Imperial Airways plane in Timor. In September he made a solo flight to England in a new Avro Avian biplane, Southern Cross Minor, intending to gain publicity with an immediate return flight. But his health was showing the strains of an arduous career and the return trip was abandoned on medical advice. In November, however, when one of his company planes under contract to fly Christmas mail to England was damaged in Malaya, he took off in another plane to collect the stranded mail, flew it to England in time for Christmas delivery, and returned with mail for Australia.

In 1932, when he was knighted for services to aviation, Kingsford Smith was almost back to where he had started, selling joy-flights at ten shillings a trip. A flight to New Zealand in 1933 added to this precarious income but failed to persuade the New Zealand government to give him a charter for passenger and mail services between Auckland and Singapore. That year he established a flying training school in Sydney, Kingsford Smith Air Service, but sold out at a loss in 1935.

Towards the end of 1933 prospects brightened. After travelling to England by sea in September, he achieved a brilliant success in October, flying solo from London to Wyndham, Western Australia, in a Percival Gull, Miss Southern Cross, in just over seven days. After the feat the Commonwealth government granted him £3000 and he was appointed aviation consultant to the Vacuum Oil Co.

Inevitably, he was attracted by the announcement that a London to Melbourne air race, sponsored by Sir Macpherson Robertson with a prize of £10,000, would be a feature of Victoria's centenary celebrations. With financial help from friends and sponsors, he bought a fast two-seater Lockheed Altair, which he named Lady Southern Cross, and invited (Sir) P. G. Taylor to accompany him in the race. The plan had to be dropped when modifications to the aircraft could not be completed in time. Kingsford Smith and Taylor then flew Lady Southern Cross from Brisbane to San Francisco in October-November 1934 in order to sell it and reimburse sponsors. This west-east trans-Pacific flight was another first in aviation history.

Leaving the Lady Southern Cross to find an American purchaser, Kingsford Smith and Taylor returned to Australia to the long-awaited authorization for a trans-Tasman airmail service. They began the inaugural flight on 15 May 1935. The result was failure in a setting of spectacular courage. Before dawn and some 500 miles (800 km) out over the Tasman, a damaged propeller blade had put one of the three motors out of action, and a second motor threatened to seize as it rapidly burned oil. Taylor, climbing out of the cockpit, succeeded at great hazard in collecting enough oil from the sump of the dead motor to replenish the other. By jettisoning cargo, and finally most of the mail-bags, Kingsford Smith nursed the Southern Cross back to Sydney.

He was a tired man of 38; but he was impelled to go on demonstrating that the future of world transport was in aviation. He arranged for the still unsold Lady Southern Cross to be shipped to England. From there, with J. T. Pethybridge, he took off on 6 November 1935, aiming to make one more record-breaking flight to Australia. It was the end of the long endeavour. The plane and both fliers were lost. It is assumed they crashed into the sea somewhere off the coast of Burma while flying at night towards Singapore. Kingsford Smith was survived by his wife and son and left an estate valued for probate at £12,875.

His contribution to civil aviation was an effort of faith and stamina and places him among the world's notable pioneers. Lean, with 'cool blue eyes', generous mouth and terse manner, he was featured on the Australian $20 note. Sydney's airport is named after him and there is a memorial to him, Taylor and Ulm at Anderson Park, Sydney. The Southern Cross is on view at Brisbane airport. Kingsford Smith was the author of The Old Bus (1932) and, with Ulm, Story of 'Southern Cross' Trans-Pacific Flight (1928). His autobiography My Flying Life was published posthumously in 1937 and the story of his life was filmed in Australia in 1946.

Select Bibliography

N. Ellison, Flying Matilda (Syd, 1957)
F. J. Howard, Charles Kingsford Smith (Melb, 1962)
P. G. Taylor, The Sky Beyond (Boston, 1963)
E. Campbell, The Rallying Point (Melb, 1965).
Related Entries in NCB Sites
Ryder, George Edward (friend)
Gepp, Kathleen Jessie (friend)
Chaseling, Eric Herbert (employee)
Walton, Nancy-Bird (pupil)
Montford, Paul Raphael (artist)
Forgie, Robert Clegg (influenced)
Hopkins, Lister George (related entry)
Steinbeck, Muriel Myee (related entry)
de Burgh, Patrick Macartney (related entry)
Citation details
Frederick Howard, 'Kingsford Smith, Sir Charles Edward (1897–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 10 February 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983



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


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].