Historical information

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith is a famous Australian, well known in civil aviation history for his courageous endeavours in flight. He broken many flight records for long distance and time travelled and he was also a war hero in World War 1. He has been referred to as being “known to millions of Australians as “Smithy” … he was one of Australia’s true twentieth-century legends”. In honour of his place amongst the world’s famous pioneers his image is featured on Australia’s $20 note, Sydney airport is named after him, there is a memorial to Kingsford Smith, Taylor and Ulm at the Anderson Park, also in Sydney and his plane “Southern Cross” is on view at Brisbane Airport.

Kingsford Smith wrote ‘The Old Bus’ (1932) and he and Ulm were co-authors of ‘Story of 'Southern Cross' Trans-Pacific Flight’ (1928). His also wrote a book about his own life ‘My Flying Life’ which was published after his death in 1937. and the story of his life was filmed in Australia in 1946.


Kingsford Smith was born 9th February 1897 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. His parents were William Charles Smith and Catherine Mary, nee Kingsford. His mother’s maiden name of “Kingsford” was added to the family name when they spent time in Canada from around 1903 to 1907, after which they returned to Sydney, Australia.

In 1915 Kingsford Smith enlisted in Australian Imperial Force. He served in 4th Signal Troop, 2nd Division Signal Company at Gallipoli Peninsular as a ‘sapper’ or combat engineer and later in Egypt and in France as a dispatch rider.

In 1916 Kingsford Smith was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps as a sergeant. He was discharged after training in England and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. He was appointed fling officer and soon joined the 23rd Squadron in France. He brought down four machines in his first month there and also did invaluable work attacking enemy targets. He was wounded and shot down and later awarded the Military Cross ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1918 and served as a Flying Instructor with the R.F.C.

Kingsford Smith was not allowed to participate in the 1919 England to Australia air race because of assumed lack of navigational experience. He and his pilot friend Cyril Maddocks formed a business and flew joy-flights in both England and America. In America he did some stunt flying with a Flying Circus.

Kingsford Smith returned to Australia in 1921 and found employment as a pilot. He soon realised the value of air transport in such a vast country. He formed a partnership with pilot Keith Anderson in 1924 and they purchased two Bristol Tourer biplanes. Their business broadened to include Charles Ulm and became the Interstate Flying services in Sydney. Together they performed important ‘demonstration’ flights including a flight around Australia in 10 days and 5 hours using very limited navigational equipment.

Kingsford Smith immediately started to search for support to do a trans-Pacific flight. This support came from the New South Wales government, Sidney Myer and G. Allan Hancock, an American oil magnate. On 31st May 1928 Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm and two American crewmen, Harry Lyan and Jim Warner, took off from Oakland, California and flew to Brisbane via Hawaii and Suva. This historic flight took 83 hours and 38 minutes. Their Fokker plane had three engines and was named the “Southern Cross”. This amazing achievement resulted in huge financial subscriptions. Kingsford Smith was awarded the Air Force Cross and appointed as honorary squadron leader, Royal Australian Air Force.

Kingsford Smith flew his Southern Cross plane from Point Cook in Victoria to Perth nonstop. Then in September – October 1928, with Charles Ulm and an Australian crew, he piloted the Southern Cross from Sidney to Christchurch New Zealand. This flight showed that was possible for regular passenger and mail services across the Tasman Sea.

Kingsford Smith flew his plane to England to an order for four aircraft, planning to use them for an inter-capital air service in Australia. Sadly on 1st April 1929 he was forced to land, having lost radio contact with the ground and having run into bad weather over north – west Australia. Keith Anderson and Robert Hitchcock both perished before the search party reached them. Once official enquiries were completed the flight to England continued in June and was completed in record time of 12 days and 18 hours.

In January 1930 Kingsford Smith piloted the “Southern Cloud”, one of the new Avro Ten planes, on the first flight of his airline, the Australian National Airways, from Sydney to Melbourne.

The “Southern Cross” was overhauled in Holland by the Fokker Aircraft Co. and in June 1930 Kingsford Smith achieved an east-west crossing of the Atlantic from Ireland to Newfoundland in 31.5 hours.

Kingsford Smith returned to England and took delivery of an Avro Avian biplane that he named the “Southern Cross Junior” and flew solo from England to Darwin, Australia. This record breaking flight took less than 10 days. He beat four other planes that had left England before him and he was 5.5 days faster than Hinkler.

Sadly Kingsford Smith’s “Southern Cloud” was lost during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne in 1931 with no surviving crew or passengers; in 1958 the wreckage was discovered in the Snowy Mountains. Later that year Kingsford Smith flew his “Southern Cloud” from Australia to Timor, collecting mail from a damaged Imperial Airways plane in Timor. Other flights followed.

Kingsford Smith was knighted in 1932 for his services in Aviation. He returned to selling joy flights then established the Kingsford Smith Air Service, a flying training school in Sydney.

In 1933 Kingsford Smith flew the amazing record flight in “Miss Southern Cross” – a Percival Gull - from London to Wyndham in Western Australia in just over ten days. The Australian Commonwealth then gave Kingsford Smith a large grant and he was also appointed as aviation consultant to Vacuum Oil Co.

Another flying record was made when Kingsford Smith and Sir P.G. Taylor flow “Lady Southern Cross” from Brisbane to San Francisco in order to sell her there; the west-east-trans-Pacific flight made aviation history. They returned to Australia to make an attempt at the trans-Tasman flight but their attempt failed due to engine failure; they managed to get back to Sydney safely, minus most of their cargo.

Kingsford Smith had his unsold “Lady Southern Cross” shipped back to England, from where he and J. T. Pethybridge in the “Lady Southern Cross” attempted another record breaking flight from England

Physical description

The Old Bus
Author: Charles Kingsford Smith
Publisher: Distibuted by Herald Feature Service
Date; 1932

Inscriptions & markings

Label on spine cover with typed text RA 629.1309 KIN