Australia Aviation History
Pilots Who Were Pioneers In Aviation
Owner of a Caudron pusher biplane which had the distinction of having severed the hand of a helping 'swing' starter in 1913 at Cheltenham Racecourse, Adelaide. It fell at the feet of one Hilary Smith but was put in the pocket of a man nearby and was never seen again ! Such were the hazards of pioneer flight. The illustration , however, is another of his planes, used as a demonstrator at Meeba landing ground , Cairns on 28 July 1914. (Those First Australian Flights - Lataan & Laught)
(One of the 'Three Harrys' of Australian aviation ) Of German stock , from South Australia he was a quiet unassuming scholar and mathematician who was the first person in Australia to send and receive speech by radio . During WW1 in the U.K. at Sopwiths he designed the interrupter gear that enabled a machine gun to fire through the propeller by gearing. After the war he and Harry Butler formed an aviation company in Adelaide and Bill Wittber used to work for them.
"Smithy" or "Chilla" , as most except close family called him, became an icon in Australian and World Aviation History, because of his trans-world flights. He combined raw courage with an indefatigable zest for adventure in an era when heroes were part of the public interest for flying. Hollywood stuntman, co-founder of Australian National Airways with Charles Ulm (but when the economy took a downturn, the service was suspended), he made easy friends (he could down a beer while on his head!) With Ulm and others blind flying was developed to an art form for long distance records. His career was as follows:- His father was a bank manager in Queensland, then with Canadian Pacific Railways in Canada, returning to Sydney, Australia with his family.
Attending St. Andrews College Sydney, where he was a choirboy, he went on to study electrical engineering. In WW1,after being in the Signal Corps at Gallipoli in 1915 as a despatch rider, he joined the British Flying Corps (later the R.A.F.). On joining No. 19 Squadron he flew Sopwith Pups in combat and one sortie over the Somme resulted in three toes being amputated and his getting the Military Cross. Medically unfit he was sent back to Australia to recuperate but was invited to America as propaganda for them to join the war in 1917, a task he revelled in. After WW1 he did what several flyers did then, he went barnstorming in Australia with deHavilland war surplus planes and went broke. Then the Prime Minister (Hughes) offered £10,000 for a flight from England to Australia in 1919, at a time when Harry Hawker had just failed to fly the Atlantic. After that 'record' flying was his life (mainly in 'Southern Cross',a Fokker tri motor), culminating in his death in a Lockhead Altair named 'Lady Southern Cross' in 1935, in Burma while attempting an England to Australia record flight. His picture is on the new $1 coin , the $20 note and on various stamps. (Reference C.K.S. by Peter Davies and ANZ booklet)
To have taken on eleven Jagdstaffel 11 (Richthoven's own) pilots by flying over them single handed in a Sopwith triplane was a daring act. For 30 minutes he out turned and out dived his frustrated opponents and led them back over Allied guns before they gave up the chase. He was a Navy flyer from No. 8 Squadron near Ypres. Australian top scorer at (47 victories) of all time, he is less well known than any other 'top scorer' in the World; although D.S.O. and bar, D.S.C. and two bars, plus Croix de Guerre within 8 months made up for this. Initially frustrated by Army preferences in training pilots, he went to the United Kingdom to learn at Hendon in 1915. Posted to Naval 8 Squadron, he flew Sopwith Pups and increased his tally by holding back till the last moment before firing.
He was a deadly shot on the ground too, shooting rats with precision. He lost his life when an Allied searchlight lit up his plane and he was picked off by a bomber rear gunner. His was one of 26,000 air casualties in WW1. ('Heroic Australian Air Stories' by Terry Gwynn-Jones) Joined the 8th Light Horse Brigade and won the DCM at Pope's Hill, Gallipoli in 1915.Transferring to No.1 Sqdn. AFC in Palestine he won the DFC ! Hudson Fysh (see) was his observer. After WW1 he founded QANTAS with Hudson Fysh raising most of the capital but left in 1922 due to differences over teetotal requirements (!) to farm in Western Australia. Then in WW2 he re-enlisted in a training capacity. ( 'qantas.com.au' website and aust. Aviators)
CHARLES EDWARD KINGSFORD SMITH (1897 - 1935)
Captain Robert Alexander LITTLE (1895-1918)