Smithy's nephew, John Kingsford-Smith, self-published his autobiography in 1992. The compiler's copy of the book carries the signatures of;

John Kingsford-Smith - the author
Charles Kingsford-Smith (Jnr) - Smithy's son
Mary Kingsford-Smith - Smithy's widow
Grace KingsfordSmith - Rollo's wife
Rollo KingsfordSmith - John's brother
Merran KingsfordSmith - Rollo's daughter
Susan KingsfordSmith - Rollo's daughter

It is noteworthy that the first three hyphenate their surname while the others run the two names together.


John Kingsford-Smith recalled that when he was aged fifteen;

"My uncle Charles returned to Sydney in 1926, and from then until 1931 I had a very close association with him. The youngest in his family, he was only twelve years older than me and was closer to my generation than to my father's, so I had more in common with him than I did my other uncles and aunts." (p.17)

"I remember at the time of establishing Interstate Air Services, Smithy had applied for membership of the NSW Aero Club at Mascot to enjoy the conveniences of meals and showers while he was working. Membership however was only open to 'gentlemen pilots' and because Smithy 'flew for a living', he was refused membership. After flying the Pacific in 1928 and becoming a national hero, the NSW Aero Club held a dinner at the Sydney Town Hall in Charles' honour. I was a guest and during the evening, the Club's president announced Charles was being made an honorary life member of the Club, but Smithy responded that as he still flew for a living he couldn't accept the offer. He never entered the NSW Aero Club at Mascot." (p.19)

John refers to his famous uncle usually as Charles but occasionally as Smithy, but never as Chilla.

"In 1931, two years after establishing ANA, Smithy offered me a job as second pilot with ANA, flying on the Sydney-Melbourne run. I leapt at the opportunity. The Avro 10 aircraft ANA used carried ten passengers and flew at a maximum altitude of ten thousand feet. It took five hours to fly to Melbourne in favourable conditions, and longer in a headwind.

"At the time I didn't have a pilot's licence but was learning to fly. There weren't enough licensed pilots in Australia available for commercial employment at this time and pilots were regularly recruited from overseas. Because of this scarcity, the law said that as long as a skipper was licensed and the second pilot 'learning to fly', the learner could act as second pilot." (pp.20-21)

After the loss of the Southern Cloud and the subsequent failure of ANA, John found employment in the film industry with Filmcraft Laboratories. A year later he moved to Cinesound Productions where he worked under the legendary Ken G. Hall. Secure employment allowed John to resume his pilot training and eventually he qualified for his commercial licence although he was never to fly commercially.

With the outbreak of WWII, John applied to join the RAAF and commenced an instructor's course at Point Cook on 12 March 1940 after resigning from Cinesound. In February 1942, with invasion a real possibility, John developed a plan to fit RAAF Tiger Moths with bomb racks which were held in store having been removed from obsolete types such as the Wapiti. In conjunction with Flying Officers Norm Lennon and John Larkin, the idea progressed as far as planning potential operating bases at various golf courses around Sydney. With the arrival of Kittyhawks, the plan was never implemented although John was promoted to Flight Lieutenant for his initiative. In June 1944 John was promoted from Squadron Leader to Wing Commander and placed in command of No 72 Wing at Merauke in Dutch New Guinea. In January 1945 he was repatriated to Australia with severe asthma.

The Smithy Film

"After several weeks recovering from the asthma at Taylor's Point and Artarmon, in March 1945 Ken Hall, my old boss at Cinesound and Cinesound's Managing Director, invited me to become the RAAF liaison officer on a Columbia film being produced at Cinesound on the life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.

"The war in both Europe and Japan was tapering off by this time and I was due to be discharged from the RAAF, but Ken asked if I would extend my RAAF service so the film could have the backing of the RAAF. I told Ken I was prepared to do this but I needed the RAAF's permission. I saw the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal George Jones, who granted permission on the condition that everything in the film pertaining to flying was 100% correct.

"The film's production lasted nine months altogether and during this time I provided extensive technical advice about flying and about facts relating to Smithy's life and achievements.

"The old Southern Cross was brought out of retirement in Canberra to use in the many flying sequences in the film. She hadn't been flown for ten years. Harry Purvis (as Captain) and I travelled to Canberra, flight tested her, flew her to Sydney and flew her many times for the 'Smithy' film. It was wonderful to fly the old girl and to fly again with Harry. The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, May 22, 1945 reported:

Canberra - Monday - It was a spick-and-span Southern Cross which was on display at Duntroon today. The fuselage had been repainted, the original blue colour and the wing and engines silver. The words "Southern Cross" in silver letters, and stars representing each of the Australian States, in the same colours, were on the fuselage.

After her test flight this afternoon the historic monoplane was granted a certificate of airworthiness. It will be used in the film "Smithy" ... which is to be financed by Columbia Pictures. The last time the Southern Cross was aloft was on July 18, 1935, when it was flown from Kingsford Smith Airport, Mascot, to Richmond for sale to the Federal Government. ...

The crew of today's test flight were Wing-Commander G. H. Purvis (test pilot), Wing-Commander John Kingsford-Smith ... (co-pilot), Warrant-Officer M. J. W. Bunt (sic Burt) (engineer), and Mr. H. Affleck, representing the Civil Aviation Department. The Southern Cross attained a speed of 100 mph during its ten minutes in the air.

And the Daily Telegraph of 29 May, 1945, reported:

Pilots are finding it difficult to fly slow enough to enable cameramen to 'shoot' the Southern Cross sequences of the Kingsford Smith film. An RAAF Avro-Anson was found to be the only plane roomy enough for the cameramen, and slow enough to fly beside the old Southern Cross. The Anson is being flown by Wing-Commander John Kingsford-Smith ... He has to fly with the flaps and the undercarriage of the Anson down. Most camera shots are at present being taken over the sea, but on Thursday the Southern Cross will be over the city at 1 o'clock.

"The liaison with Cinesound meant I had almost daily contact with Ken Hall who was directing the 'Smithy' film.

"During production, I began to experience difficulty getting on with Ken, and over the months on the film we had several quite heated differences of opinion which I found difficult to understand. One evening when he and I were about to return from Richmond RAAF base after filming there all day, in front of several others Ken stated to me he strongly believed Air Force officers were 'grossly overpaid'. He backed up his opinion with various other views - all of which I found offensive - and from then on our relationship deteriorated and didn't improve. It was an omen of things to come.

"On completion of the Smithy film in 1946 I was formally discharged from the RAAF. It seemed an eternity since I'd joined as an instructor six years earlier.

"My discharge meant I was again available for civilian employment and Cinesound, as my pre-war employer, was bound by National Security Regulations to re-instate me.

"During the months making the Smithy film I had several times initiated discussions with Ken Hall about the terms of my reinstatement with Cinesound and Ken knew I was keen to re-establish myself in the film industry. I had worked in the industry for nine years prior to joining the RAAF, for over seven of those with Cinesound, and film production was in my blood. I had a good overall grasp of the industry, and I believe I had good skills in film production itself - in story writing and diaglogue, supervising photography, and in production and editing.

"Ken's and my early discussions had centred on the level of responsibility I would assume once reinstated. We agreed I would be solely responsible for the newly established and successful Industrial Section. I would be promoted to Laboratory Manager. I would be able to quote for jobs. And I would be given a substantial salary increase.

"Later discussions with Ken however were not as positive. He began to hedge about my re-employment and it became more difficult to get a definite answer from him about it. Eventually, I wrote to him setting out what I saw to be the terms of employment and he, eventually, responded with a date for my re-commencement.

"Cinesound was owned by Greater Union Theatres (who owned several theatres in Sydney including the State Theatre), and GUT was in turn owned by four separate holding companies. In late 1945, having confidence in the future of Cinesound, I bought shares in one of the GUT holding companies.

"On 18 February 1946 I re-commenced with Cinesound. Unfortunately, problems surfaced almost immediately. The first was that instead of commencing as Laboratory Manager as previously agreed, I was appointed Laboratory Supervisor. Then, the promise of managing the new Industrial Section was not adhered to when its management was split into two jobs. Then, the promise of my being able to quote for jobs was broken, and my salary increase never eventuated.

"I noticed that business had dropped off over the years and in my view this was due to inefficient administration, bad business deals and over-staffing. I endeavoured to introduce several (then) modern technological innovations to laboratory practice to both increase efficiency and enhance laboratory safety, but all my suggestions fell on deaf ears.

"Ken had always maintained that Cinesound was a one man show with him as general manager, laboratory manager, business manager, editing manager, newsreel, camera and sound boss etc. But Cinesound was becoming too big for such centralised control and, if it was to be successful in the future, I could see that Ken would need to start delegating responsibility and relinquishing control.

"I was becoming increasingly frustrated by my inability to do what I believed should be done and to gain any satisfaction from the job. I knew I could make good profits for Cinesound if given a chance, but I was never given a free hand. I felt I was still being treated as the youngster I'd been when I first joined Cinesound thirteen years earlier.

"The final crunch came when Ken took the view that my leaving Cinesound seven years earlier to join the Air Force had been an example of disloyalty to Cinesound. He maintained that, because of this disloyalty, I shouldn't expect particular consideration from Cinesound on my return.

"I was deeply hurt by his attitude and felt I could no longer work for Ken. On 24 October 1946, eight months after re-commencing with Cinesound, I handed in my resignation.

"Looking back, it was unlikely I'd fit in to Cinesound on my return from war. I had jumped five ranks in four years in the RAAF and had come to assume a lot of responsibility. I had changed significantly over that time and it seemed inevitable that Ken and I would grow apart. I believe, for whatever reason, Ken resented my experiences during the war. I think he realised this during the making of the Smithy film and decided he didn't want me back. When I did start back there again I believe he showed his resentment by trying to hold me back. His behaviour towards me though was only part of his overall management style at Cinesound at the time, and this was one of the confirming factors in my decision that Cinesound was no longer the place for me.

"I left Cinesound though with many regrets, because over several years the company had meant a great deal to me. ...

"Early in 1946 while working on the 'Smithy' film, I'd been impressed by the organisational ability of Cinesound's 'contact' man and production manager on 'Smithy', Lloyd Ravenscroft.

"I approached Lloyd and persuaded him to form a partnership with me in film production. After my disappointment with Cinesound I was determined to start my own company, and on 26 November 1946, Kingcroft Productions Pty. Limited (the name derived from each of our surnames) was formed. ...

"Ken and I sadly remained antagonists for over twenty years and then in the late sixties I was invited to a Channel 9 party after the screening of a program known as
'This is Your Life' on the subject of Ken Hall. (Ken was now Managing Director of Channel 9). I went to the party reluctantly, and when Ken and I saw each other we shook hands. The following day, I rang him and invited him to lunch for old times' sake. Shortly after the lunch, Ken rang and asked if he could hire my theatrette at Kingcroft to screen a film he didn't want to show at Channel 9. I told him he couldn't hire it, he could have itl Since that time, Ken and I have been the best of friends, and it wasn't until I read his book, 'Directed by Ken G. Hall', that I realised the very hard time he'd had managing Cinesound under Norman B. Rydge of Greater Union Theatres.

"The last time I saw Ken was in April 1992 at an archivist exhibition at the National Trust headquarters in Sydney addressed by Gough Whitlam, and we yarned for quite awhile. Ken was 92 at the time and still in excellent health." (pp.67-74)

Kenneth George Hall was born on 22 February 1901 and passed away on 8 February 1994. (Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography)

John Kingsford-Smith describes a 1977 meeting with his old friend Harry Purvis.


"In 1977, I was invited as a guest of the Mayor of Cairns to represent the family at the official opening of the Kingsford Smith Room restaurant at Fairview. Harry Purvis, old barnstorming and RAAF pal from my youth, who was then permanently living in Cairns, also attended. Harry had not only accompanied me on barnstorming flights back in the 1930s (including two of my fateful crashes into the sea), but had also accompanied Smithy on many barnstorming tours. Harry donated as a display gift for the restaurant a split propeller Smithy had given him forty years earlier from the Southern Cross." (p.61)


Fairview was the Kingsford ancestral home and residence of Smithy’s maternal grandparents. During the war it had served as headquarters for the famed Z Force. It was damaged by fire in 1953 but was repaired, later becoming an entertainment and accommodation venue known locally as the House on the Hill. By the late eighties it had fallen on hard times and was eventually destroyed by fire in 1993. An apartment complex now occupies the site. The propeller is probably the one presented to Harry by Smithy and described in Harry Purvis' biography Outback Airman. Its fate is unknown but hopefully it might have been removed by persons unknown before Fairview fell into disrepair.

John Kingsford-Smith was born in Toowoomba, Queensland on 7 May 1911. He passed away in Sydney, NSW on 16 June 2000.


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