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Smithy's three nephews ^|
carry on great tradition
All noted fliers, one
a prisoner of war
FAMILY ALBUM SNAPSHOT of the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in 1916. Smithy, then 19 had been invalided home, having collected the M.C. and foot injuries in a dogfight over France. With him are his sister-in-law, Mrs. Wilfrid Kingsford Smith (left), three of her children,
Peter, John (back), Margaret and a family friend.
By VICKI ANDERSON
Among the cheering quarter of a million spectators at Mascot aerodrome when Charles Kingsford Smith stepped from the Southern Cross after his epic trans-Pacific flight in June, 1928, were three small boys.
They were Smithy's most ardent hero-worshippers, his nephews Rollo (9), Peter (11), and John (14).
THIS month, at the ripe old
age of 25, Rollo, a wing commander, winner of the D.F.C. and commanding officer of the most recently formed R.A.A.F. bomber training unit in Britain, was awarded an immediate D.S.O.
Peter, after distinguished service as a flight-lieutenant with the R.A.A.F. in England, was shot down over Europe last year, and is now a prisoner of war in Germany.
John, an outstanding pilot in civil aviation before the war, is now squadron-leader of an operational
unit in the North.
It is to bs hoped that the scene of the three boys at the aerodrome will be included in the film now being made in Australia of the life of the late Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
They are the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Wilfrid Kingsford Smith, of Neutral Bay.
A brother 6f "Smithy," Mr. Wil- frid Kingsford Smith figured pro- minently in pre-war civil aviation, originating many inter-city airmail services, including that from Sydney to Broken Hill.
Youngest of these flying nephews, Wing-Commander Rollo Kingsford Smith, was until recently the youngest wing-commander in Allied operational command in England.
That the influence of his uncle is ever present is revealed in his only comment on his decorations:
"I guess the old boy would approve."
In an interview with Rollo's pretty 23-year-old wife at Mosman, I learned that this brilliant young wing-commander finds his greatest excitement not in flying, but in listening to a stranger in some obscure part of England recall the exploits of his uncle.
"Nothing can compare with the kick I get out of it," he wrote his
"It's good to know the old boy is so well remembered by everyone I meet-that is everyone except the editors of that darned newspaper."
"That darned newspaper" was an English daily, which, after writing at length on Rollo's exploits, evi- dently got its Kingsford Smiths
slightly mixed, and concluded by crediting Rollo with flying the Pacific in 1928.
"D a r I i n g," wrote Rollo to
THE THREE FLYING NEPHEWS of the late Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith -Wing-Commander Rollo (left), Squadron-Leader John, and Flight-Lieutenant Peter photographed on.Rollo's wedding day, November 23, 1940. It was the last occasion on
which the boys were home together.
his wife just after the story was published, 'Tve kept something from you. I flew the Pacific when I was
In his letters to his wife, always nine pages at the least, Smithy's youngest nephew is a master of understatement in references to any of his operations, now totalling 35.
"Went to do battle with the wicked Hun last night," or "We had quite a party, and, oh, yes, the plane caught on fire, but I kept my fingers
This from a young airman who is flying sometimes four operations a week, and whose citation accom- panying his D.F.C. read:
"This officer is a gallant squadron leader whose contempt for danger and outstanding ability have been well reflected in the operational efficiency of *is squadron."
Shades of 1916 when 19-year-old Charles Kingsford Smith, flying a suicide crate, won the M.C. for "ex- ceptional bravery when engaged with enemy aircraft over Prance."
For two weeks before the European invasion Wing-Commander Kings- ford Smith's squadron was working twelve hours on with only four hours
J.TIGHLIGHT of each raid was the
party on the return trip home. "Just before sighting the English coast we'd put on the automatic pilot and settle down to a spread of chocolate, orange juice, and dried fruit," Rollo wrote his wife.
As a boy, remembering his uncle's advice that to be a great flier you had to be a great mathematician. Rollo concentrated on maths, at Sydney High School, graduating with honors in the Leaving.
As a cadet at Point Cook he won his wings early in 1939. Studying navigation at Richmond, he was one of the first nine fliers to obtain a first-class navigator's certificate
BRIEFING before a raid on Ber Commander Rollo Kingsford Smith (certificate No. 1 is held by the famous Captain P. G. (Bill) Taylor).
Rollo arrived in England in May, 1943, and later led the first Aus- tralian Lancaster squadron on a
News of his immediate award of the D.F.C. was given him in the officers' mess by the Prime Minister i Mr. Curtin) during his visit to Eng- land in April.
Rollo's wife, who was formerly Miss Grace Prior, of Mosman, still regards her tenth birthday as one of the most important days of her life, for it was the day Charles Kingsford Smith was married.
"I was thrilled as could be, little realising that one day I would be- come a member of the family," she
They have a two-year-old daugh- ter, Sue.
Rollo's brother Peter, who was in the Militia, joined the Air Force in 1940, and later left for overseas.
During a hazardous convoy cross- ing from Canada to England, when the ship in which he was travelling
lin. Twenty-five-year-old Wing : (seated) with some of his crew
was -attacked by planes, he took charge of the ship's anti-aircraft
Reported missing on a raid over Europe in February last year, he was not captured until four months later.
The story of how he was kept in hiding by Allied sympathisers dur- ing those months is probably as dramatic as any to be told after the
First news Mrs. Wilfrid Kingsford Smith received of her son after he had been reported missing was a cable from an Englishwoman: Mrs. H. Nicholls, of Moss Lane, Pinner, who has proved a splendid friend to hundreds of young Australian airmen in England.
"The cable stating that Peter was safe was a tremendous relief to us after all those anxious months of not knowing whether he was dead or alive," Mrs. Wilfrid Kings- ford Smith said.
"Mrs. Nicholls deserves a medal for the wonderful job she is doing. Since Rollo first spent a leave at her home a year ago, she has thrown
r^^B 23 - vear - old * ^^^I^B wife of Wing
^^^B^p^ Comm ander
! ford Smith, Df.C, D.S.O., with § daughter Sue, now two years of f age. Mrs. Kingsford Smith was
J formerly Miss Grace Prior.
st open her home to more than 500
1 lonely young Australian airmen,
i "The boys and their families back H home, with whom she keeps in
touch, are very grateful to her."
The third of these flying brothers, John, now a squadron-leader of an operational unit in the North, early in 1937 established a high-altitude record for light aircraft.
Permission is being sought for John to be released from the Air ?Force to fly aircraft for the film of
Kingsford Smith's life.
This film, which will be the most expensive ever made in Australia, is being backed by Columbia Pictures and produced by the managing, direc- tor of Columbia Pictures Pty. Ltd. in Australia (Mr. N. P. Perry).
Director Mr. Ken G. Hall says that he has discovered eight prospects for the part of Smithy, and more than 20 applicants who bear remark- able resemblances to the great air-
Smithy's former wireless operator, John Stannage, will appear in the film.
CQUADRON-LEADER Bill Chase
ling, another old friend of the airman's, will act as liaison officer between the R.A.A.F. and Cinesound.
Smithy's wife, Mary (now Mrs. Alan Tully), who will also be represented in the film, is now liv- ing at Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., with her son Charles, and a daughter by her second marriage, Belinda.
A recent letter to the family said that "Charles II" had just gone into his first pair of long pants.
Although scenario writers . are juggling now with enough material for three pictures of Smithy's color- ful life, hundreds of friends and ac- quaintances of Smithy continue to flood the studio with little-known anecdotes and sidelights on his
His family, all of whom will be represented in the film, are hoping that this particular favorite one will be included in the scenario:
The central figures are Charles and his mother, who died three weeks after all hope had been aban- doned for her son, lost off Burma while attempting a record flight from England to Australia in 1935.
The scene was Mascot aerodrome, June, 1928, with the cheering thousands and Charles (or "Chilla," as his adored and adoring "Nan" al- ways called him) rushing to greet her after his harrowing nine-day flight from San Francisco.
Taking one look at the nation's idol, with his grease-stained face and flying-suit, she gasped: "Chilla, you dirty little monkey. Go straight
home and have a bath."