First day envelopes and letters (2), sent on the first official airmail flight piloted by Charles Kingsford Smith between from Melbourne and London, paper / ink, envelopes made by Postmaster-General's Department, Australia, 1931, letters written by Frederick and Dorothy Radford Manly, New South Wales, Australia, 22 April 1931
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith (1897-1935) was probably the greatest and certainly most well known of Australia's fliers.
Charles Kingsford Smith was born in 1897 at Hamilton, Queensland. He spent his early life in Sydney and in 1915 enlisted in the AIF and served at Gallipoli. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and served as a pilot but was shot down and wounded in the foot in 1917.
After the war he spent some time in the United States of America and then joined Western Australian Airways in Perth. He moved to Sydney in 1927 and in that year met Charles Ulm and they worked on various enterprises. In 1928 Kingsford Smith and Ulm together with Harry Lyon and James Warner made the historic flight across the Pacific Ocean in the 'Southern Cross' from the United States of America to Australia. Also in 1928 Kingsford Smith and Ulm made the first crossing of the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand using the 'Southern Cross' again.
'Smithy' and Ulm formed Australian National Airways (ANA) in December 1928 although regular passenger services did not start until January 1930. The Airline prospered for a while, but the general economic depression, coupled with the crash of the "Southern Cloud" in March 1931, eventually caused the failure of ANA in 1933. However, in the same year as the "Southern Cloud" crash, Kingsford Smith flew the first official air mail flight in the "Southern Cross" from Melbourne, Australia to London. This flight marked the beginning of a significant step in international communication. News from loved ones could hence be received within weeks rather than months. The world was becoming a smaller place.
The letters and envelopes are important artifacts of that first official air mail flight, and the writers - a mother and a father writing to their sons in London - discuss the significance of the letters travelling on the historic flight, piloted by the famous airman. International communication in the pre WWII era in Australia was very slow, as letters were transported by sea. The notion of mail being received in England in a mere two weeks, as mentioned in this letter, would have been a significant one for those with loved ones abroad. This envelope and letter is an excellent example of how the advent of air mail affected Australians.
Charles Kingsford Smith was granted the rank of Air Commodore in the RAAF in 1930 and was knighted in 1932. He was a superb pilot who planned his long distance flights with great care. He had great personal charm and magnetism and inspired loyalty and devotion in his associates. He was not a businessman and generally left all business matters to Ulm and others. He received much publicity for his pioneering flights, but little reward and for much of his life was beset by financial worries.
In 1935 Kingsford Smith was in England with the "Lady Southern Cross". On 6 November 1935 he took off with Tom Pethybridge in an attempt to break the record for an England to Australia flight. Sadly, the aircraft disappeared over the Bay of Bengal and both men perished.
The "Southern Cross" is undoubtedly the most famous aircraft in Australian aviation history. It was basically a Fokker F.V11-3M three-engined monoplane. Smithy and Ulm purchased the Fokker (without engines) from Sir Hubert Wilkins in the United States of America in 1927.
Kingsford Smith made many famous flights in the "Southern Cross" which he called the 'Old Bus'. It is now preserved in a special display area at Brisbane Airport.
The envelopes and postage stamps would have been purchased from Post Offices in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1931. The letters were sent to their children in England by Dorothy and Frederick Radford to there sons Jack and Glenn Radford as a souvenir of the first official air mail flight between Melbourne and London which was flown by Charles Kingsford Smith in 1931.