Why Kingsford-Smith was rejected entry into the Great Air Race

We discuss why Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith's was rejected Great Air Race entry

Date Published October 8, 2018
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History may well have taken a different course if Charles Kingsford-Smith’s entry into the 1919 Great Air Race had not been rejected!

Because Kingsford-Smith was rejected entry into the race, he had to wait nine years until his USA – Australia flight to receive the global fame he so desperately desired! It’s possible that Sir Ross Smith wouldn’t have won the Great Air Race if Kingsford-Smith had entered the race, as Kingsford Smith was an extremely experienced aviator.

Kingsford-Smith was already in Australia ready to prepare his entry into the 1919 air race when Prime Minister William “Billy” Hughes announced the race. This gave him an advantage over Ross Smith, who was in India at the time of the announcement. However, Kingsford-Smith ran out of luck when he was denied membership to The Royal Aero Club of Australia. The RACA were concerned with his lack of navigational knowledge of the 18,000km route, and thus thought it would be not be wise to let Kingsford-Smith enter the race.

History was therefore not ready for Kingsford-Smith and his future heroics, so Kingsford-Smith accepted the rejection and moved on. He never met Ross Smith, and there is no record of him meeting with Prime Minister Hughes prior to 1928. However, a 1946 film on Kingsford-Smith (financed in Hollywood and produced in Australia) did exactly what Hollywood usually does by rewriting history completely! The film, titled Smithy, was an Australian Box office hit in 1946. It told the story of Kingsford-Smith’s 1928 Pan-Pacific flight and starred Australian Born actor Ron Randell as Kingsford-Smith. An early scene depicts Randell (Kingsford-Smith) walking into Prime Minister Hughes’ office in 1919. Hughes proceeds to ask him how he will navigate the route, to which Kingsford-Smith replies, “using railway maps, Sir”. Hughes says he will not allow Kingsford-Smith to compete in the air race as he fears for his safety.

Hughes, who played himself in the movie, provided a stellar performance for a man of 84! The director, Ken G. Hall recalled in his autobiography that Hughes really struggled to remember all his lines, so numerous takes were required! To reiterate, Kingsford-Smith was rejected entry into the race, but this meeting between Hughes and Kingsford-Smith never occurred. However, this didn’t stop script writer Ken Hall from rewriting history!

This 2-and-a-half-minute film-scene is available online for your viewing pleasure! So, get on to YouTube now to view this incredibly fascinating piece of fiction! It’s a great piece of Australian film history, and a rare opportunity for you to see our 7th Prime Minister in the flesh (Hollywood style)!

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