Litercurious Book Review
|Title||Smithy – The Life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith|
|Publisher||Sapere Book (November 20, 2022)|
|Format||Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback|
|Genre||Biographies of the Air Force / Aviation History|
Military Aviation History
Ian Mackersey was a New Zealand writer and documentary film producer acclaimed for his deeply researched and revelational biographies.
A former head of film and television production at British Airways in
London, where his documentaries took 24 international awards, Ian Mackersey, TV documentary producer and the author of ten books, including two novels. He began his writing career as a reporter on daily newspapers in New Zealand before going to London to work in Fleet Street and later as a feature writer for Royal Air Force Review, travelling the world reporting on the RAF’s global operations. There followed a year in Hong Kong as night news editor of the South China Morning Post, the editorship, back at the Air Ministry in London, of the RAF’s flying training magazine, Air Clues, and, later, a move to Central Africa.
In April 2015, after a short illness, Ian Mackersey passed away in Auckland. He is survived by three children; David, Paula and Kiri. Should you wish to make contact regarding their father’s work, please email Paula Mackersey here.
Excerpt taken in parts from https://www.ianmackersey.com
Smithy (1897–1935) is the unvarnished tale of one of Australia’s most famous aviators. The book tells the life story of the first man to fly across the Pacific Ocean. It begins with Charles’ humble beginnings in a large family that was constantly on the move. A fun loving kid, Charles was always the center of attention; something he carried on with his whole life.
Sir Charles was quite a character! Always on the move and trying to entertain family and friends. He served at Gallipoli during WWI. As a motorcycle runner he was almost blown up by artillery. He transferred into aviation after recovering from his wounds, but got wounded and lost part of his foot during a dogfight. That didn’t matter much to him though, flying was now in his blood.
What follows are the many tales of master airmanship, woes of politics, love and loss, wild flights and crashes (many whiles drunk), and many World Record aviation attempts. Smithy is best known for his transpacific flight, but he accomplished so much more. He had to deal with inner demons that haunted him until his dying day; demons that sometimes left him incapacitated while flying. In a day where aviators flew by the seat of their pants, it is astonishing that he was able to fly across great expanses of water without getting so lost that he couldn’t land.
A true master aviator, Smithy flew an aircraft at night in bad weather and turbulence sitting in chairs that were unattached to the airframe and no seat belts. To make matters worse, there was no lighting in the cockpit so he had to use a flashlight to fly instruments. Some of these flights lasted 36 hours! There was no verbal communication between crew-members due to the engine noise so they attached notes to a broom handle and passed them back and forth to communicate. On one flight, Smithy lost one engine over the ocean, and the other was loosing oil. While in flight, one of the crew-members had to go out on the wing and drain oil from the dead engine and then cross the aircraft to the other wing to pour the oil in the running engine. If he hadn’t accomplished this remarkable feat, they never would have made landfall.
This book was truly an inspiration to someone who has been around aviation his whole life. The tales of flying over the ocean through thunderstorms at night with just the rudimentary set of flight instruments in an aircraft with no windows and wicker chairs as pilots seats, still amazes me! As a flight instructor and instrument examiner, I know how hard it is for pilots to accomplish these feats with all the modern equipment we have today.
One of the most hilarious stories was when Smithy had his radio operator and navigator climb into the back of the aircraft so he could make a short-field landing. When he touched down, one of the unfortunate fellows fell through the fabric butt naked on the runway. Smithy unaware of this taxied away and abandoned the poor man out there in front of a massive crowd in nothing but his birthday suit!
The book covers so much more than just the fascinating flights in old cloth and frame aircraft; it also deals with the politics of the times. Not just Australian politics, but world politics; like the time when Smithy got banned from Turkey.
There is so much in this book for an aviation aficionado to delve into. I definitely recommend this book. Ian did a masterful job in his research and writing. I had never heard of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith before I discovered this book, and now I’ll never forget this aviation master and wild character! I had to keep reading merely to see what Smithy would get up to next.
He may have been a womanizer. He may have been an alcoholic, but he was definitely one hell of a pilot!
I would like to thank Ian Mackersey, Sapere Book, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to review Smithy – The Life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.