Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith

Sent in by Barry Chain. Thank you.

Wing Commander Kingsford-Smith DSO AM DFC, RAAF Bomber Command WW II.

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Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith DSO AM DFC  (from Beecroft and Cheltenham Historical Group Website)

With the surname of one of Australia’s pioneer aviators, it was almost inevitable that Rollo Kingsford-Smith would join the RAAF in 1938, becoming one of Australia’s most decorated aviators and after the war continue in the aviation industry becoming the Chief Executive, and later Chairman of Hawker de Havilland Pty Ltd.

Born 14 July 1919 in Northwood, Rollo Kingsford-Smith was taken as a boy on his first flight by his uncle Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. He received his Leaving Certificate from Sydney Boys High in 1936 and then attended night classes at Sydney Technical College. In July 1938 he undertook pilot training at the RAAF’s Point Cook and in October 1939 he was posted to No 6 Squadron, Richmond conducting coastal reconnaissance patrols, and later he was involved in training pilots at Point Cook, Victoria.

In 1942 Rollo was promoted to Squadron Leader and joined Bomber Command in England, initially in the operational training units. In September 1943 he became a Flight Commander in RAAF 467 Squadron, flying Lancaster bombers on night bombing missions over Germany, France and Italy. In November 1943, he was promoted to Wing Commander and commanding officer of RAAF 463 Squadron, a new Australian Lancaster bomber unit based at Waddington, Lincolnshire. Prime Minister John Curtin visited Waddington in May 1944 and awarded Rollo the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was followed in August 1944 by an award of Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry. Rollo Kingsford-Smith flew 34 bombing missions, including the Normandy coast on D-Day. In April 1945 he took command of 627 Squadron, a Pathfinder unit flying Mosquitoes that dropped flares to mark the path for the following heavy bombers.
He returned to Australia in July 1945, but led the Australian RAAF contingent in the 1946 Victory celebrations in London. Rollo left the RAAF in April 1949, with the rank of Wing Commander. Rollo wrote about his wartime experiences in a privately published memoir: I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.

Rollo Kingsford-Smith had married Grace Prior in 1940. The Prior family owned The Bulletin magazine from 1927 until its sale in 1960 to Frank Packer. On his return from war service, the Kingsford-Smith family settled in Hannah Street, Beecroft. In 1949 Rollo joined the aircraft manufacturing and maintenance company Hawker de Havilland Pty Ltd, based at Bankstown Airport as commercial manager. He subsequently became Managing Director in the early 1960s and retired as Chairman in 1990. Rollo was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1985 for his services to the Australian aviation industry, particularly the development of a high technology export business. Rollo was active in veteran affairs and he initiated the establishment of Bomber Command Association in Australia and the annual Bomber Command Commemorative Day in Australia. He was also Patron of the NSW Branch of the 463/467 SQN Association.

Rollo purchased land at Exeter and built a house, to which he and Grace moved after his retirement. Rollo died at Bowral in on 14 June 2009, one month before his 90th birthday; he was survived by Grace and three daughters, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.[1]

In retirement, Rollo became active in the debate about Australia becoming a republic and adopting a new national flag.   He formed the group Veterans for a Republic, having become a republican in April 1944 following the British Government’s attempt to prevent RAAF bomber crews returning to Australia after their tour of duty in England in order to fight in the Pacific War and the resultant diversion of RAAF reinforcements to RAF squadrons.[2] In his view, Australian interests should not be subservient to British interests and Australia should leave the British Empire when the war ended. Rollo also joined Ausflag as a director. He explained his position on the flag in an article in Australian Geographic [3], stating: “As a serviceman in World War II, I saw my share of fighting and witnessed the deaths of far too many Australians in combat. However, I certainly didn’t fight for the flag and I didn’t know anyone who said they did. Success and survival in war depends on luck, skill, determination and discipline – when you’re in the thick of it, there isn’t time to worry about something as irrelevant as a flag.”

Grace Kingsford-Smith was an active member of the Beecroft Auxiliary of the Children’s Library and Crafts Movement, including a term as President from 1951 to 1954 and continuing on the executive committee for a number of years.


[1] “Obituary: Loyal fighter was a republican”, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 2009.

[2] “Foreign flags made war heroes republicans”, by Mike Steketee, The Australian, 30 August 1995.

[3] “A Flag for the New Millennium”, Australian Geographic, April-June 2001, p35.


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Penang Reunion

Just an update on reunion plans. I’d like to advise that you are welcome to use this forum for your reunion and get-together plans in Penang, next year I think it is. I will not be involved in any way other than posting your info on here. I can’t see my way clear to join you although I would like to very much, it just can’t happen. But I am keen to see a large group trip happen as I know just how much fun you will have.

I would like to add that Karen Kenter from The World @ Braeside Travel has offered to look after co-ordinating your travel plans. You might remember Braeside Travel looked after us for the reunion in 2010 and did a marvellous job of organising travel and varying travel times and dates and departures.  Also, Karen personally travelled to Penang and spent a few days with us there to make sure everything went smoothly.

Here is a link to their website and a package they are currently offering to Singapore. Click on the image.






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Looking for MacArthy and Debra Bendar

If anyone can help Ibrahim, you can leave a message here or email me at Thanks.


Dear Cynthia,

I came across your site on RAAF School in Penang whilst searching for old friends whom I have lost contact over the years. My name is Ibrahim Ali, a Penangnite and were residing in the Tanjung Tokong (Jalan Bunga Hinai to be specific) area until 1981 before I left Penang for employment in Kuala Lumpur. In my street, my family befriended several RAAF families and 2 particular families are close to us namely the Mac Arthy and De bra Bendar (hope the spelling is correct). Mac Arthy family had 2 sons i.e. Richard and Damien where else De bra Bendar (father named Tony) has 2 daughters (Kim and Robin) and 2 sons (Mark and Cray). I have search the web and tried several approach to find them but hasn’t been successful and it is even difficult when I’m no longer residing in Penang for over 30 years. I’m not sure if your good-self would be able to help me but any info or e-mail contact of them is greatly appreciated. My apology if your site is not into searching or sharing personal info’s but at least it was worth the try in my effort to search for them.
Thanks and warmest regards.
Ibrahim Ali Jabbar


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Thanks to Kevin Hartigan for forwarding this newspaper clipping of 20 September 1978.

2 – RAAF School Penang – Daily Telegraph – 20-09-78

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RAAF Base to Go

Another article on the proposed redevelopment of our old RAAF Base at Butterworth.



Thanks to John Ryan for sending in the article.


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Travelling to Penang?

Just a quick thought – I took a photo of the power point they use in Malaysia. It might be handy for you if you’re about to take a trip back, or a first time visit, and are shopping for an adaptor.


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From Kayes, PenangTalk

Memories of Penang, Pearl of the Orient

Reminisce and consolidate your memories of Penang in an essay. In so doing you may win a holiday for two to Penang!

This is a contest instigated by Kayes who many of you will be familiar with from the PenangTalk forum.  The contest is sponsored by the Penang Turf Club. Click the link to find out more.

Email Kayes on

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Sigh – There Goes Butterworth AFB

Thanks to John Magro for alerting us to this post.

Malaysia Flying Herald WordPress Blog\

The Butterworth AFB will be transformed into a leisure-oriented development under a proposed joint venture (JV). Leading the project would be TSR Capital Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera and Pembinaan Bukit Timah Sdn Bhd to transform the 1,007-acre site via a land swap deal.

It said the JV company will be the master developer of the leisure-oriented project.

“The proposal which is presently being negotiated between the parties was mooted by the JV company to the Government along the lines of the Public Private Partnership concept,” it said.

TSR will hold 51% equity share in the JV, followed by Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera at 30% and Pembinaan Bukit Timah at 19%.

The 407 hectares land occupied by the base in Teluk Air Tawar – which is about 8km from Butterworth directly opposite Penang Island – would be transformed into “a city of arts and leisure,” it said in a filing to Bursa Malaysia.

The air base will be relocated and reconstructed at a site soon to be identified.

“The Government shall pay the JVC for the new air force base through a land swap at the current market value of the Government land, which included but was not limited to the 407ha land where the existing Butterworth AFB is situated,” the statement said.

The statement added that the land swap meant that the Government need not fund the cost of relocating and reconstructing the air force base, and also secured it the opportunity to participate in the redevelopment of the land via LTAT’s 30% interest in the JVC.

The proposal, which is currently being negotiated between the parties, was mooted by the JVC to the Government along the lines of the public-private partnership concept, it said.

TSR Capital’s statement added that details of the agreement would be released after definitive and conclusive terms had been agreed upon, and a formal agreement entered into by the parties concerned.

Butterworth AFB has been the main military installation in this country ever since the earlier years of World War 2. Initially known as the RAF Butterworth, it was a part of the British defence plan for defending the Malayan Peninsula against an imminent threat of invasion by the Imperial Japanese forces during World War II.

During the Battle of Malaya, the airfield suffered some damage as a direct result of aerial bombing from Mitsubishi G3M and Mitsubishi G4M bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service based in Saigon, South Vietnam. Brewster Buffalos from the airbase rose to challenge the escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters but were mauled during several of these engagements by the highly trained and experienced Japanese fighter pilots.

The RAF airfield was subsequently captured by units of the advancing 25th Army (Imperial Japanese Army) on 20 December 1941 and the control of the airbase was to remain in the hands of IJA until the end of hostilities in September 1945. Whereupon the RAF resumed control of the station and Japanese prisoners of war were made to repair the airfield as well as to improve the runways before resuming air operations in May 1946.

In 1957, the RAF closed the station and it was transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and it was promptly renamed as RAAF Butterworth, becoming the home to numerous Australian fighter and bomber squadrons stationed in Malaya during the Cold War era.

The Australian fighters and bombers played a significant role in providing air support during Operation Firedog during the Emergency and later was part of Commonwealth air defence contribution against the might of the then Angkatan Udara Republik Indonesia (AURI now TNI-AU) during the Konfrontasi.

From 1970′s onwards, the airbase plays an important part to support Malaysia’s fight against the communist threats. Being the northernmost and nearest base to communists hotspots especially those near the Thai-Malaysian border, a dark episode looms over the airbase when a Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri helicopter operated by No 3 Skn was shot down by the communist terrorists over Gubir with the loss of all hands on-board.

The RMAF Butterworth, as the airbase is known back then, is also the birthplace of Malaysia’s jet fighter units namely No 11 Skn with CAC CA-27 Sabres in 1967. During Ops Gubir, F-5 fighters from the airbase were launched to pound communist hideouts in Gubir, Kedah.

This feat was later repeated again decades later, when two Hawk and five Hornet jets from No 15 SKn and No 18 Skn were deployed to Labuan AFB from the airbase and took part during the opening hour of Ops Daulat in March 2013.

Having had relinquished its control over the airbase in June 30, 1988 to the RMAF, the RAAF still maintained an infantry company (known as Butterworth Rifle Company) as well as a detachment of AP-3C Orion from No 92 Wing. The Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) also has an Integrated Air Defence System HQ (IADS HQ) located at the airbase.

It is unknown whether this factors have been considered in the proposed development plan as Butterworth AFB has a long and rich history and heritage that is significant to this country. For the record, the Butterworth AFB is the second RMAF airbase which will be closed down after decision being made to close and redeveloped the historically important and significant Sg Besi AFB in Kuala Lumpur.


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Butterworth/Penang Project

The intention of this study is to investigate the social history of the Australian community living in Butterworth/Penang from 1955-1988.

If you were a member of the Australian community in Butterworth/Penang (civilian or military) and you wish to participate, you will be emailed a questionnaire regarding your experience in Butterworth/Penang.

To register your interest, forward your full name and the period during which you resided in Butterworth/Penang, by email to Mathew Radcliffe at

This project has received ethics approval from HREA Panel B at UNSW, reference number 13 101.

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Mr Boyle

I have received an email from Michael Boyle, who is Mr Brian Boyle’s son.  Michael was 3 years of age and 5 when he left Penang so his memories are ‘thin’, but enough nevertheless to experience moments of nostalgia today. Fortunately he came across the RAAF School website and has been in touch. An extract of his message follows, which I relay with permission.

It is with some sadness that I must advise you that dad passed away in May of 2012 at the remarkable age of 93 after a short illness.  Until the very last, dad retained his rather considerable mental faculties and we would often speak at length about our shared time in Malaysia.  My remembrances were obviously those of a young child but dad helped fill in the blanks with tales that I did remember, snake charmers, street vendors, amazing religious festivals and so on plus a vast collection of photos.

Continuing on the sad note, Michael’s mother passed away 5 months after his father.

And further, their neighbour managed to burn down their garage/office.  …Nothing was salvaged so all hard copies of dad’s quite considerable photo collection, amongst other things were destroyed.  However, dad when he was in his 70’s became bored with building things and playing tennis every other day so he took it upon himself to learn ‘to drive a computer’.  Over the following years he digitised much of his photo collection.  The computer was also in the garage but through sheer luck I had taken it from the office the week before the fire to acquire the images and various other personal things.

Quite a story. I am glad I have a hard copy of the book Mr Boyle put together, The RAAF School Penang, in case it is not to be found on the computer.

So, I am really sorry to be the bearer of this sad news. You may be interested to know though, that I did telephone Mr Boyle to invite him to each of the Penang reunions, but he could not attend.  He’ll always be “Mr” Boyle to me.

I appreciate Michael getting in touch, and he is going to go through the photos on the computer to see what we can share on the website.

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