Charles Ulm's contribution to the Kingsford-Smith / Ulm partnership

A more complete time line of the activities of Ulm and Kingsford-Smith can be found here

Ulm came to the partnership with a background of working with aviation enterprises in matters lf logistics and publicity (The Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 - 1925), Saturday 29 May 1920, page 2 , the negotiations  by Aviation Services Ltd to establish services to Bathurst) and the later actual flights in Newcastle and Cessnock, eg The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Tuesday 4 January 1921, page 4. In associaiton with the Sun newspaper these activities continued into 1924-5  (The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Friday 11 April 1924, page 7 ; Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) , Friday 15 May 1925, page 7 ). These actiities were not entriely without controversy and Ulm was often quoted as making excuses for the failure of the aircraft to appear, and even answering accusations of financial impropriety (Cessnock Eagle, 11 February 1921) . A triumph was a highly publicised 'freight' flight to Barrington Tops (The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer (NSW : 1898 - 1954), Friday 30 October 1925, page 1 )

Ian Mackersey (Smithy, Warner Books, London, 1998, pages 96-98)  describes the first meeting of Smith and Ulm. Kingsford-Smith’s airline, Interstate Air Services, was about to collapse financially, and it was undoubtedly Ulm’s expertise that enabled the enterprise to survive. The Round-Australia flight of 14-23 June 1927 was Kingsford-Smith’s most significant achievement to that time.

The partnership went on to conduct the successful Pacific flight, undertake a Trans-Tasman flight and finally to establish Australian National Airlines with six tri-motor Avro Ten aircraft. This was by far the most ambitious such enterprise in Australia at the time. Throughout the airline’s operations it was Ulm that bore the day-to-day administrative burden, organised the public relations for the airline and took the lead in ‘troubleshooting’

The partnership came under great strain as a result of the collapse of the airline following the crash of the Southern Cloud on 21 March 1931 and was definitely ended with the bankruptcy of the airline in February 1933.

There is clear evidence that Ulm’s contribution to the combined exploits was essential for the pair’s success:

·         The media, when writing of their activities, typically referred to ‘Kingsford-Smith and Ulm’.
w
ww.trove.nla.gov.au lists 7550 newspaper articles mentioning the partnership during this period. Generally the articles dealing with Kingsford-Smith only are shorter than those giving credit to both men.


·         Many serious newspaper articles on such matters as the development of aviation in Australia and the technical aspects of flight originated from Ulm rather than from Kingsford-Smith: examples include
The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Friday 1 July 1927, page 5;  also

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Wednesday 6 June 1928, page 13
The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Tuesday 5 June 1928, page 5
Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), Tuesday 19 June 1928, page 11
The Gosford Times and Wyong District Advocate, Thursday 20 August 1931, page 9
The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Tuesday 21 May 1929, page 5
The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), Wednesday 28 October 1931, page 7

·         Ulm was the Managing Director of A.N.A and seen to be vital to its operation. The shareholders of A.N.A. were adamant that Ulm should devote his attention to the airline eg   Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), Saturday 15 March 1930, page 1

 

·         Ulm was the troubleshooter for the airline: for example he bore the major part of the defence at the re-opened inquiry into the ‘Coffee Royal’ affair on 13 June. (The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), Thursday 30 May 1929, page 23);
Other examples:  Ulm drew up contracts, including the controversial contract with Anderson 22 February 1928.He negotiated with Warner and Lyon re their rewards from the Pacific flight and dealt with the controversy resulting  (The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Friday 20 July 1928, page 13 ). Ulm made many submissions to courts trying to stave off creditors eg Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate , Friday 29 January 1932, page 8; Kingsford-Smith is not recorded as being present at these sessions