Charles Kingsford Smith - 'Coffee Royal' Incident

'Coffee Royal' Incident

On 31 March 1929, en route from Sydney to England, the Southern Cross with Kingsford Smith at the helm made an emergency landing on a mudflat near the mouth of the Glenelg River, in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. The Southern Cross was found and rescued after a fortnight's searching, with George Innes Beard, Albert Barunga and Wally from Kunmunya Mission the first overland party to reach the downed aircraft.

Two men (both old friends of Kingsford Smith) — Keith Vincent Anderson and Henry Smith 'Bobby' Hitchcock, in their Westland Widgeon plane named Kookaburra — crash landed in the Tanami Desert in Central Australia and died of thirst and exposure on 12 April 1929 while on their way to help with the search. Despite Kingsford Smith being exonerated by an official enquiry, many sections of the media and public felt that the forced landing, dubbed the 'Coffee Royal' incident after the brew of coffee and brandy which the crew had drunk while awaiting rescue, had been a publicity stunt and that Kingsford Smith was responsible for the deaths. His reputation within Australia never fully recovered during his lifetime.

The bodies of Anderson and Hitchcock were later recovered from the Tanami Desert. Hitchcock's body was returned to Perth for burial at Karrakatta Cemetery, while Anderson's body was returned to Sydney. Over 6000 mourners attended Keith Anderson's funeral. It was an elaborate affair befitting a national hero. Anderson was buried at Rawson Park, Mosman on 6 July 1929. A grand memorial was later erected at the gravesite in his honour.

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