Working as a clerk in a stockbroking company at the outbreak of war, he was swept up in the enthusiasm to serve his country and restore the honour of his ancestral home. He enlisted (aged 15 years and 11 months) by passing himself off as “Charles Jackson” (aged 19 years and 11 months) on the 14th September 1915 — one hundred years ago, today.
At the time, recruiting staff did not have the means, time or inclination to check the bona fides of this 5’ 10” healthy lad. Charles was welcomed as the latest recruit to replenish A.I.F. troops at the Gallipoli landing. He was shipped out on the HMAT Euripides on the 31 October 1917.
After landing at Gallipoli, Charles was buried alive by an exploding shell.3
Whilst recovering from his injuries, he contracted a medical condition common to Australian soldiers engaging in recreational pursuits. Charles was declared ‘unfit’, and sent home where his parents insisted on his honourable discharge as a minor4.
They were however prepared to consent to his re-enlistment once he had turned 18. As the story goes, his father, born in France, positively encouraged him to do so.5
Undeterred by his previous experiences, Charles signed up using his actual surname. He joined an artillery regiment bound for France. Charles was following in his grandfather footsteps, who had fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 18706.
In France he was again wounded —
…this time severely, his mates found him buried by earth thrown up by a German shell, with only one foot sticking out. It is said that he had suffered from shell shock but overcame it by his youth and resilience.7
Ulm spent time in the Georges Heights Hospital recovering from war wounds. He was, however, to be troubled by some of his injuries for the rest of his life.
Whilst in Britain, a friend in the Royal Flying Corps took him on several joy-flights.
Ulm considered this a “revelation” and immediately perceived the “vast potentialities” of “money and public prominence” airplanes represented.”8
Ulm with Smithy — and other pioneering aviators who had survived the war — would go on to set records and open new air routes. They would capture the imagination of post-war Australians like never before with tests of skill and courage, still admired today.
C.T. P. Ulm disappeared in December 1934 on a flight from the U.S. to Hawaii. Smithy disappeared over the Andaman Sea, about a year later.
Flying the Southern Cross
- The Charles Ulm story — Doing our bit, Mosman 1914-1918
- Michael Molkentin’s superb book, Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith
Charles Ulm commemorations in Mosman:
- North Face of the Mosman War Memorial
- St Clement’s World War 1 Roll of Honour
- Presentation to Flight Lieut. Charles T.P. Ulm, A.F.C., from Mosman Council, 1928
1 John McCarthy, ‘Ulm, Charles Thomas Philippe (1898–1934)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ulm-charles-thomas-philippe-8896/text15627, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 September 2015
2 National Archives Record NAA: B2455, ULM CHARLES THOMAS PHILLIPPE “Charles Jackson” http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4028767 retrieved 14 September 2015
3 Molkentin, Michael, Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith, National Library of Australia; 2002.
5 John Ulm, talking with Michael Molkentin, The Charles Ulm story, September 2012. John Ulm talking with Michael Molkentin in 2012, mentioned that whilst convalescing at 35 Prince St., Charles (called “C.T.P” by the family) may have had an association with the Hospital at Georges Heights, Mosman. John also recounted (through his mother words) that Charles’ Father , himself a native of Alsace-Lorraine, had said to C.T.P. “What are you doing here when you still have two arms and legs.?!” encouraging him to re-enlist, go over to France and get stuck into “The Boche”..
6 In 1934 Charles wrote that he inherited ‘that spirit of restlessness which underlies the original concept of the majority of plans and enterprises’ from his grandfather ‘who died without ever experiencing that sensation men label as “Fear”’.
7 Rogers, Ellen, Faith in Australia Charles Ulm and Australian Aviation, Book Production Services; Crows Nest, 1987, p10-16
8 Molkentin, Michael, Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith, National Library of Australia; 2002, p1-14