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Snook, Charles William (1891–1948)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Charles William Snook (1891-1948), aviator, was born on 13 April 1891 at North Fremantle, Western Australia, son of Henry Denis Snook, bank manager, and his wife Lucy Matilda, née Saw. He was educated at the High School, Perth, Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and Hawkesbury Agricultural College, New South Wales. On 12 March 1912 at Christ Church, Hawthorn, Melbourne, he married Clarice May Adele de Leon. With an impulse that grew from his boyhood passion for model aeroplanes, at 24 Snook learned flying at Hendon Hall in England where he gained his wings; he won a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and was commanding officer at Brooklands aerodrome; flight experts extolled his ability and performances. In 1915 Snook enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Next year he was shot down over Germany and taken prisoner; in 1917 he was exchanged for a German officer and posted to Salisbury.

Returning to Melbourne in 1920, Snook formed Australian Aircraft Pty Ltd. With three aeroplanes bought from R.A.F. disposals, and a maintenance crew, he set up as a commercial pilot in Sydney. Although he was commissioned to chart the Queensland coast, his operational costs exceeded his income. He then took his wife, daughter and son to Western Australia and farmed, unsucessfully; on 11 December 1928 he was divorced. On 21 February 1929 he married Hilda Burn Kershaw, medical practitioner, at St Mary's Church, South Perth. Having sold his farm, he worked for Winterbottom Motor Co. Ltd, but soon joined the Australian Aero Club, Western Australia section. As an instructor for Western Air Services, he organized joyrides over the wheat belt and Maylands, and performed with parachutist Jimmy Reece.

Snook was a gregarious man, of stocky build and genial expression, who mixed easily; in 1934-36 he was chief pilot on a photographic survey of the eastern goldfields for the Western Mining Corporation; this connexion enabled him and others to form Airlines (W.A.) Ltd. The company operated a twin-engined Monospar and a Spartan on the Perth-Wiluna-Kalgoorlie route, but it was under-capitalized and near collapse when the Monospar was wrecked at Mount Sir Samuel. Overweight and suffering from blood pressure, Snook struggled on with the Spartan, the joyrides and a mail contract. As his finances improved, he added a Stinson Reliant to his outfit and began flights to Rottnest Island, Esperance, Port Hedland, Marble Bar and Meekatharra. The Stinson was destroyed by enemy action at Broome in March 1942, but two Rapides and two Ansons were acquired. With the addition of a Dove aircraft, a concession for the south-west newspaper delivery and charter work for Hoskins Bros (later Vickers Hoskins), Snook's company prospered and he remained managing director until 1948. Although he had attained the rank of wing commander, he was affectionately known as 'Captain'.

In August 1941 Snook had taken honorary command of No.5 Wing Air Training Corps; in 1946-48 he was vice-commodore of the Royal Perth Yacht Club and a member of the Western Australia division of the Air Force Association. Survived by his wife and their adopted daughter, he died of heart disease on 23 September 1948. After an Anglican service he was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £22,836.

Select Bibliography

  • Albany Advertiser, 10 Jan 1931
  • West Australian, 12 Oct 1939
  • scrapbooks and newsclippings (Aviation Museum, Bullcreek, Perth).

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Snook, Charles William (1891–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/snook-charles-william-8569/text14957, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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