Wing Commander Edward Brian Bretherton Smith D.F.C.
Born Formby, Lancashire, January 12th 1915. Died September 15th 2013
Wing Commander Edward Smith was a Spitfire pilot who accounted for four enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain
Wing commander Edward Smith, flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain and was credited with destroying four enemy aircraft and sharing in the destruction of a fifth.
Smith was a founder member of No 610 (County of Cheshire) Squadron when it formed in 1936. One of a number of Auxiliary Air Force squadrons formed during the period of rising tension as Germany rearmed, Smith and his colleagues trained as pilots at weekends. The squadron was transferred to Fighter Command in January 1939 and was embodied into the RAF in August 1939.
Flying from Gravesend, No 610 patrolled the Dunkirk area during the evacuation of the BEF. On May 27 1940 Smith attacked a force of Heinkel bombers south of Dunkirk and shot one down. In July he was appointed a flight commander. Flying from Biggin Hill, the squadron saw considerable action in the opening phase of the Battle of Britain. During July he accounted for four enemy aircraft, including two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, and damaged three other aircraft.
On August 11 Churchill ordered that Heinkel He 59 air-sea rescue aircraft were to be shot down after it had been discovered that they were carrying out reconnaissance sorties in addition to their supposed flights of mercy. That afternoon Smith led his section across the Channel and shot one down off Calais despite strong opposition from escorting fighters. Returning across the Channel, Bf 109s attacked his section and his two wingmen were lost.
The following day, Smith engaged 12 enemy fighters, and his Spitfire was hit by cannon fire, damage being inflicted around the cockpit and the adjacent fuel tank. His aircraft caught fire and he was enveloped in flames. Despite suffering burns to his neck and face he managed to bail out and land in the sea eight miles off the coast. He was picked up by a Royal Navy trawler and, to his astonishment, recognised the captain as an old school friend. He was unable to take any further part in the Battle. Two weeks later it was announced that he had been awarded the DFC for his ‘great courage and leadership’.
No. 610 Squadron at readiness at Biggin Hill. Smith is sitting on the ground, left.
His forebears on his mother’s side had been landowners in west Lancashire with strong links to the early running of the Grand National. He was educated at King William’s School in the Isle of Man and for five years worked in the brewing industry.
After recovering from his burns Smith trained as a flying instructor and spent the next two years training student pilots. In June 1943 he left for North Africa and served on the air staff at the time of the invasion of Sicily and Italy. He commanded the Advanced Flying Unit at Setif in Algeria, established to provide new fighter pilots with in-theatre training before they moved on to fighter squadrons in the Mediterranean area.
In May 1944 Smith formed and commanded a parachute training school based on an airfield in southern Italy with the task of preparing troops and agents for operations in Italy and the Balkans. He jumped regularly with his instructors and with his dog Sally, who had her own parachute.
After service with the HQ of the Balkan Air Force, Smith left the RAF in February 1946. He received the Air Efficiency Award.
Smith returned to west Lancashire and joined J. Bibby and Sons, which specialised in animal feeds. He was an area manager, initially working in Liverpool, but later operated from other centres around the country before settling in Worcestershire.
An lover of animals, particularly dogs, Smith was very sociable and was still driving himself to his local pub, where he was a popular figure, until he turned 96.
Edward Smith died on Battle of Britain Day. He married Pamela, a former WAAF, in 1940. She died in 2002 and a son also predeceased him. He is survived by two sons.
A page has also been placed to him on the RAF memory pages.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.