11.06.1944 No. 453 Squadron Spitfire IX MJ789 FU-B Fl/Lt. Smith
Operation: Patrol (Normandy Landings)
Date: 11th June 1944 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 453 Squadron
Type: Spitfire IX
Base: RAF Ford, West Sussex
Location: Ouistreham, France
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Henry Lacy Smith AUS/411539 RAAF Age 27. Killed.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Report by F/O. D.S. Murray (AWM): During a patrol of 3 aircraft with Fl/Lt Smith as section leader, W/O. Scott AUS/405939 (1) as No. 2 and F/O. Murray AUS/410250 (2) as No. 3. They were patrolling the beach in the area of Ouistreham at around 20:05 hrs. The section were flying West to East at between 1500 - 2000 ft when over the Rebehome area 20 mm flak came up in the front of the aircraft from a wood. No. 3 observed a strike on the section leaders aircraft in the belly well forward either in the engine or just in front of the long range tank.
The aircraft immediately lost speed and started to emit white fume trails. The section leader immediately started asleep turn to the left and No’s 2 and 3 followed him round. His aircraft continued to lose height and the section leader called up on the R/T and said words to the effect of “I am going to put this thing down in a field.”
He continued in a westerly direction towards Ouistreham. Finally his aircraft struck water in the canal and skidded for a short distance on the surface, nosing down and then finally turning over slowly onto its back. No. 3 who had glided down with the section leader never noticed if he had jettisoned the long range tank, neither did he notice if he had opened his canopy. No movement was observed and no persons were seen to approach the aircraft - the port wing was half submerged with the remainder of the aircraft out of the water.
No. 2 and No. 3 returned 5 minutes later and continued to observe, but there was no change in the position of the aircraft and neither saw any persons on the ground near the aircraft.
(1) W/O. Joshua William Scott AUS/405939 Born on the 26th December 1919 at Nanango, Queensland, Australia. F/O. David Stuart Murray AUS/410250 Born on the 28th March 1921 at Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.
Then, in November 2010, a chance discovery provided vital information. A French couple walking along the banks of the Orne noticed what appeared to be pieces of aircraft wreckage poking above the water at low tide not far from the D-Day landmarks of Sword Beach and Pegasus Bridge.
News of the find reached Brigitte and Fabrice Corbin, owners of the remarkable “Grand Bunker Atlantic Wall Museum” in Ouistreham. A recovery operation was soon underway. With the mud around the aircraft cleared away, the Spitfire’s remains were raised to the surface with flotation bags and brought ashore. It was then that the aircraft’s identity could be established beyond doubt and the remains of its pilot recovered.
At 11.30 hours on Tuesday, 19 April 2011, Flight Lieutenant Henry “Lacy” Smith was buried with full military honours in Ranville War Cemetery. The service included a traditional wreath laying, the Ode, and the Last Post bugle call. Ceremonial duties were undertaken by members of 453 Squadron RAAF (currently based at Williamtown, NSW) and Australia’s Federation Guard.
Currently under preparation for display - probably at the Point Cook RAAF Museum near Melbourne, Australia. The body of the pilot initially listed as “missing” was finally buried with full military honours in April 2011.
Fl/Lt. Henry Lace Smith. Ranville War Cemetery, France. Plot 5. Row F. Grave 16. (Originally listed on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 216) Born on the 24th February 1917 at Sans Souci New South Wales, Australia the son of Richard Lacy Smith and Mary Ellen Smith, of Kogarah, New South Wales, Australia and husband of Edna Smith of 57 Lowther Road, Bournemouth, Hants, England. Previously served with the 2/4th Pioneers. Also served with 66 and 132 Squadrons.