Reinterment ceremony in France for World War Two RAAF pilot
19 April 2012
Air Vice-Marshal Mark Skidmore AM will attend the reinterment service for Sergeant William James Smith at theCasselCemeteryinFrancetoday.
"I am thankful for the service and sacrifice of Sergeant Smith, and I am honoured to attend to see that he has received a burial with the dignity and respect he deserves,” Air Vice-Marshal Skidmore said.
"Sergeant William James Smith and his Spitfire aircraft were discovered buried underground last October by a film crew producing a World War Two documentary in Hardifort,Northern France,” Air Vice-Marshal Skidmore said.
Sergeant Smith was born in Kalgoorlie, WA on 10 December 1917, and attended Melbourne High School from 1930 to 1934. He enlisted in the RAAF on Remembrance Day 1940. After his initial training, he arrived inBritainin September 1941.
He initially commenced operational flying with No 452 Squadron. He transferred to No 457 Squadron on 9 April 1942, and was reported missing in action a month later. At the time of his disappearance, which came only 15 months after his enlistment, Sergeant Smith was aged 24.
On 9 May 1942, 12 aircraft from 457 Squadron were escorting a bombing mission over enemy territory to Hazebrouck,Northern France. The squadron was on its return journey when it engaged with approximately 20-25 Focke-Wulf 190 enemy fighters. Sergeant Smith was last seen engaged in a dogfight with an enemy aircraft at 20,000 feet over theEnglish Channel.
In the post operation report his Commanding Officer noted that Sergeant Smith was a good and popular pilot, "whose quiet calm way of going about his duties gave confidence to his fellow pilots. He had been recommended for his commission".
Historical images are available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5003&search=11121389
Additional images of the service will be added on Friday 20 April.
Media note: The reinterment service will take place at 11.30am Central European Summer Time today, which is 7.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time tonight.
Leigh Harris, Royal Australian Air Force, 0439 302 195
FLTLT Sean Watson (in France), +61 457 911 001