Another Australian Spitfire Pilot found in France.

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by spidge, Oct 20, 2011.

  1. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

    Adam.

    Thank you so much for posting that. I know that this means very much to the Smith family. It also means a great deal to the team who found him and enabled very important closure for Bill and his family. The team will be present with his family when Bill is finally laid to rest.

    This is a very positive, rewarding, appropriate and fitting conclusion to this poignant story.

    Hopefully, certain elements of French authority and the French news media will take a similar view and adopt a pragmatic and rather more sensitive and realistic attitude at this time out of respect for Sgt William James Smith who is no longer missing. That is all that is important here.
     
  2. JLB021

    JLB021 Junior Member

    To JLB021, just curious, please. Since your stepfather witnessed the crash of SGT WJ Smith (I assume that is what you mean in your post) on 9th May 1942, maybe he also witnessed the crashlanding of S/L Frantisek Fajtl on 5th May 1942 (Operation Circus 157) near the bunker at Hardicourt?? I would be most interested to hear about that! Were there any photos taken of Fajtl's Spitfire in Hardicourt, do you know? Thank you for any news. MiKo

    COuld you send to me an e-mail (jbarr1w@aol.com) about what you want to know.
     
  3. Chris Lock

    Chris Lock Junior Member

    Hi.

    I also am seeking answers ref the above request. As joint coordinator of the Circus 157 ceremony in Belgium along with MiKo, the requested information would be most beneficial to not only us, but to the attending family members of the other pilots who were KIA or flew during this particular mission. MiKO will email you as per your instructions and I will await her revelations rather than duplicate mails. The sister and and family members of fallen Czech pilot Karel Pavlik would be so grateful to hear more on the Czech pilot Fajtl. Thank you for your offer of assistance, very much appreciated indeed.

    Chris
     
  4. MiKo

    MiKo Junior Member

    Hello Andy Saunders,

    this is a slightly different, but related topic, about which I sent you a PM some time ago and am still waiting for your answer. On 5th May 1942, during Circus 157, Czech RAF pilot Karel Pavlik was shot down and killed near Dranouter in Belgium, whilst during the very same operation S/L F. Fajtl crashlanded (and escaped) at the same location near the Hardicourt bunker, where also SGT Smith crashed and died 4 days later. I was informed that you write in your book Finding the Fallen, that SGT Pavlik´s body was unearthed and buried in July 1946, whereas Mr. Decuypere in his book Circus 157 writes that the unearthing and burial happened already in May 1945. I tried to find out the exact date of the burial from various authorities,but nobody could confirm. Therefore, I would be most interested to know, where you got your information from, please?? I am befriended with SGT Pavlik´s family, and they certainly would like to know as well. Thank you for your reply! MiKo
     
  5. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

  6. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

  7. erding

    erding Member

    Fotos from today's ceremony:

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    SGT Smiths brother Bert and wife June in the middle

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    Photos by MiKo :D
     
  8. erding

    erding Member

    [​IMG]

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    relatives of SGT Smith

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    Photos by MiKo :D
     
    Buteman and CL1 like this.
  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    attached Runnymede panel for ref

    SMITH, WILLIAM JAMES

    Rank:
    Sergeant
    Service No:
    400942
    Date of Death:
    09/05/1942
    Age:
    24
    Regiment/Service:
    Royal Australian Air Force

    457 Sqdn.
    Grave Reference
    Row E. Grave 6.
    Cemetery
    CASSEL COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
    Additional Information:
    Son of Samuel William and Freda Constance Adelaide Smith, of Whittlesea, Victoria, Australia.

    N.B.
    Please note that this casualty is currently commemorated by the Commission on Panel 113 of the Runnymede Memorial. His burial has yet to take place but is planned for 2012; please contact the Commission for further details if required.
     

    Attached Files:

  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Thanks for posting the photos Erding.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  11. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

    A very emotional, poignant and moving day. I am still trying to gather my thoughts.
     
  12. Chris Lock

    Chris Lock Junior Member

    Excellent reports and pics. Thank you.

    The soaking experienced was not an issue until after the burial service: such was the magnitude of the moment. Salute!

    Credit to the RAAF & French military personnel involved.

    Chris
     
  13. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

    In over forty years of involvement, one way or another, in the field of historic aviation this has to be the single most satisfying and rewarding project I have ever been involved in. Without any shadow of doubt.

    Despite the intermittent (and sometimes persistent!) rain, yesterday's ceremony in Cassel was utterly amazing. On every level.

    To have been one of the small team who brought this mystery to such a satisfactory conclusion feels a considrable honour, especially after having met Bert and his wonderful family - eighteen or so of whom were present from Australia. What this meant to them was evident, and was also eloquently put by Bert in his touching eulogy to his brother.

    In addition to the family, very senior officers were present from the RAAF, French Air Force and RAF as well as the Australian Ambassador and two senators - members of the Australian parliament. All spoke very positively about how important this discovery was, and what it meant to the family, RAAF and the Australian and French nations.

    I am not normally lost for words, but at the moment I am still struggling
     
  14. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

  15. Chris Lock

    Chris Lock Junior Member

    On returning home last night, I could not help it but to reflect on this great day and what it must have meant for the family members of the recovered pilot.
    However, another story kept on appearing in my head and that applies to the number of Czech Spitfire pilots whose aircraft came down on almost the same spot or nearby over that week long period. Sqn Ldr Fajtl's Spitfire came down 4 days before on the very location of this RAAF pilot's Spitfire. Then there was the Czech Spitfire form 313 Sqn of Ottakar Kresta ( the Parker Pen sponsored Spitfire I believe ) which the team were actually searching for and then Karel Pavlik also from 313 whose Spitfire also nose dived 7 meters deep into the Flemish clay. He also was not recovered until much later. An amazing area without doubt for the Aussies and Czechs.

    Well done the team concerned. Without doubt, your efforts will have been very much appreciated by the family of the pilot, by the RAAF and Australia itself.
     
  16. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

  17. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

    Forgot the heads-up for the Discovery History documentary on this story tonight at 10pm. ("War Digs With Harry Harris")
     
  18. sebfrench76

    sebfrench76 Senior Member

    There was something special in the pics,i was very moved.
    Hope my fellow cytizens did their best for you,you and your ancestor are disserving it.
     
  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Just finished the viewing of the moving documentary of the recovery of Sgt Smith's remains and the photographic account of his funeral at Cassel.

    First class account of history and the sacrifice of one who served.

    Per Ardua ad Astra.
     
  20. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Senior Member

    For those who missed it, the documentary will be repeated in the full series run of "War Digs With Harry Harris".
     

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