Australia — 66 Years on – Remains of RAAF Spitfire pilot located and identified

The Min­is­ter for Vet­er­ans’ Affairs and Defence Sci­ence and Per­son­nel, War­ren Snow­don, today announced that the remains of a pilot that went down 66 years ago off Nor­mandy in France have been offi­cial­ly iden­ti­fied as Flight Lieu­tenant Hen­ry ‘Lacy’ Smith, of Num­ber 453 Squadron, Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force.
RAAF began the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process after 6 Novem­ber 2010, when the wreck­age of a Spit­fire air­craft, and human remains were recov­ered in the Orne Estu­ary, near Ouistre­ham in Nor­mandy by local muse­um cura­tors.

“With the help of the local muse­um cura­tors, Mr and Mrs Cobin, there was suf­fi­cient evi­dence pro­vid­ed to RAAF to pos­i­tive­ly iden­ti­fy the remains are those of Flight Lieu­tenant Hen­ry ‘Lacy’ Smith. 

“Flight Lieu­tenant Smith was lost to ene­my anti-air­craft fire dur­ing the Sec­ond World War on 11 June 1944 whilst fly­ing a patrol in sup­port of the Allied inva­sion of Europe. 

“Evi­dence includ­ed the air­craft wreck­age engine ser­i­al num­ber, eye­wit­ness reports of the oth­er two pilots fly­ing in the for­ma­tion at the time of the down­ing of the air­craft, the phys­i­cal loca­tion of the recov­ered wreck­age, a wartime casu­al­ty report link­ing the air­craft tail num­ber, engine ser­i­al num­ber and pilot details, and the engine ser­i­al num­ber recov­ered with the air­craft wreckage.”

“I am very pleased to know that the remains of this brave pilot have now been account­ed for and can now final­ly be laid to rest. Find­ing Flight Lieu­tenant Smith after over 66 years is an out­stand­ing result for all con­cerned par­tic­u­lar­ly the fam­i­ly,” Mr Snow­don said.

The RAAF has con­tact­ed sur­viv­ing rel­a­tives liv­ing in Aus­tralia, and arrange­ments are under­way for the rein­ter­ment of Flight Lieu­tenant Smith’s remains, with full mil­i­tary honours. 

This cer­e­mo­ny will occur in 2011, at a date yet to be set, in a Com­mon­wealth War Graves ceme­tery in France, in accor­dance with nor­mal prac­tice for recov­ered remains. 

Fur­ther his­tor­i­cal background:

Flight Lieu­tenant Smith’s unit, Num­ber 453 Squadron, was one of 17 RAAF squadrons formed under the Empire Air Train­ing Scheme to bol­ster the Roy­al Air Force dur­ing World War II. It served at Sin­ga­pore from August 1941 until Japan’s inva­sion of Malaya forced its with­draw­al and dis­band­ment in March 1942. 

The unit was reformed in Scot­land three months lat­er and fought over Britain and occu­pied Europe until the end of the war. The unit dis­band­ed in Jan­u­ary 1946, but was reformed on 1 Decem­ber 2010 when a new Num­ber 453 Squadron took charge of RAAF Air Traf­fic Con­trol in WA, SA, Vic and NSW. The squadron’s mot­to is “Ready to Strike.” 

Over the six years of the Sec­ond World War, from Sep­tem­ber 1939 until August 1945, 39,366 mem­bers of the Aus­tralian armed ser­vices were killed or died of wounds or sick­ness. Just over 10,750 were mem­bers of the RAAF, includ­ing 884 who were record­ed as ‘miss­ing’ rather than ‘pre­sumed dead’ at the end of the con­flict. Many of those fliers have still not been account­ed for in the decades since World War II ended.

World­wide, about 1100 air­craft are on RAAF’s miss­ing air­craft reg­is­ter, almost all of them from World War II

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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