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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