RANVILLE CEMETERY, FRANCE
11:30AM 19 APRIL 2011 (7:30PM AEDT)
I am honoured to be here today to represent the Government of Australia at the Reinterment Service for Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Lacy’ Smith.
Hundreds of Australians participated in the liberation of Western Europe during 1944 and 1945.
Seven Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, hundreds of Australians in Royal Air Force units and about 500 Australian sailors serving with the Royal Navy formed part of the force assembled for the landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
One of the seven RAAF squadrons to participate was the Spitfire-equipped Number 453 Squadron.
From 11 June until September 1944 No. 453 Squadron was often based at forward airfields in France.
The squadron, along with Australian bomber squadrons supported the liberation of France.
RAAF light bomber and fighter squadrons continued to support the Allied armies until the end of the war in Europe by attacking strategic targets and escorting bomber formations.
The Battle of Normandy was amongst one of the largest battles of World War II, with almost 160,000 troops crossing the English Channel on 6 June 1944.
The Battle of Normandy involved the combined strength of the French, Polish, Canadian, American and United Kingdom Forces.
Many Australian airmen proudly served in British and Australian squadrons during this time.
Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Lacy’ Smith was one of these proud Australians.
Flight Lieutenant Smith’s unit, Number 453 Squadron was providing support for troops and patrolling the beach heads as fighter cover for the Allied landings.
On 11 June 1944, Flight Lieutenant Smith was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, just five days after the invasion of Normandy.
His spitfire crashed into the River Orne, and there he remained until November 2010.
Until today his family had no grave site to attend.
I know they are very grateful that is no longer the case — as am I.
I would like to sincerely thank the French people for their assistance to Australia in the recovery of Flight Lieutenant Smith’s remains and in the arrangements for this Reinterment Service today.
Flight Lieutenant Smith made the ultimate sacrifice for Australia during World War II and I am thankful that he has now been afforded the military burial and honours that he so rightly deserves.
I hope the service today provides some closure to his family, and an opportunity for us all to reflect on his contribution to Normandy.
Although his remains are buried here in France, his memory and legacy will live on in Australia.
His sacrifice to our nation will be remembered by all Australians and the French people for ever more.
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,