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I’ll Never Master This

Heroes Remember

I’ll Never Master This

The Spitfire, the wheels were quite far back on it and, of course, it could tip very easily. And they were also quite close together so tippy, but actually it looked that way but it really wasn’t, it never really did catch wing tips but it looked as if it would. And, of course, the nose was so long and you were right down on it, you know, just a bit above it, that it was blind ahead. When you took off they told us just don’t level off the way you do it ordinary, you gotta go in level. You just lift the tail up a bit and take off with your tail down which means you are totally blind ahead so you have to look before you, be very careful, you have to look before you open up, straighten out before you take off to make sure, you know, you don’t hit anything. And the runway is clear, the air field is clear and that was the thing, that’s what made it a bit tricky and I got signed out on one and you’d start, you’d prime them with a primer and a lot of the time flames would come out, a lot of flames would come out of the exhaust before they got started then they made sort of a throaty roar and it would smoke and so on and then it would settle down. And I had got off, I got the undercarriage, pulled the hood shut, got the undercarriage up, fortunate it came up and the green lights came on and everything and then got the hood closed, and it was smooth and quiet, oh was it ever smooth and it had to bank over right on its (inaudible) on the smallest turn. It was incredibly graceful. But we didn’t have oxygen, well I mean we could have but we didn’t have it turned on and after awhile the exhaust was right in front of your face and I think I got, there was a slight, too much exhaust when you’re not used to it and I was going around like this and once I decided to turn towards some hills and I thought, “My God, I didn’t do it soon enough,” and I had to pull it tight. I started to get very uneasy and I said to myself, “I’ll never be able to master this.”

Mr. Smith describes his impressions of the Spitfire, his initial flight in one, and his feeling that he’d never be able to fly one properly.

Roderick Smith

Roderick Smith was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in March, 1922. He was the second of four children. His father, who had served in the First World War, was a land surveyor. Mr. Smith had been fascinated by propaganda leading up to the Second World War, so he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 following the completion of his Senior Matriculation. After pilot training in Canada, he was selected for overseas flying duty. His first tour of duty was on Malta and Mr. Smith’s impressive list of enemy aircraft destroyed began here. He was also shot down himself while on this tour. After returning to England, he joined 401 Squadron piloting new generation Spitfire 9's. Mr. Smith was in action on D-Day, and later did strafing runs in German held France. Later at Nijmegen, he destroyed several more enemy aircraft, including the shared kill of a prototypical ME-262 jet fighter. Mr. Smith retired with the rank of Flight-Lieutenant, DFC and Bar, with thirteen destroys, 1 shared and ½ possible to his credit.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Roderick Smith
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
401 Squadron
Flight Lieutenant

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