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First mission

Heroes Remember

Anyway, we all lined up to take off, three squadrons and you go down in this valley en masse and the Spitfire had so much power that it would take off from climbing the other side. It would actually climb the far side of the valley, as it were, and then get airborne at the same time - a wonderful feeling, you know. And anyway, we all got in our formations and we started up southeast towards North Foreland and I started to feel that my guts were turning to ice. Oh, did I feel scared. And I remembered thinking, you know, I said to myself, “Surely the air ministry,” funny I didn’t say the air force, “the air ministry wouldn’t send us out on something if it wasn’t safe.” Lo and behold, we were half way across and two spitfires came on our left from some show that was on ahead and one was streaming white glycol and he bailed out right off to our left over the channel. And he had one with him but I called up and went over to, what do you call them, air/sea rescue button and frequency of the VHF, we had VHF then and said, “Mayday for another,” or something and anyway, just in case the guy with him hadn’t done it. Anyway, we climbed, and oh boy, and then suddenly the haze, we got close up, we could see France perfectly clearly and to my surprise it had white cliffs, just like Dover and but England looked blue, beautiful blue and green whereas France looked brown and red. Totally different colors, didn’t look friendly at all. And we arrived at our height and just as we were getting to the coast all this ack-ack shells burst black - theirs are black, ours are white – and the black anti-aircraft shells burst around us. As soon as I saw the flak and so on, I said, well you know, “It’s all what we read in the papers and hear on the radio is absolutely true.” France is fallen and the Germans have taken it. You know that, of course, but when you see the real McCoy, it brings it home to you.

Mr. Smith describes several aspects of his first flying mission: seeing a friendly pilot eject over the English Channel, viewing the French landscape, and experiencing German flak along the French coast.

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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