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Shot Down and Rescued (Part 3 of 3 )

Heroes Remember

Shot Down and Rescued (Part 3 of 3 )

I hit the water. But fortunately it was rather calm, just mild little waves, nothing to speak of. I have no recollection, it was October, I have no recollection of being cold or anything, I just plunged into the water, it was a long way down but the parachute, just enough breeze for the parachute to pull me up again to the surface and drag me along and I had been holding the harness straps and that’s what, you’re not supposed to do that because you could get tangled in them but when you’re doing it for the first time, you don’t feel secure so you’re trying to hold the straps because actually you’re holding it up, by this time they peeled around up the back and they’re holding you by your shoulders, that’s the attachment point at that point and you hold it a little higher just out of, I guess fear is the word I am searching for. And I reached down and pulled the block that would release the parachute and I broke it and the parachute came away. Then I just, oh, sank. I had foolishly taken the kapok, inside the Mae West beside the bladder that’s there that inflated was kapok, sort of floating stuff, you know, stuff that had buoyancy by itself, quite bulky and I had taken that out and then it was so hard and I was so tired too. We didn’t have much to eat there as I told you, I was so weak, I had been there for months. And I thought at one point I thought, oh this seems alright, why not let it go, you know, I’m so tired. And I thought, you know, well my mother and father would be very disappointed and I had, so I have one last go. So I kicked, oh with everything in it I kicked, I kicked and I got to the top. For some lucky reason I was able to get all the water out in one spirt and I took a huge, got one marvellous deep breath and I went down, then I went down like a stone again. And by the way, by this time the little CO2 valve didn’t, bottle to inflate this thing didn’t work, that’s because I had taken the kapok out and didn’t provide the support but I didn’t know this. Anyway I had dropped the tube, you could do it by mouth too, and I had dropped that already and as I went down I was blowing into it, every last ounce, just emptied my lungs into it, thinking if this doesn’t work, nothing will, and the water level came up, just about to my eyes and my nose so I got another breath and topped the Mae West up and then it was full. There was a man in this little boat, he was fishing. He was in khaki drill, turned out he was a policeman. He was out fishing but his boat was so small I knew I couldn’t get into it, couldn’t possibly, it was tiny, except for one. Anyway he was standing up and he was using one oar as a paddle backing the transom of the boat up to me and I was afraid, you see, they used to, the Maltese used to club people that came down. They didn’t like the Germans and so I said, I said to this guy in the boat, I said, “I’m British.” I didn’t say I’m Canadian, I thought they probably know British more in Malta than Canadian so I said I’m British. He said, “I know, I saw you come down.” He backed the transom up to me and I grabbed it.

Mr. Smith describes nearly drowning before manually blowing up his Mae West ( life jacket ), and being rescued by a Maltese fisherman.

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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