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Prelude to Normandy

Heroes Remember

As we came down just south of the Isle of White, I came down out of the cloud to go back to Tangra, just a handful of miles, and all the South Hampton water which is between the Isle of White and Britain there was all full of landing craft and ships; surprising number of big ships, you know, merchant ships, destroyers, landing craft and they came out of the Solway Firth and headed south, due south. And anyway, saw and my number two, I forgot and we landed at Tangmere and they were, they said, “Everybody is confined to camp,” and they’re painting the airplanes, they’re painting white and black stripes on the wings. I think about three white and three black on each side, wide stripes they took up oh about a third of the wing, I guess. And that was to identify, so that the navy and army wouldn’t fire at us so we could identify ourselves to them more readily. And so that night about, I think it was11 o’clock we were sent for a briefing and the sort of sector commander came in and he had a map on the wall inside a great big tent, it was our mess tent. They had a map of England and Normandy, they had the beaches Sword, Juno, Gold and then Omaha and Utah, you know, three British Canadian beaches to the east and then the two American ones, Omaha and Utah, saw those names for the first time. As we came out of the tent we saw aircraft with navigation lights on over us, towing gliders, right over the top of Tangmere and “Boy, I guess this is it,” and well the weather was far from charming, anyway so that was the start of it.

Mr. Smith describes the mass of ships and landing craft he saw while flying over Solway Firth and seeing gliders being towed toward France. These events presaged the Normandy invasion.

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

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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