1942 Spitfire & Pilot (Sgt W J Smith), Hardifort, France

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10 years

Posts: 60

Hello ,

Tangmere 1940 has found wreckage of 457 Sq Spitfire with remains of RAAF pilot Sgt William Smith lost in April 1942 in northern France last week for Discovery Channel .
Could we have more details please , and plane's identity ?


Original post

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10 years

Posts: 60

In fact it is BM180 lost 9 May 1942 , lost while involved in Circus 160.

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14 years 8 months

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Bad show. You don't know:

1. If the next of kin have been informed and,

2. What other considerations are required.

The fact that you posted this shows you have the 'heads up' so why ask about Andy's recovery when I'm sure he will post the details here in due course? Ask him direct if you want, but to shout from the roof tops in the 'I'll be the first with the news' mentality is not good. You even got the date wrong :mad:

Yes, was aware of this Paul. Thanks! We had all been hoping that it would stay low-key on the internet for time being, but thats really wishful thinking in the internet world, I suppose.

Unfortunately the name was released from a French source (presumably officially) but before the MOD/RAAF had confirmed the find or the identity of the pilot. Disgraceful, in my view - but whats done is done.

I am back to France imminently to meet with Australian officials but would rather give no further information at this time although I am aware there is already much internet discussion and news media reports naming the pilot.

Profile picture for user paulmcmillan

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Picture of Smith here:


Found via another forum

I also note the story made the Telegraph

Smith's file not digitized at Australian Archives yet.. though I imagine the 457 Sqn Orb is visible there

I can only add that all is speculation at this time.

Nothing is confirmed. I cannot and will not comment further save to say that I will be with the Australian authorities to inspect the recovered material in next 24 hours and in order for them to establish identity with certainty. After that, I suspect something will be officially released. Until then, this is all speculation and already there are some wild suggestions elsewhere on the internet, I see.

With respect, perhaps it should be left at that for now?

There will be something to say soon, but not right now.

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I admire your professionalism in these matters and wish you well in the coming days/weeks in confirming the identity and laying another young man to his final rest.

RIP airman.

We will remember them.

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10 years

Posts: 60

Sorry , I didn't imagine there was a secret behind . However news are widely spread over France and Australia since 20 Oct. , but strangely nothing from UK ?
Sincerely it is nice another missing pilot has been found .

Seventy-one years ago today, William James Smith enlisted in the RAAF.

Whilst there is not yet any official confirmation of identity I understand that this is imminent.

I am able to confirm that the RAAF officially named the pilot as Sgt William James SMITH earlier this week and officially notified the family who are both moved and delighted that William has been found, especially his 87 year old brother, Bert.

A military funeral will be held in northern France during April 2012.

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Thats good news that another hero will be laid to rest. Well done Andy.

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Great stuff Andy. Thanks to you and all those involved with making this happen.

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14 years 1 month

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Hi Folks,

Sgt William Smith turns out to be my wife's Great Uncle! In my years of rather infrequent posting here I never thought that I would find a family link like this.

Thanks to all concerned.

Is there any info about the documentary?

All the best



I will PM you later!

I am in contact with family members and can tell you that the military funeral will be in Northern France, probably during April.

The documentary will be in the series "War Digs with Harry Harris" on Discovery History next year.

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8 years 4 months

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From the ABC here is Aussie:

RAAF pilot's remains found in France

RAAF WWII Spitfire pilot Sergeant WJ Smith.
An Australian Spitfire pilot, shot down during World War II, has been identified after his remains were found in northern France last month.
Sergeant William James Smith, who was 24, was shot down on May 9, 1942 during a dogfight with German fighter aircraft.
His remains were discovered buried underground last month by a film crew producing a WWII documentary in Hardifort, northern France.
The crew were searching for a Czech aircraft when they unexpectedly discovered human remains.
Sergeant Smith was identified from his identification discs which carried his name and ID number.
He was from Whittlesea in Victoria and was posted to RAAF 457 Squadron which was attached to Britain's Royal Air Force in WWII.
Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon says the young pilot's squadron was escorting a bomber group on an operation over Germany and were homeward bound when they were "bounced" by enemy FW190 fighters.
"Sergeant Smith was last seen by his squadron near the coast of France engaged in a dogfight with an enemy aircraft at 20,000 feet over the English Channel," Mr Snowdon told a press conference.
He said Sergeant Smith had been recommended for a commission and was highly regarded in his squadron.
His family have been notified and have requested privacy.
Mr Snowdon said Sergeant Smith would be buried "with all the dignity and respect that he so richly deserves" at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Arneke in France.
Last year the remains of another Australian pilot, Flight-Lieutenant Henry "Lacy" Smith, were found in the wreckage of his Spitfire in Normandy's Orne River.
Air Force historian Dr Chris Clarke said shortly after Sergeant Smith went missing his squadron was sent to Australia to lead the defence of Darwin.
He said the aircraft was not found sooner because it crashed nose-first at high speed and was buried and totally destroyed.
German fighter ace Oblt Josef Haibock of JG 26, who is credited with 77 victories during the war, is widely believed to be the pilot who shot down Sergeant Smith.

In fact, not an escort "to Germany" but, of course, Circus 160, escorting Bostons to Hazebrouck.

Sgt Smith was last seen in combat at 20,000ft mid-way between Mardyck and Dover and on the way home, so quite a long way from where he was found.

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Very moving Andy . That's a great job .


I hope that it will ultimately prove to be a comforting find for the family.