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10 July 1940: the Battle of Britain begins










Squadron Leader Andrew Smith was born on 21st September 1906 in Frodsham, Cheshire, Andrew went to Oundle School from 1921 to 1924 before going up to St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. He worked as a manager, and subsequently a director, of W and O Wilson, flour millers, of Liverpool.


Like so many young men with a passion for aviation and suitable financial means, Andrew Smith learned to fly at his local Aero Club and got his 'A' licence on 7th August 1930. He later became a 'weekend flier' when he joined 610 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in April 1936 and was commissioned as an officer. He was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939 just before the declaration of war as an Acting Flight Lieutenant.


His own war began over Dunkirk whilst protecting British and French forces retreating from the Nazi onslaught. On 27th May 1940 whilst the allied evacuation was in full swing, Smith had two quick successes when he destroyed a Me110 and probably another. When the commanding officer, S/Ldr. AL Franks, was killed just two days later, Smith was asked to take command of 610 Squadron as an Acting Squadron Leader.


However on the first day of the Battle of Britain, 10th July 1940, Andrew Smith (like many other RAF pilots), soon learned the value of Hawkinge fighter station being so close to the Channel. After his aircraft had been hit in combat with 109s over Dover at 11.15am, he was able to crash land his Spitfire at this nearby aerodrome. He was fortunate to be unhurt and was able to fly again. However his good fortune was to be short-lived.

 

On 25 July - just two weeks later - he attempted to land again at Hawkinge after being shot up in combat with 109s over the Channel. Unfortunately this time, he was badly hurt himself but still attempted to get his Spitfire down at Hawkinge. As the official report shows, Smith's Spitfire stalled as he approached the airfield and his aircraft crashed and burned out in a disused engine-testing shed. The Medical Officer considered that, despite his best efforts to get back home, Smith had been killed instantly when he hit the ground.

 

Smith was buried in St Peter’s churchyard, Delamere, Cheshire. The coffin, covered in the Union flag, had lain in the church overnight before the funeral at which there was an RAF guard of honour. The bearer party consisted of RAF personnel and employees of Smith's former company.



If you would like learn more about men like Andrew Smith, please contact Dr Anthony Medhurst on info@thebattleofbritaintours.co.uk or call 07852 765901 for details of a Battle of Britain tour.






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