Updated: Mar 14
As one of the closest aerodromes for pilots fighting over the Channel, Hawkinge was often a sought after sanctuary for crippled aircraft or those low on fuel and, unsurprisingly, those who had been wounded in combat. On 25 July 1940, S/Ldr Andrew Smith of 610 sqn stalled in an attempt to land his Spitfire at Hawkinge after combat with 109s over the Channel. Smith crashed into a disused testing shed where his aircraft burned out and Smith was killed. Read his profile below:-
S/Ldr Andrew Thomas Smith was born on 21st September 1906 in Frodsham, Cheshire. His father (also Andrew Thomas Smith) was a director of Brunner, Mond and Company and manager of a Castner Kellner works, a patented form of chemical production through electrolysis. The family lived at 4 Croxteth Drive, Fulwood Park, Liverpool. AT Smith Jnr attended Oundle School from 1921 to 1924 (being a member of New House and gaining colours for rowing), leaving to go to St. Catharines College, Cambridge.
After leaving Cambridge he worked as a manager for W and O Wilson, flour millers, of Liverpool and became a director in 1939. He was also appointed a director of the Grain Elevating and Automatic Weighing Company. He was awarded Aero certificate 9344 at Liverpool Aero Club on 7th August 1930.
In April 1936 Smith joined 610 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force and was commissioned. He married Dorothy Crook in October 1936 in Hailsham, Sussex. Smith was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939. He was then a Flight Commander, as an Acting Flight Lieutenant.
Over Dunkirk on 27th May 1940 Smith destroyed a Me110 and probably another. When the CO, S/Ldr. AL Franks AFC, was killed on 29th May Smith took command of 610 Squadron as an Acting Squadron Leader.
On 10th July Smith crashed on landing at Hawkinge after his aircraft was damaged in combat over Dover. However he was killed on 25th July when he stalled attempting, for a second time in recent days, to land a damaged aircraft at Hawkinge after action with Me109s over the Channel. His Spitfire, R6693, crashed and burned out in a disused engine-testing shed. Smith was killed instantly.
Andrew Smith is 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. Those present included W/Cdr. IR Parker and F/O PG Lamb.
An anonymous tribute to Smith appeared in The Times, concluding, 'Our only consolation is that, but for him and those like him, the enemy might even now be within our gates.'
If you would like to hear more about pilots like Andrew Smith, sign up with Battle of Britain Tours for a one day 'Hellfire Corner' tour in East Kent or a 2.5 hour walking tour in Central London. Check out the website for further details at www.thebattleofbritaintours.co.uk.
Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website