Henry Lacy SMITH


SMITH, Henry Lacy

Service Number: 411539
Enlisted: 24 May 1941
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 453 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Sans Souci,New South Wales, Australia, 24 February 1917
Home Town: Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Flying Battle, Ouistreham, France, 11 June 1944, aged 27 years
Cemetery: Ranville War Cemetery, France
V. F. 16
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Flight Lieutenant, SN 411539
24 May 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, Aircrew Training Units
6 Jun 1944: Involvement Flight Lieutenant, No. 453 Squadron (RAAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

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Biography contributed by David Barlow

Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy SMITH ( 1917- 1944)

Son of Richard Lacy Smith and Mary Ellen Smith of Kogarah, NSW

Husband of Edna Smith of Sydney, NSW

Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith 411539 was killed in the loss of Spitfire MJ789 of Number 453 Squadron RAAF (LF1XB) near Ouistreham, France


This extract from the AWM Last Post ceremony entry:

Lacy Smith was born in the Sydney suburb of Sans Souci in 1917 and worked in the textiles industry. He wanted to fly, and privately undertook flight training at the Kingsford Smith Flying School. Following Germany's invasion of France in 1940, Smith enlisted in the army. He soldiered for nearly a year before transferring to the RAAF in May 1941.

Smith completed his initial training in Australia, and in October was sent to Canada where he qualified as a pilot. Promoted to sergeant in February 1942, he was posted to Britain the following month; there he was commissioned as a pilot officer, and he joined No. 66 Squadron, RAF, in September.

Flying Supermarine Spitfires, the squadron conducted fighter sweeps over occupied France and provided daytime escorts for bombers. By late January 1943 Smith had over 300 flying hours and was described by his commanding officer as being "always keen to take part in operations against the enemy". He married English girl Edna Dorothy Smith on 19 January and in February was posted to Gibraltar for a month before returning to Britain to join No. 132 Squadron in April.

Smith remained with the squadron for eight months until February 1944. He joined the RAAF's No. 453 Squadron in early May and, now a Flight Lieutenant, became a flight leader. This squadron, like most of the Allied forces in Britain, was preparing for D-Day and the imminent invasion of Normandy. Writing to his wife in May, Smith said:

As you can imagine we're working pretty steadily in preparation for things to come. It shouldn't be long now. I'm quite settled in with the Aussies ... See you soon. Love. Lacy.

The squadron's workload only increased once the invasion began flying sweeps over the invasion beaches. Smith's logbook entry for 6 June notes simply: "'D' DAY. ALLIES INVADE FRANCE."

Late in the evening of 11 June, the squadron was patrolling over Ouistreham, a port town near Caen, when Smith's Spitfire was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He continued to lose height until his aircraft struck water in a canal, skidding along the surface before nosing into the water and flipping over. There were no signs indicating Smith exited the cockpit, and no-one on the ground was seen to approach the wreck.

There was little hope for Smith's survival. The squadron's operation book noted: "We feel his chances of being safe are very slight and all are saddened by the loss of a good pilot and a good leader." He was 27 years old.

Initially posted as "missing", Smith remained so for 66 years. His Spitfire was finally discovered in November 2010, and five months later his remains were buried with full military honours in Ranville Cemetery, France.

On 17 December 2010 - the remains of a missing 453SQN Spitfire pilot were  identified:

On this day, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, announced that the remains of a pilot who was shot down in 1944 off Normandy, France, had been officially identified as Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith, of No 453 Squadron.

The RAAF had begun the identification process after 6 November 2010, when the wreckage of a Spitfire aircraft and human remains were recovered in the Orne Estuary, near Ouistreham in Normandy, by local museum curators.  The site is close to 'Sword' beach, and downstream from the 'Pegasus Bridge ' site at Ranville.

With the help of the local museum curators, Mr and Mrs Cobin, there was sufficient evidence provided to RAAF to positively identify the remains as  those of Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith.

Flight Lieutenant Smith was lost to enemy anti-aircraft fire on 1 June 1944 whilst flying a patrol in support of the Allied invasion of Europe.

On 19 April 2011, Flight Lieutenant's Smith's remains were buried with full military honours in the War Graves Cemetery at Rue des Airbornes, Ranville in Normandy.


Supplementary information provided by Steve Larkins Dec 2020