Milton Frederick (Fred) SMITH DFC


SMITH, Milton Frederick

Service Number: 414734
Enlisted: 8 November 1941, Posted to No.3 Initial training School at Sandgate QLD then to No.5 Elementary Flying School in Narromine NSW 30.4.1942
Last Rank: Flying Officer
Last Unit: No. 467 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Allora, Queensland, Australia, 16 October 1920
Home Town: Helidon, Lockyer Valley, Queensland
Schooling: Allora State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Accidental, United Kingdom, 17 June 1944, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Cambridge City Cemetery, United Kingdom
1939-1945 War Graves RAF Plot, Grave number D13965 Newmarket Road, Cambridge CB5 8PE UK
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Helidon War Memorial, Toowoomba Roll of Honour WW2, Toowoomba WW2 Roll of Honour Book, Toowoomba War Memorial (Mothers' Memorial)
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Flying Officer, SN 414734
8 Nov 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 414734, Posted to No.3 Initial training School at Sandgate QLD then to No.5 Elementary Flying School in Narromine NSW 30.4.1942
28 Feb 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman
29 Jul 1942: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, SN 414734, Embarked from Melbourne 19.8.1942 attached to Royal Canadian Air Force and posted to 3MD at Edmonton, Canada
30 Dec 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant
25 Jan 1943: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 414734, Embarked from Canada for UK attached to RAF as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme
30 Jun 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant
18 Oct 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, Operational duty with Lancaster Bombers based at RAF Bottlesford UK
20 Mar 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Acting Flight Lieutenant, No. 467 Squadron (RAAF)
18 Apr 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, No. 467 Squadron (RAAF)
30 Jun 1944: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, Awarded to Milton 13 days after his death

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Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Milton Frederick Smith was born on the 16th October 1920 at Allora, Queensland, the 4th son and fifth child of William Laver & Ellen Wilhelmina Smith.  Milton had 2 sisters and 6 brothers, 2 of them, Len and Ron, served in the Army in WW2.   His parents owned a stud jersey cattle property at Maryvale, Queensland, called “Eldon” till 1921 when they sold that and moved to a property at Allora.  They remained in Allora, where Milton attended school, till 1930 when the family home was destroyed by fire.  The family then moved to a property at Flagstone Creek called “Greencliffe”.  Milton helped his father run the family farm till the 8th November 1941 when aged 21, he enlisted in the RAAF at the No. 3 Recruiting Office in Brisbane.  His rank was Aircraftman 2 and his service number was 414734.

Milton was described as being 5ft 7½ inches tall with a dark complexion, dark brown hair, brown eyes, weighing 154lbs and his religion was listed as Church of England.  He was posted to the No.3ITS (Initial Training School) at Sandgate.  In February 1942 he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) then in March he spent a fortnight in the Rosemont Repatriation Hospital for an unspecified condition before being posted at the end of April to the No. 5EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) at Narromine, NSW.  The training school gave the recruit 50 hours of basic aviation instruction on a simple trainer such as a Tiger Moth.  Pilots who showed promise went on to advanced training at Service Flying Training School. (SFTS)

Towards the end of June 1942 Milton was posted to the No. 2ED (Embarkation Depot) at Bradfield Park NSW then 3 weeks later to the No. 1 ED at Ascot Vale, Victoria.  At the end of their courses of training air and ground crews were posted to embarkation depots where they were appropriately kitted and given a final medical examination before going to operational theatres.

On the 29th July 1942 Milton embarked form Melbourne attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force as part of the BCATP. (British Commonwealth Air Training Plan)  This was a major program for training Allied aircrews during WW2 that was administered by the Government of Canada and commanded by the Royal Canadian Air Force with assistance from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.  Schools and facilities were set up at 231 locations across Canada. 

Upon arrival in Canada in mid August Milton was posted to the No. 3 MD (Manning Depot) at Edmonton then in mid September he was posted to the No. 3 SFTS at Calgary for 16 weeks of training in the Avro Anson and Cessna Crane planes.  On the 30th December 1942 Milton was promoted to Sergeant and in early January 1943 was posted to No. 1 “Y” ED at Halifax before embarking for the United Kingdom on the 25th January attached to the RAF as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. (EATS)  This scheme was put forward by the British Government to its dominions to jointly establish a pool of trained aircrew who would serve with the RAF.  By the end of 1944 over 37,000 Australian airmen had been trained as part of this scheme.

Upon arrival in the UK in early February 1943 Milton was posted to the No. 11PDRC (Personnel Despatch Reception Centre) at Bournemouth.  Two months later he was attached to the HQ No. 50 Group at RAF Reading, Berkshire, for 2 weeks of training before being posted for 4 weeks to the No. 15 (P) AFU ((Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit) at RAF Ramsbury, Wiltshire.  This unit was established to “acclimatise” the newly arrived pilots from British dominions to the flying conditions in the UK which were completely different from the generally safer and clearer skies of Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Milton was then attached to the Watchfield Airfield at Wiltshire for a week where he was trained in how to land in dangerous weather conditions using the “Blind/Beam” approach.  He was then attached for a week to the satellite at RAF Grove, a reconnaissance airfield in Berkshire, Oxfordshire.  In mid June he was posted to the No. 12 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Benson, South Oxfordshire then received a promotion to Flight Sergeant at the end of June.

At the end of August 1943 Milton was posted to the 1654 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) at RAF Wigsley near Tuxford and attached to RAF Swinderby at Lincolnshire till early September.  The conversion units were formed to qualify crews trained on medium bombers to operate the newly introduced 4 engine heavy bombers prior to an assignment to an operational training unit to gain experience before final posting to the operational squadrons.

In mid October Milton was discharged from the RAAF on being granted a Commission with the 467 Bomber Squadron and posted for operational duty to at RAF Bottesford, Lincolnshire, flying Avro Lancasters and he was promoted to Pilot Officer.  Their motto was “Fall on enemies ferociously”.  He flew 5 bombing missions to Germany and 1 to France from October to December 1943 before the Squadron moved to RAF Waddington in January 1944.  From there he flew a further 19 missions to Germany, 4 to France and 1 to Poland from January to April 1944, making a total of 30 missions over 4 months.

In mid March 1944 Milton was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant and in early April was attached to the No. 1 ECDU (Engine Control Demonstration Unit) for an engine handling course, attaining an above average of 76%.  He was then attached to the 467 Squadron for operational duty as part of the No. 5 Group which had 10 Lancaster Squadrons.  In mid April he was promoted to Flying Officer and on the 1st May 1944 was attached to the 51 Base at RAF Swinderby as an instructor.  His last posting on the 6th May 1944 was to the 1660 HCU, still at RAF Swinderby, Lincolnshire. 

On the 17th June 1944 Milton left RAF Swinderby flying a Stirling MKIII plane, serial number EF209 with the call sign TV-H.  He was the instructor on a training flight to practice 3 engine landings but he never returned.  The plane crashed near Stapleford, Lincolnshire, at 0345 after taking violent avoiding action to miss another aircraft.  He and 4 other crew were killed, 2 more later died from injuries and 3 more were injured but survived.  Milton was 23 years of age.  He was buried in the Cambridge City Cemetery in the War Graves RAF plot, number D13965. 

The following is a summary of the crash taken from the AWM collections Incident Reports:

“On the 17th June 1944, Stirling EP209 took off from RAF Swinderby on a nonoperational flight to practice circuits & landings and three engine flying. The aircraft crashed at 0345 hours near Stapleford, 10 miles south west from Lincoln, after taking violent evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision. The aircraft had completed two circuits and landings and took off for the third time. The Captain decided to demonstrate 3 engine flying, as detailed, and as a consequence the starboard outer was feathered. At this stage some member of the crew called out a warning of an aircraft nearby. FO Smith (Instructor) took control and made a steep turn to the right with an engine on the starboard side out of action, which resulted in temporary loss of control with the aircraft probably diving, and as a result it hit some trees and crashed.  A Court of inquiry into the accident concluded : “That it was safe to assume that the aircraft did a steep turn in order to avoid a collision.”

Just 13 days after his death, on the 30th June 1944, Milton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for having completed 30 bombing missions.  His DFC was presented to his father, William, by the Duke of Gloucester at Government House, Qld, almost 12 months later on the 9th June 1945.

Milton was known to his bomber crew as “Fred”.  The crew consisted of Milton and 4 other Australians plus 3 British.  They flew in 9 different planes during their bombing raids, 8 of those planes were lost by June 1944 and one was decommissioned in 1945.  His crew received an “Aiming Point Certificate” for their bombing mission to Stettin, Poland, on the 6th January 1944.  Of the other Australian crew…one went on to receive a DFC in January 1945 (Sgt Ronald Troy - Gunner) and 2 others returned home to Australia after the war and lived to be 84 (PO Urban Kelleher - Bomb Aimer, died 2007) and 88 (Sgt Kenneth Nicholas - Gunner Tail, died 2003).

Milton flew 5 different types of aircraft during his time in the RAF: DH82, Oxford, Wellington, Manchester and the Lancaster. 

Milton’s older brother Len, my late husband’s father, joined the Army in June 1941 and was discharged in April 1943.  His other brother Ron, also older, joined the Army in June 1940.  He was serving in New Guinea when Rabaul was invaded by the Japanese and was initially reported as “missing, believed prisoner of war.”  However, that was later changed to “missing since 4th February 1942, presumed dead.”  He was 25 years of age.

Milton’s name appears, along with his brother Ron’s, on 3 memorials in the town of Helidon, Qld.  Two can be found in the Helidon RSL, the Roll of Honour and the District Honour Board WW2.  The third is a Cairn and Globe found in Railway Street and is made from sandstone from Helidon.  His name is also found on the Roll of Honour at 130 in the Commemorative area at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. 

Milton Frederick Smith was awarded for service in WW2:

Service Medal

Defence Medal

British War Medal

DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) 

1939-1943 Star Ribbon

Air Crew Europe Star


Sue Smith April 2020