Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (28 February & 1 March 2018)

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Date of Auction: 28th February & 1st March 2018

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A fine Second War 1940 ‘attack on the Scharnhorst’ D.F.C. group of six awarded to Beaufort pilot, Wing Commander F. G. L. Smith, 42 Squadron, Royal Air Force, who led a formation of nine aircraft on a low-level attack on the German battle cruiser, 21 June 1940. During the course of the attack Smith’s aircraft accounted for one of the escorting M.E. 109’s and damaged another. He was shot down and taken POW whilst leading another shipping raid off Norway, 26 October 1940 - he saw out the remainder of the war interned at Stalag Luft III

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., reverse officially dated ‘1940’; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Malaya, G.VI.R. (Wg. Cdr. F. G. L. Smith. R.A.F.) mounted court-style for wear, rank partially officially corrected, generally very fine or better (6) £1800-2200

Footnote

D.F.C. London Gazette 30 July 1940:

‘This officer was leader of a formation of nine Beaufort aircraft which carried out a successful bombing attack on an enemy battle cruiser escorted by seven destroyers, on 21/6/40. Squadron Leader Smith selected the low dive bombing method of attack in order to achieve the best results and regardless of his personal safety. As a result of his personal courage and determined leadership direct hits were obtained in spite of a very intense A.A. barrage and the presence of nine enemy fighters. After releasing his bombs he was attacked by enemy fighters and manoeuvred his aircraft so as to enable his air gunner to shoot down one M.E. 109 in flames. He then fired three bursts with his front gun at another M.E. 109. Two of these bursts were observed to hit the enemy aircraft.

Remarks of Station Commander:

I desire to emphasise that the results obtained on this bombing raid were due to the leadership and determination of this Squadron Leader.

Remarks of Air Officer Commanding:

This was a brilliant piece of sound planning, courageous decision and most gallant determination in the pressing home of an attack against an important enemy naval unit.

It was primarily due to Squadron Leader Smith’s lead that the nine Beauforts found their target some 200 miles out across the North Sea and, in spite of intense opposition by A.A. fire from the Battle Cruiser and its escort of destroyers and fighter aircraft, pressed home the attack with such determination that, although three of the nine Beauforts failed to return, yet three direct hits on the Scharnhorst with 500lb bombs were achieved.

This action is pre-eminently of the type for which the Distinguished Flying Cross was instituted and I very strongly recommend an award of this decoration.’

Frank George Laughton Smith was born in 1909, and was the son of Dr. L. Smith of the Mount, Louth, Lincolnshire. He was educated at Wellingborough School, and was a Sergeant in the school’s O.T.C. Smith was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment (T.F.) in April 1928. He advanced to Lieutenant, before transferring to the Royal Air Force in 1932. He was appointed Flying Officer on a Short Service Commission in May 1932, and carried out initial pilot training at No. 3 F.T.S. before completing Torpedo Bomber Pilot training in 1934.

Smith received a Permanent Commission as Flight Lieutenant in June 1936, having served with 22 and 36 (Torpedo Bomber) Squadrons. He was posted as a Pilot to 42 Squadron (Vildebeeste biplanes), Bircham Newton, in November 1939. Smith advanced to Squadron Leader in January 1940, and the Squadron began to receive Beauforts as replacements to the obsolete Vildebeestes in April of the same year.

Having been completely re-equipped with Beauforts, the Squadron embarked on a series of intensive anti-shipping operations from June 1940. The raid that Smith lead on the Scharnhorst, 21 June 1940, is recorded in further detail by the Squadron’s Tactical Report:

‘At 1200 hours on 21/6/40 nine Beaufort aircraft of 42 Sqdn. were ordered to bomb up with 2 x 500 and to take off when bombed up, to attack one enemy battle cruiser (Scharnhorst) accompanied by six enemy destroyers which force was reported to be proceeding South down the coast of Norway. We were informed that a fighting escort would not be provided. The Squadron took off at 1422 hours and set course of 073 degrees.

A land-fall was made off the Norwegian coast, 15 miles north of Bergen at 1600 hours. The Squadron turned south and flew down the coast about 20 miles out to sea as what was thought to be black smoke had been observed about thirty miles to the South of the estimated point of interception. This turned out to be the battle cruiser accompanied by 6 destroyers and 1 M.T.B. Nine fighter aircraft were also observed, six circling low over the battle cruiser and another sub-flight of three in the clouds at nine thousand feet....

On the way out to the target the Squadron had been flying in sub-flights line astern. On the approach to the target the Squadron went into echelon to port on the leading sub-flight. The approach was made at 6,000ft. a preliminary dive of about 10 degrees being made to 4,500ft. and then a steeper dive of about 30 - 40 degrees to 2,000ft. or 1,500ft. where bombs were released. Avoiding action was taken from 6,000 to 3,000 feet after which aircraft entered a steady dive. Aircraft then turned away to starboard of the battle fleet and continued their dive to between 1,000 feet and sea level....

The Squadron approached the battle fleet on the port quarter, squadron being echeloned to port by sub-flights. At a distance of about 10 miles the destroyer screen could be seen circling around the battle cruiser on a radius of about 1,500 yards, the one M.T.B. going out ahead. As the leading aircraft commenced a preliminary dive from 6,000ft. from a distance of 5 miles the battle fleet opened up a long range barrage and the battle cruiser commenced to turn to starboard. The battle cruiser was also firing from her after turrets. At 4,500ft. an intense anti-aircraft and pom-pom barrage was put up and continued throughout the action. The battle cruiser was observed to stop turning to starboard and commence a sharp turn to port which she maintained. The destroyer screen attempted to distribute themselves on either beam of the battle cruiser, the M.T.B. still going ahead....

Leader’s aircraft reported a close miss amidships on port side of battle cruiser at a distance of 5 to 10 yards. One aircraft of the second sub-flight reported one hit and possibly two on the stern. One aircraft of the third sub-flight reported one hit on the bow about the second gun turret.....

As Leader’s sub-flight broke away and before they reform formation they were engaged by 3 M.E. 109. Leader’s aircraft was attacked on the port beam by one M.E. 109 which came in on the same level in a skidding turn. The enemy turned away astern and as he turned away he was shot down in flames by the Leader’s Air Gunner [LAC Begbie]. A second M.E. 109 which had been attacking No. 3 of the Leader’s sub-flight passed over the leader’s aircraft and went straight ahead and was fired at by the pilot. His engine was seen to stop and then pick up again as he turned away to port. It is thought that this M.E. 109 was also damaged....’

Smith’s navigator was wounded, and his aircraft returned to base having had it’s starboard aileron control shot away. He continued to carry out offensive patrols, now from Wick, until 26 October 1940. On the latter date Smith lead a formation of three Beauforts on an offensive patrol, they ‘attacked a transport vessel in mouth of Aspo Fjord [Norway]. Torpedoed the vessel, attacked by M.E. 109s and failed to report to base.’ (Squadron Operations Book refers)

One of Smith’s crew drowned, whilst he and the remainder were taken prisoner of war. Smith was interned at Stalag Luft III (Sagan and Belaria) for the remainder of the war. He advanced to Wing Commander in October 1946, and served in a variety of Staff positions after the war including at AHQ Singapore 1953 - 1954. Smith retired 3 August 1956.