Fl/Sgt. Douglas Richard Smith further information
Biography by Shawnee Totton. (Courtesy of the Lest We Forget initiative of Belleisle Regional High School, Springfield, N.B. Page should not be copied without express permission from Aircrew Remembered)
Douglas Richard Smith
Flight Sergeant R73247
Wireless Air Gunner (WAG)
Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)
Personal information: Douglas Richard Smith was born on 12 April, 1921, in Sussex, New Brunswick. He was the second eldest of seven children born to Clarence and Mabel Smith of Anagance, New Brunswick. His father, Clarence, died in 1931; Douglas was his mother’s sole means of support. A Baptist by religion, Douglas graduated from Petitcodiac High in 1938, having successfully completed Grade Eleven. He worked that summer as a farmhand for one Raymond Burlock before leaving to enlist with the Saint John Fusiliers on 6 September, 1939. He was eighteen years old at the date of his enlistment.
Military movements: Douglas Smith served with the Saint John Fusiliers (M.G.) CASF from 6 September, 1939, to 20 October, 1940 as a machine gunner. He was promoted to the temporary acting rank of Lance-Corporal on 20 September, 1939, and returned to the rank of Private one month later. On 21 October, 1940, Private Smith was struck off strength (SOS) to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he remained for the duration of his participation in the war. He was officially enlisted on 23 October, 1940, as part of the Air Crew, an AC2 Wireless Operator and Air Gunner (WOAG), and was sent to No. 2 Military District in Brandon, Manitoba, as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
Douglas trained with the BCATP for approximately thirteen months. At that time, the majority of the flight training schools of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan were situated in the Prairies, because of the flat, open land and the relatively clear weather conditions. The BCATP involved aspiring pilots from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Canada, and was based in Canada, although it was controlled by the Royal Air Force (RAF) of Great Britain. Injuries during training were very common. Aircraft would occasionally catch fire, and violent crash-landings were all too common especially among beginners. There were also problems with accommodations and living conditions at the training camps, particularly in the winter. In the winter, there was snow and ice to contend with; in spring, mud, with poor drainage and outdoor facilities.
Douglas was originally sent to No. 2 Military District in Brandon, Manitoba. However, he was soon transferred to No. 21 Military District in Kamloops, British Colombia on 26 November, 1940, to train as a WOAG. From Kamloops, Douglas was sent to No. 2 Instrument Flying School in Regina, Saskatchewan, on 17 January, 1941. A little over a month later he returned to the base in Brandon, and from there he was transferred to No. 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta on 28 April, 1941. In October of that same year he was sent from Calgary to No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School in Paulsen, Manitoba. Thirty days later, on 9 November, 1941, Douglas Smith departed for No. 1 Y Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an overseas transit depot, where he crossed to England for further training.
Once overseas, Douglas was transferred to the Royal Air Force Training Plan on 13 December, 1941. Thirteen days later, he was sent to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, where he remained for about a month before being taken on strength (TOS) in January, 1942, to No. 2 SS Yatesbury. On 6 March, 1942, Douglas was remustered as a WOAG Grade 2. Eight days later he was transferred to No. 3 Air Observer School, where he remained for a month and a half. On 28 April, 1942, Douglas was transferred to No. 16 Operational Training Unit, where he would remain on strength for training only until his first flight in October of 1942.
The final days: On 10 October, 1942, Douglas Smith was reported missing after air operations over the North Sea. It was his first flight, and Douglas had yet to be assigned to a squadron within the Air Force. He was accompanied by at least two other soldiers, Sergeants Bonter and Daoust of the Royal Air Force of Great Britain, both of whom were also reported missing, presumably over their target. Their plane was a type known as a Wellington, a medium bomber craft favoured at that time for bombing runs, perhaps indicating a clue as to the nature of their mission, although the actual target remains unknown. They typically carried two pilots, an observer, two WOAG, and one air gunner, although many planes were undermanned and carried less than a full complement throughout the war, particularly in 1941 and 1942.
By the fall of 1942, the Allied Air Forces relied heavily on hit and run tactics against the German lines of defense, with many stealth bombings and reconnaissance missions performed under cover of night or under the concealment of heavy cloud or poor weather conditions. Of course, there were drawbacks to this kind of attack, the most obvious being its effect on the navigational abilities of the pilots. Approximately thirty percent of attacking forces reached their targets in good weather, and only fifteen in bad. It was estimated that one sortie in five bombed within five miles of their intended target. Moreover, the Allied Air Force was far short of its full strength. As a result, BCATP graduates intended for RCAF units were scattered throughout the RAF to gain experience.
Douglas was reported missing over target after his first flight on 10 October, 1942. He was subsequently reported as missing believed killed in action. Enemy action was presumed over the target the day of his disappearance. Between 3 September, 1942, and 2 September, 1943, two thousand eight hundred seventy-five members of the Royal Canadian Air Force were killed, with two hundred and seventy-four missing, the second highest number of RCAF dead per year during the war, and the third highest number of missing. Over seventeen thousand members of the RCAF lost their lives during the Second World War, more than ten thousand of these in the bombing offensive against Germany and occupied Europe. Of these seventeen thousand, approximately fourteen thousand were lost on operations overseas.
Medical records: Douglas was hospitalized on 4 August, 1941. His medical records state that he spent fourteen days recovering from the effects of pneumonia. The only other entry in his medical records concerns the confirmation of his death. On 16 March, 1943, the Air Force received reports of German information that stated that the body of an unknown soldier, believed to be Sergeant Smith, had washed ashore on Sylt Island, Germany, 2 November, 1942. The body was later identified as being that of Sergeant Smith, and his death was officially recorded on 7 May, 1943, with effect from 10 October, 1942.
Lest We Forget: Douglas Smith was originally buried at the Cemetery of Westerland West Coast of Sylt Island, Germany, Block L, Grave No. 42, before being moved to its present location. He is now buried at the Kiel British Cemetery in Kiel, Germany, Plot 3, Row E, Grave No. 5. Upon his death, his mother was notified by telegram and received the memorial cross as well as Sergeant Smith’s medals: the 39-45 Star, the Defense Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, and the SEN. SER. Medal. His brother Donald Smith visited the gravesite in 1990 with his wife. Douglas was twenty-one years of age when he died.
Greenhous, Bereton, Stephen J. Harris, William C. Johnston, and William G. P. Rawling. The Crucible of War, 1939-1945: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume III. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press Inc., Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1994
Milberry, Larry. Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1921-1984. Toronto, ON: Bryont Press Limited, 1984
Military service files of Flight Sergeant Douglas Richard Smith (RG 24) obtained from Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario.
Books of Remembrance-Veteran Affairs Canada http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?
Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Debt of Honour Register http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14
Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead
Canadian Virtual War Memorial-Veteran Affairs Canada http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?
History and Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force http://www.rcaf.com
Canadian War Museum, The Second World War http://www.warmuseum.ca
Aircrew Remembered Archive http://www.aircrewremembered.com
Knowledge that Douglas was his mother’s sole financial support taken from his Military File, Library Archives Canada
Military File of Douglas R. Smith, Library Archives Canada (LAC) Record Group (RG) 24
For more information on the BCATP please refer to: Sixty Years, The RCAF and CF Air Command 1921-1984 (Toronto: Bryont Press Ltd., 1984)
The exact date in this instance is not recorded in the Military File
This knowledge comes from Donald Smith, the brother of Douglas Smith. Donald Smith was interviewed in 2009.
This information is stated in the Military File of Douglas Smith, under Details of Casualty
The model of Douglas’s plane was stated in the missing person’s report found in his military file
For more information concerning Wellingtons and their role in the Second World War, refer to: Sixty Years, The RCAF and CF Air Command 1921-1984 (Toronto: Bryont Press Ltd., 1984)
All details and statistics of RCAF and RAF taken from: The Crucible of War, 1939-1945, The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume III (Toronto: University of Toronto Press Inc., 1994)
Military File: Details of Casualty
Statistics taken from: The Crucible of War, 1939-1945, The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume III (Toronto: University of Toronto Press Inc., 1994)
Information on the number of RCAF soldiers who died during the Second World War taken from two websites: http://www.rcaf.com and http://www.warmuseum.ca
Information obtained from Military File: Details of Casualty
Donald Smith, the brother of Douglas Smith, was interviewed by phone in 2009