Sunday, 7 April 2013

Douglas Bader's Wingman

Sir Alan Smith was hand picked by Douglas Bader to be his wingman during the fierce Battle of Britain.
Alan Smith was born on the 17th March 1917, in South Shields in north-east England. Sadly he would never  know his own father, Captain Alfred Smith, who was tragically lost at sea during World War One.

He grew up in South Shields, working in his mother's ironmongery store. He joined the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve along with many other young men and was called up to serve his country in 1939.
Alan Smith
He joined 610 Squadron as a Sergeant at Acklington in October 1940. At the beginning of 1941 he was posted to 616 Squadron which would become part of the Tangmere Wing, led by none other than the infamous Douglas Bader.

One day as Smith came in to the dispersal hut, Bader turned to him and said, 'What's your name?'
'Smith, Sir,' Alan replied.
'Right, you'll do. Fly as my number two and God help you if you let any Hun get on my tail,' Bader barked at him.


Smith made an exemplary wingman to Bader, protecting him from enemy fire on many occasions. Unfortunately, on the day Bader was shot down in August 1941, Smith was not flying as his wingman due to the fact that he was unwell. That day, Bader baled out and was captured by the Germans.

Later that year Smith received a commission and the DFC, the citation for which read, "in combat he has been of great support to his leader."

Smith went on to become a flight instructor and would assist the USAAF pilots convert to Spitfires. After service in North Africa he received a bar to his DFC. He was a Spitfire Ace with 5 confirmed enemy kills.

After the war he had a most successful career in the textile industry and was awarded the CBE in 1976 followed by a Knighthood in 1982. He died on the 1st March 2013 in Perth, Scotland. Rest in peace, Sir Alan.
Sir Alan Smith (right) with Air Vice-Marshall Johnnie Johnson