The two secretive Smiths (otherwise known as the awkward so n so's)

Discussion in 'Royal Air Force' started by WelchRegLost, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    Both my Father Francis Smith and Uncle Derrick Smith served in the RAF during WW2 whenever they were asked anything about what they did the stock answer was we were sworn to secrecy for 60 years.

    All but two photos of them have no indication of where they are, and none show any insignia either. one of the photos (see post in ask the experts) has some writing on it but the consensus is it is the signature of the photographer and the second is of my father somewhere n the subcontinent again no insignia etc.

    My father passed away before the 60 years was up so never said anything to us, my Uncle did however live long enough to give us some information but it was always very small snippets here and there as though it was still wrong for him to talk about it.

    What we do know is he was a tail gunner in Halifaxes, 99% of the time they flew alone, they were told to keep no logs of the flights. All this points to working for either SOE or SIS, however he stated they only ever flew out of Ashbourne Airfield Derbyshire, which to the best of my knowledge was purely an operational training unit airfield.

    I have been told to look for the ORBS for that airfield to see if there is any mention of him by name or of special duties ops being carried out from there.

    Daft two questions coming up. 1 What are ORBS? 2 where do i find them?

    Sorry for the long diatribe
     
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  2. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    ORB = Operational Record Book :)

    Guess where you find them......;)
    Code:
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/raf-operations-record-books-1939-1945/
     
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  3. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    I knew they were daft questions, thank you
     
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  4. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    :D
     
  5. Daft Bat

    Daft Bat Administrator. Chief cook & bottle washer! Staff Member

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    No question is daft if you don't know the answer. ;)
     
  6. arthurk

    arthurk Well-Known Member

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    It makes you wonder if there are still things that haven't been revealed about WW2 special operations.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, this is something I've come to have an interest in, so I've done a bit of digging, though without much success. The only link I've been able to find between SOE and Ashbourne appears to be that 81 OTU at Ashbourne was training crews on Whitley bombers, which were used by 138 and 161 Squadrons until late 1942.

    Of course, that doesn't explain the Halifax connection, but maybe there were airfields even more secret than Tempsford, so that if Tempsford was discovered and put out of service, SOE would be able to quickly resume operations from somewhere else.

    Among my searches I came across a forum post relating to your uncle Derrick, and it appears you may have added to it yourself. In case others want to see it, it's at
    Code:
    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?20616-RAF-Ashbourne-special-operations
    Maybe something will turn up among your uncle's papers?
     
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  7. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    That is correct Arthur it was me that updated that forum post.

    I also can't get my head around why we seem to only get mention of two squadrons working SOE when there were at least 10.

    138 Squadron R.A.F

    148 Squadron R.A.F

    158 Squadron R.A.F,

    1586 Special Duties Flight R.A.F

    301 Squadron P.A.F

    161 Squadron R.A.F

    296 Squadron R.A.F

    298 Squadron R.A.F

    624 Squadron R.A.F

    31 Squadron S.A.A.F

    Another titbit that has since come out Derrick told my sister that he wasn't in a squadron or unit.

    My father has no found service records with the RAF and I think my cousin will find the same when he applies for my Uncle's records
     
  8. GrannyBarb

    GrannyBarb Custodian of the Family Accounts

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    I don't know if it's any help. My great uncle Gordon Browne was in the OSS during WW2, and later the CIA. He was a civilian archeologist, or maybe it was anthropologist, in Morocco and the Middle East. He and his spy partner would gather info and relay it back to HQ, often resulting in air attacks on the enemy positions. A few times it was a matter of lighting a signal fire in the middle of nowhere and then getting the heck out of the way. :nailbiting:

    Perhaps your folks were in the supporting air forces that acted on this sort of intel?
     
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  9. arthurk

    arthurk Well-Known Member

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    From a quick look into the squadrons you mentioned, most of the ones other than 138 and 161 were based overseas, so might it be a case of local pride or something? I think I only saw one other UK-based one that was involved in operations comparable to those based at Tempsford, and that was 298.
    This seems very odd to me, although I'm not an expert in military matters. Is there any possibility that they were in one of the other allied air forces (eg Australian, Canadian etc)?

    Anyway, what I mainly wanted to add to the discussion was that I've had a look through the operations record that I have for 138 Squadron, covering September 1941 to June 1944 (AIR 27/956). There are over 350 handwritten pages, but it's not too difficult to pick out the lists of men posted in and out, as they're mostly formatted differently and can be seen in thumbnails. (Though I did come across a few that looked more like the daily operations records too, so may have missed others :()

    Among them were a number called Smith, obviously, but not many with initials D or F. Here are the postings in that I spotted:

    24/2/43 1021395 Sgt Smith T F/Eng (included in case T is a mistake for F)
    6/3/43 657016 Sgt Smith DAJ Nav
    12/9/43 158984 P/O DAJ Smith Nav - appt to comm'd rank (I'm guessing he is the same as the one above)

    A F/Sgt Smith was reported missing on 15/3/43 on a mission with Poland as the target; 158984 was reported missing on 3/6/44.

    Most operations give only the name of the pilot, but there were a few that I spotted near one of the postings lists which named everyone. One of these was for 12-13/5/43, showing Halifax H726 on a mission to France with Sgt Smith as Rear Gunner.

    (The idea of Australian/Canadian forces came to me after I went through the document, so I didn't note any of them down :()

    I'm not sure if any of this will be helpful, but I think it's all I can come up with here.
     
  10. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much for the help and information, I would say it is unlikely they were with other Allied Air forces unless on secondment.

    I am assuming that not found is a euphemism for you can't have it rather than it not existing. but then that could just be my conspiracy head talking
     
  11. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Like my Mums cousin, I would say it’s ‘you can’t have it, none of your business’
    His records just say ‘closed’
     
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  12. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Had a quick look at Forces War Records.
    Was he Derrick Albert?
    Derrick Albert Smith 158984 Flying Officer 138 Squadron
    Derrick Albert Smith 158984 Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves
    More info if you log in.
    Or Derrick Vincent Smith 127009 Pilot Officer. No unit mentioned.
     
  13. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Supplement to the London Gazette 30/6/1944 has the mention of Derrick Albert John Smith 158984 138 Sqadron RAFVR Distinguished Flying Cross.
     
  14. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Not your Derrick....Derrick Albert John Smith was shot down in 1944
     
  15. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for looking Sue
     
  16. WelchRegLost

    WelchRegLost Well-Known Member

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    He was Derrick Harold
     
  17. Steven Duhig

    Steven Duhig New Member

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    Derrick Smith was my school friend's father. I knew him for over 50 years. I had been told many years ago that he had been a tail gunner in Wellington bomber. Presume this may have been a cover story?
    I was privileged to learn of his war record first hand. When sharing with Derrick that I was attempting to apply for another friend's DFC, he became uniquely assertive in encouraging me to do just that!
    (To my knowledge Derrick had no recognition and medals).
    I then took the opportunity to ask Derrick about his experience and was firmly corrected that, although he had been a tail gunner, he had never flown in Wellingtons only Halifaxes.
    I asked which squadron.
    He said no squadron.
    I asked which unit.
    He said no unit.
    I said how come as he was in RAF.
    He said he was not in RAF.
    A year or so later I had a second interview and asked if he was part of RAF flying SOE from Tangmere?
    He said NOT RAF.
    Never Tangmere etc.
    (I had bought a book on Tangmere and SOE etc. for him, but it was irrelevant so I took it home again..).
    Derrick said he flew from RAF Ashbourne in Derbys, but also frequented Weathersfield, Dunmow and other east anglian airfields.
    He met his wife Flossie on one such visit, I believe on an excursion from Weathersfield to Chelmsford.
    Derrick was one of a select band of fliers working direct for SOE.
    ORBS/SOE documents indicate he was a tail gunner and navigator who flew (exclusively?) over France.
    They flew 100' or less at high speed with unmarked, roundel only, black Halifaxes with radar counter measures and fast extra powerful Merlin engines.
    He said they mostly delivered supplies/arms and occasionally SOE agents. He did not mention delivery of SAS units but I wonder...?
    He recalled a crew of friends who crashed into a french beach and were lost. I think he may have switched crews at that time and might have been lost too.
    He did pull gliders on D-Day, (and probably Arnhem) etc. ? All aircraft/trained crews being needed for these efforts.
    He shared detail of how on SOE missions he worked closely and instantly with his pilot to deal with fighters, purely through evasive maneuvers. His pilot instantly followed his instructions to veer and so they survived. He never had to shoot one down, and was able to lose the fighters at low level. Incredible flying and partnership. Derrick was called upon to share these avoidance techniques directly with USAAF.
    A wonderful man, friend, father figure and hero.
    May he Rest In Peace.
     
  18. Steven Duhig

    Steven Duhig New Member

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  19. Steven Duhig

    Steven Duhig New Member

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    RAF Ashbourne.
    No mention of SOE role that I have found but...
    - Nearly 100 buildings.
    - Three laden bomber runways. (One max 1700').
    - Dreadful weather.
    - At the upper acceptable altitude limit for an airfield...

    An ideal site for a supposedly a simple training airfield...?
     
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  20. Daft Bat

    Daft Bat Administrator. Chief cook & bottle washer! Staff Member

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    Welcome to the forum and for the detailed information that you have given. Hopefully, @WelchRegLost will see the message that you have posted. :)
     
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