Battle of Britain pilot still drove to pub in his 90s
Wing commander Edward Smith, who has died aged 98, flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain and was credited with destroying four enemy aircraft and sharing in the destruction of a fifth.
Smith was a founder member of No 610 (County of Cheshire) Squadron when it formed in 1936. One of a number of Auxiliary Air Force squadrons formed during the period of rising tension as Germany rearmed, Smith and his colleagues trained as pilots at weekends. The squadron was transferred to Fighter Command in January 1939 and was embodied into the RAF in August 1939.
Flying from Gravesend, No 610 patrolled the Dunkirk area during the evacuation of the BEF. On May 27, 1940, Smith attacked a force of Heinkel bombers south of Dunkirk and shot one down. In July he was appointed a flight commander. Flying from Biggin Hill, the squadron saw considerable action in the opening phase of the Battle of Britain. During July he accounted for four enemy aircraft, including two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.
On August 12, Smith engaged 12 enemy fighters, and his Spitfire was hit by cannon fire, damage being inflicted around the cockpit and the adjacent fuel tank. His aircraft caught fire and he was enveloped in flames. Despite suffering burns to his neck and face he managed to bail out and land in the sea eight miles off the coast. He was picked up by a Royal Navy trawler and, to his astonishment, recognised the captain as an old school friend. He was unable to take any further part in the Battle. Two weeks later it was announced that he had been awarded the DFC for his "great courage and leadership".
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Edward Brian Bretherton Smith was born at Formby, Lancashire, on January 12, 1915. He was educated at King William's School in the Isle of Man and for five years worked in the brewing industry.
Smith left the RAF in February 1946. He returned to west Lancashire and joined J Bibby & Sons, which specialised in animal feeds. He was very sociable and was still driving himself to his local pub until he turned 96.
Edward Smith died on Battle of Britain Day. He married Pamela, a former WAAF, in 1940. She died in 2002 and a son also predeceased him. He is survived by two sons.