Celebrating the life of one of the last Dambusters, Rowland Smith
A CELEBRATION marking the life of one of the last Dambusters will be held – as the squadron marks the 70th anniversary of its most daring mission.
The funeral of 93-year-old Warrant Officer Rowland Smith, known as Ron, will take place on Monday, March 25.
WO Smith, who was born in Cleethorpes in 1920, was 19 when he joined the Air Force and given a most dangerous role – the rear gunner, a "tail end charlie".
He flew in more than 75 operational flights, the Battle of Britain and, after joining 617 Squadron, with the Dambusters from January 1944 to August 1944.
MAYFAIR ESTATE AGENTS
IF WE CANNOT FIND YOU A TENANT WITHIN ONE MONTH WE WILL FIND YOU ONE FOR FREE, YES FREE, YOU WILL PAY NO FEES.
Terms: TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY.
Contact: 01472 355 553
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
His devotion to duty and fortitude also saw him receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The fourth son of Mr and Mrs J Smith, of Kew Road, he was educated at Thrunscoe School and worked at the Crown Wallpaper stores.
After training at Grimsby Airport, WO Smith began his RAF career flying in Wellington Bombers, the body of which were made of nothing more than wood and fabric.
Nephew Peter Pounds, who inherited his uncle's life-long love of cycling and dry sense of humour, said: "Usually, on the way back from raids, the rear gunner would rejoin the rest of the crew in the cockpit.
"However, on one particular mission, the Captain told him there were so many holes in the fuselage, he had better stay where he was or he was likely to fall through!"
He had a lucky escape when a piece of shrapnel from flack artillery pierced the rear gun turret, ricocheting around the confined space.
WO Smith escaped with nothing more than a graze to his cheek and a cut glove.
He also flew in Lancaster bombers before leading training sessions with 9 Squadron for 18 months.
In January 1943, he married his beloved wife, the late Evelyn Hunt, of Freeston Street, Cleethorpes. He turned down a full-time post as an instructor and returned to live operations.
This saw him handling infamous ten-tonne bombs, conducting raids on chief targets in Germany and the Baltic experimental station at Peenemunde.
Peter said: "The bombs were so large they wouldn't fit in the bays, so they hung from the bottom of the planes.
"Ron used to say the plane went up 100ft when deployed."
After the war, the couple settled in Hadfield, near Glossop, where WO Smith took up a post at Lancashire Chemicals.
He remained there for 45 years, retiring at 68, allowing the couple to devote more time to cycling and holidaying on the Welsh coast.
WO Smith's funeral will take place on Monday, March 25, from 1pm at Grimsby Crematorium. Family flowers only, but donations in lieu can be made to the RAF benevolent fund, via Mashfords Funeral Directors.
THE bravery of the Dambusters squadron is legendary.
The 617 Squadron was formed under great secrecy at RAF Scampton during the Second World War in 1943 for the specific task of attacking three major dams on the Ruhr in Germany: the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe.
The plan was given the codename Operation Chastise and was carried out on May 17, 1943, using Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb.
Given the Hollywood treatment in 1955, starring Richard Todd as the squadron’s famous commander Guy Gibson, it’s easy to think about such times as “black and white” with handsome actors.
But the real war heroes are people like Warrant Officer Rowland Smith, who we pay tribute to today.
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the 93-year-old was just 19 when he was called up and joined the Air Force, where he was given the dangerous role of rear gunner, taking part in 75 operational flights, including the Battle of Britain.
During the Second World War, 617 Squadron carried out 1,599 operational sorties with the loss of 32 aircraft.
WO Smith was one of the lucky ones, but he spent much of the war in live operations, and that commitment to king and country should never be forgotten.