The daughters of a Battle of Britain pilot who went on to win the Distinguished Flying Cross for his photo-reconnaissance work visited Capel-le-Ferne on Monday (26 Nov) to donate his medals and logbooks to the Trust.
Daphne Lewis and Hilary Joy were joined by Jemma Parton, granddaughter of the late Flt Lt Ron Smyth, who died on 26 October 2017 at the age of 96.
Daphne said the family wanted to give the medals and logbooks to the Trust because: “We feel they were dad’s medals and don’t really belong to us. We are certain that the logbooks, in particular, could help future research into the Battle of Britain and help to shed more light on this remarkable period of our history and so we felt the Trust was best placed to look after them.”
She added: “Later in life dad was committed to peace, and when he looked back on the war he found it all very shocking. He felt people should be able to learn from the mistakes of the past, and hopefully this will go some way towards that goal.”
Flt Lt Smyth and his wife Pauline were regular visitor to Capel-le-Ferne for the Trust’s annual Memorial Day until Mrs Smyth became ill in around 2005. She sadly died a few years later.
“Dad never really talked about his wartime experiences and we have only got to understand the part he and others played in keeping this country safe in recent years,” added Daphne. “It was not until around the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain (in 1990) that we started to realise what he had achieved. We are now clearly very proud of what he and his fellow airmen did.”
Flt Lt Smyth was just 19 when he volunteered to switch from Blenheims to single-engined fighters, joining No 111 Squadron, which had suffered heavy losses in the Battle and badly needed new pilots.
When he arrived at Debden the CO was shocked to find that he had never flown a Hurricane, something he then had to learn how to do in the following three weeks.
Flt Lt Smyth then joined No 249 Squadron, defending London with Hurricanes from North Weald near Epping Forest, joining the squadron as the Battle was coming to an end and achieving some success.
Later in the war he carried out photo-reconnaissance missions in unarmed Spitfires, flying in inhospitable conditions at between 27,000 and 30,000 feet in intense cold. His skill at the job saw him take command of the PRU in Gibraltar for most of 1944 and earned him the DFC.