Sgt E C Smith
Lancaster serial number: ED936/G
Call sign: AJ-H
Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged and mine lost, flying low over sea on outward flight. Returned to base.
Edward Clarence Smith was born in Cambridge in 1919, the middle of the three children of Clarence and Annie Smith.He joined the RAF in 1937 as ground crew, trained at the No 3 School of Technical Training at RAF Manston and served in various squadrons until 1942.
It was then that the new category of Flight Engineers was introduced, and many experienced ground crew volunteered for flying duties. Smith was selected and after training was posted to his first operational squadron, 57 Squadron based at Scampton, on 9 December 1942. He arrived on the same day as most of those who would later fly with him on the Dams Raid, but not pilot Geoffrey Rice.
When Rice arrived in February, the crew was established and flew on nine operations, before being posted over to the new squadron being formed at the same base to undertake training for a special mission. On the Dams Raid, AJ-H took off from Scampton at 2131 but had to turn back after flying too low over the Waddensee and losing their mine. Smith played an important role in bringing the aircraft home safely to Scampton when hydraulic power for the undercarriage had been lost.
Smith flew with Rice and the rest of his crew on the handful of successful operations they completed in the period July to December 1943, but they were unlucky on 20 December when they were hit by flak 14,000 feet above Merbes-Le Chateau in Belgium. Although Rice gave the order to bale out, there wasn’t time and the aircraft exploded. Rice seems to have been thrown clear by the explosion, and somehow landed in a wood but the bodies of the remaining six crew members were found in the wreckage.
Edward Smith and his five colleagues were buried in Gosselies Communal Cemetery, near Hainaut, Belgium. More than 100 British and Commonwealth servicemen lie there, nearly all aircrew who died in the vicinity.
Edward Smith had married Evelyn Tyrell in Cambridge in 1942.
More about Smith online:
Entry on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Page about Rice crew burial site, Gosselies cemetery
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
John Sweetman, David Coward and Gary Johnstone, The Dambusters, Time Warner 2003
The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.