LEST WE FORGET

Flying Officer Sydney Wood SMITH

Service No: 403961
Born: Broken Hill NSW, 4 February 1918
Enlisted in the RAAF: 31 March 1941
Unit: No. 228 Squadron (RAF)
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 228 Squadron Sunderland aircraft W4026), Scotland, 25 August 1942, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Oban (Pennyfuir) Cemetery, Argyllshire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John James Smith and Jessie Gertrude Smith; husband of Edith Mary Smith, of Epping, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Ashfield NSW
Remembered: Panel 130, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: M.W.S. and D.B. (Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board) 1939-1945, Sydney NSW

Sunderland W4026 took off from RAF Invergordon at 1311 hours on the 25th August 1942, detailed to carry out a non-operational flight from Invergordon to Iceland. The aircraft was routed from Invergordon via Tarbat Ness, Clyth Ness, Thurbo, Cape Wrath and Butt of Lewis to Iceland. The aircraft slipped its moorings at 1250 hours and became airborne at 1311 hours. It took off in a north easterly direction and was lost to sight climbing steadily Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off.

The aircraft crashed at Eagles Rock, Scotland at 1330 hours and all were killed except Flight
Sergeant Jack (RAF) who was seriously injured. The cloud base at Inverness at take-off was 1000 feet with some fragments at 200 feet with visibility from 2200 to 2400 yards. A supplementary weather forecast was sent to the Captain at 1100 hours showing a further deterioration in the weather.

On board Sunderland W4026 were:

His Royal Highness Air Commodore the Duke of Kent (George Edward Alexander Edmund Windsor) (RAF Auxiliary Air Force)
Sergeant Edward Francis Blacklock (405467) (RNZAF) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Sergeant Arthur Rowland Catt (1252994) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Lieutenant Frank McKenzie Goyen (42057) (RAF) (Pilot)
Leading Aircraftman John Walter Hales (927117) (RAFVR) (HRH’s Batman)
Flight Sergeant Edward James Hewerdine MID (566884) (RAF) (WEM/Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant A S W Jack (RAF) (Air Gunner) Only survivor: Died 1976
Flight Sergeant William Royston Jones (523047) (RAF) (FME/Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Charles Norman Lewis (517386) (RAF) (Flight Mechanic/Air Gunner)
Lieutenant John Arthur Lowther (RNVR) (HRH’s Private Secretary)
Wing Commander Thomas Lawton Moseley (33064) (RAF) (Second Pilot) (Commanding Officer No. 228 Squadron)
Pilot Officer George Richard Saunders (126975) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Flying Officer Sydney Wood Smith (403961) (Third Pilot)
Pilot Officer Hon C V Michael Strutt (J/15062) (RCAF) (Air Gunner) (HRH’s Equerry)
Sergeant Leonard Edward Sweett (570678) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)

A Court of Inquiry into the accident convened at Invergordon on 28 August 1942, was chaired
by AVM D Colyer, CB, DFC. The Findings of the Court were : “The cause of the accident was in our opinion due to the aircraft being flown on a wrong track at too low an altitude to clear the rising ground on the track. The responsibility for this serious mistake in airmanship lies with the Captain
of the aircraft Flight Lieutenant Goyen, who changed his flight plan for reasons unknown, was such
that he commenced the flight by climbing into cloud and then started to descend but failed to take the elementary precaution of making sure that he was over the water and crashed into a hillside while still in cloud. In our opinion the weather encountered should have presented no difficulties to an experienced pilot. The examination of the propellers showed that the engines were under power when the aircraft struck the ground.”

In his remarks the Group Captain RAF Station Oban stated: “I concur in the findings of the Court as to the actual cause of the accident, but I am of the opinion that, in the weather conditions pertaining at the time, a non-operational flight should not have been carried out.

The AVM Group Commander commanding No 15 Group stated: “I concur with the findings of the Court, and consider the weather conditions should have presented no difficulty to a crew of such experience.”

The survivor Flight Sergeant Jack in his evidence to the inquiry stated “Fight Lieutenant Goyen told us over the inter-com that there would be a, lot of cloud about but he did not think it would last long. I was in the rear turret. As we proceeded the cloud became thicker. I felt the aircraft losing height after about 20 minutes. The pilot was apparently trying to get under the cloud base. I don’t remember anything after that “

The Medical officer at RAF Wick stated: “I was informed by Flying Control at about 1430 hours on 25 August that there had probably been an accident in the region of Scaraben. A Sub Lieutenant of the RNVR stated “I am Watch Keeping officer at RNO Wick, and was fishing near Berriedale River to the west of Eagles Rock. A few minutes later I heard an aircraft approaching from the sea. It was impossible to see the aircraft but from the sound it appeared to be very low, so low indeed that I half expected it to crash. Immediately after this I heard a dull thud and the sounds of the engines ceased, and I assumed the aircraft had crashed. I packed up my fishing tackle and proceeded towards Braemore. Owing to the thick mist it was not until 1630 hours that we came upon the scene of the accident. I was accompanied by three shepherds. We were the first to find the crash and made a further search to see if there were any survivors. None were found. “

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, A9300, SMITH S W
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line