|Pilot SqnLdr Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith, 402144 (MIA / KIA, BR) Sydney, NSW
Crashed March 15, 1943
Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith was born on June 30, 1918. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
during May 1940 and was commissioned on March 17, 1941. Assigned to 452 Squadron on April 21, 1941. On August 9, 1941 he was credited with a half victory for a Bf-109 shot down along with Sqn Ldr Paddy Finucane.
Claimed two two more Bf-109s on August 27, 1941. Promoted to a Flight Lieutenant and became the commander of "A" flight and awarded the DFC on November 22, 1941. When promoted to Squadron Leader, he became commander of 452 Squadron from S/Ldr Keith "Bluey" Truscott on March 18, 1942. Following his death on March 15, 1943, replaced by by S/Ldr MacDonald on March 30, 1943.
Built by Supermarine. Delivered during October 1942. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number BS231. Disassembled and shipped overseas as cargo aboard the on SS Teak arriving in Australia on November 14, 1942.
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to 2 AD on October 26, 1942. At the time, it was not issued an RAAF serial number. Next to 1 FW on October 29, 1942. Assigned to 452 Squadron on November 14, 1942 with tail code "D". This Spitfire operated from Strauss Field south of Darwin.
On March 14, 1943 one of four Spitfires from 452 Squadron took off on a night flying training mission and landed at Darwin Airfield and overnighted. When lost, engine number 91465.
On March 15, 1943 one of four Spitfires that took off from Darwin Airfield at 10:30am on a flight bound for their base at Strauss Field. Instead, they were instructed to in intercept Japanese fighters and bombers bound for Darwin. and formed up with twelve other Spitfires from 54 Squadron, RAF
The formation was led by Thorold-Smith and climbed to seach for the enemy aircraft. At approximately 17,000' two aircraft from Thorold-Smith's section had to drop out due to lack of oxygen.
At 20,000' Thorold-Smith's section sighted a formation of 20 bombers and 22 fighters at roughly 21,000' 7-10 miles northwest of Darwin. Climbing alongside the formation unitl 500' above the bombers, Thorold-Smith ordered the Spitfires to attack the bombers but were intercepted by the Zeros flying close escort.
Thirty seconds into the attack, a single smoking Spitfire was observed turning to the west back towards Darwin by pilots from 54 Squadron. F/O A Goldsmith saw also a Spitfire smoking in a dive over Point Charles. The following day, 5 FCS reported sighting a crash eight miles from Flagstaff Hill.
This aircraft failed to return and was shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed into the sea into the west arm of Darwin Harbor.
That afternoon, searches in the area that afternoon had nil results.
This aircraft is located in the west arm of Darwin Harbor off Darwin. The wreckage is underwater for all but the lowest tide levels. Over the years, a number of items were salvaged from the wreckage, but none are on display.
During November 1943 this Spitfire was retroactively assigned a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) serial number A58-92.
Bob Alford adds:
"In late 1983 I was asked to join them on an investigation of wreckage in Darwin Harbour more as a RAAF Armourer as there was derelict ammunition associated with it. As it transpired, after considerable research, it was confirmed as being the wreckage of SqnLdr Ray Thorold-Smith's Spitfire Mk Vc A58-92 which had disappeared on 15 March 1943. I feel quite pleased at being able to have been a part of that and to have been able to confirm its identity."
Part of this aircraft is displayed at the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre.
Thorold-Smith was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the Northern Territory Memorial, panel 6 at Darwin. On May 11, 1943, Drysdale Airfield (Drysdale Mission Airfield) was
renamed Thorold Strip" in honor of Squadron Leader Thorold-Smith.
ADF Serials - Spitfire A58-92
Oz@War - Crash of a Spitfire into the seas off Point Charles on 15 March 1943
CWGC - Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith
RAAFDB - Supermarine Spitfire F.VC BS231
Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith
Thanks to Daniel Leahy, Bob Alford and Silvano Jung for additional information
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January 5, 2018