Spitfire Vb BM180
Sergeant W J Smith (failed to return)
457 Sqn RAAF
Crashed at Hardifort, France
9th May 1942
What had been planned as a ‘routine’ excavation of a Spitfire to be filmed for a UK TV series unravelled a 70 year old mystery. Eye-wtinesses recalled that the pilot of a Spitfire that had dived into a field near Hardifort, France, had escaped by parachute. However, when the wreck was excav
ated in November 2011 it became clear that the pilot had not escaped and his body was still buried in the aircraft.
24-year-old Australian Sergeant William James ‘Bill’ Smith had failed to return from a Circus operation over France and was last seen returning over the English Channel. It was therefore assumed at the time that he and his aircraft had fallen into the sea and would never be found.
Why his crash site was not identified during WW2 is not known, but the finding of the pilot’s ID tag left no doubt as to his fate. After being notified to the various authorities, the RAAF located Sergeant Smith’s relatives who attended his funeral at Cassel in April 2012.