Hawker Hurricane MkI – 151 Sqn RAF, Irving “Black” Smith, Digby, Battle of Britain 1940
Hurricane MkI – 151 Sqn RAF, Irving “Black” Smith, Battle of Britain (1200)
2 in stock
2 in stock
Corgi Aviation 1/72 scale AA27601: Hawker Hurricane MkI serial V7434 DZ-R as flown by Pilot Officer Irving “Black” Smith of 151 Squadron based at RAF Digby, Lincs during the Battle of Britain in October 1940. Limited edition of only 1,200 pieces.
Length 5.25 inches Wingspan 6.75 inches
No.151 Squadron received its first Hurricanes in December 1938. After serving defensive patrols in the opening chapters of World War Two the Squadron went on to cover the evacuation fleet at Dunkirk and flew missions over Northern France during May and June 1940. Pilot Officer Irving ‘Black’ Smith from New Zealand joined the Squadron in July 1940 and quickly became involved in the Battle of Britain. Smith went on to play a leading role in Operation Jericho, the RAF’s historic raid on the German prison at Amiens in February 1944, during which he piloted a de Havilland Mosquito IV. Eventually reaching the rankk of Group Captain Irving Smith, who died aged 82, scored six kills in the Battle of Britain and won two DFCs.
A New Zealander, Smith took command of No 487 – a Royal New Zealand Air Force squadron equipped with Mosquitos – early in February 1944. On February 18 he led a raiding force of 18 aircraft in ‘Operation Jericho’ which aimed to breach the walls of the jail and free the 700 prisoners held there, many of whom faced imminent execution. Flying in blizzard conditions Smith came into the attack just above the ground at the vulnerably low speed of 180 mph. His task was to breach the prison’s north and east walls which were 20 ft high and three feet thick; the hope was that each of his four 500 lb bombs would lodge close enough to the walls to shatter the masonry. It was then the job of the six Mosquitos of 464 Squadron to blow the ends off the main building. The plan worked. Smith, the first to attack, successfully breached the walls. Shortly after the war he visited Amiens to inspect his handiwork and was gratified to discover that every Mosquito crew in his first section had scored a bullseye. Casualties inside the prison were heavy and some civilians outside were killed, but 258 prisoners escaped through the breach made by the New Zealanders. Later, in 1944, Smith led a successful raid on a barracks at Poitiers where troops were assembling to attack the Maquis and then he destroyed the SS headquarters at Vincey, near Metz.
Irving Stanley Smith was born on May 21 1917 at Invercargill, New Zealand. He was educated at Whangarei High School and Sedden Memorial Technical College, Auckland where he played the cornet and tenor horn as a member of the Ponsonby Boys’ Brass Band. He was then apprenticed as a coach painter but in 1939, after being given a short service commission in the RNZAF, he volunteered to train in Britain and sailed for London in July. Having completed his flying training a year later, Smith was sent to No 151, a Hawker Hurricane fighter squadron based at North Weald. Being the darker in complexion of two Smiths on the squadron he was dubbed “Black” Smith, the other inevitably becoming known as “White”.
On August 15th 1940, as the Luftwaffe mounted its Eagle offensive, Smith flew three patrols destroying two Me109 fighters and damaging a third. Nine days later he shot down an He111 bomber and on August 30th combined with another pilot to – as he later put it – “frighten” a Me109 pilot straight into the ground. The next day Smith flew four sorties winging a Do17 bomber on the first and destroying another on the third. The following day 151 Squadron was withdrawn for a rest. Smith was one of only four surviving pilots from the original squadron and, despite having notched up a mere two months of operational flying experience, was already regarded as an old hand. On October 2nd , while training replacement pilots, he was sent to intercept a lone He111 bomber which had attacked the Rolls-Royce factory at Derby. Flying in cloud and on instruments Smith felt the slipstream of another aircraft. Looking up he glimpsed the Heinkel and, as the aeroplane emerged from the clouds, he noticed that its starboard engine had stopped. He attacked, putting the port engine out of action and forcing the bomber to ditch in the sea north of Skegness.
The squadron was then partly re-equipped with Boulton-Paul Defiants and became a night fighter squadron. Smith was awarded the DFC in March and on May 10 1941 – the night of the heaviest raid of the Blitz – he destroyed an He111 north of the Thames Estuary, having flown with his hood open to see his target better.
In February 1942 Smith took command of 151. He celebrated his appointment the next night, while on convoy protection duty near Cromer, Norfolk. As six German raiders crossed the East coast at near sea level Smith threw his squadron into the attack and routed the enemy. His gunner, Flight Sergeant Beale, shot down a Do217 and damaged a Ju88.
In April the squadron was re-equipped with the fast and versatile Mosquito, On the night of June 24, enemy bombers attacked factories in the West Midlands and East Anglia but lost five aircraft. Two of these were destroyed by Smith who from a range of 300 yards sent a He111 and a Do217 spinning into the sea off Yarmouth; he also probably destroyed a second Heinkel. By now a Wing Commander, Smith was awarded a Bar to his DFC in July 1942. After two and a half years with 151, Smith was posted to Fighter Command Headquarters in March 1943. He asked to return to operations, but his posting to command No 488 RNZAF squadron was overruled. He finally took charge of No 487 at Hunsdon, in Hertfordshire, in February 1944.
After the Amiens raid, Smith became chief instructor on the Mosquito at 13 OTU, High Ercall, in Shropshire. He was mentioned in despatches the following year and granted a permanent commission in the RAF.
After the war, he served at Air Headquarters, Malta, and then in 1950 took command of No 56, a Gloster Meteor jet fighter squadron, He later commanded RAF Church Fenton and, having been promoted to Group Captain in 1958, commanded RAF Jever in Germany. In 1961 he returned to staff duties at Signals Command. He was invalided from the service in 1966.
During a long retirement Smith farmed at Northleigh, Devon, where, although he held – and expressed – firm views about how things should be done, he was much respected and known for his consideration of others. He was always ready to help with village affairs. He had a lifelong love of sailing and in his time owned a series of yachts, of which the last was Nymph, a Dragonfly class racing trimaran for which he devised an unusual junk rig and in which, at the age of 80, he achieved 18 knots.
Irving Smith was appointed OBE in 1953 and CBE in 1960. He married, in 1942, Joan Debenham, then a WAAF officer. They had two daughters, one of whom survives, and a son, General Sir Rupert Smith, formerly commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia.