Francis Smith (RAAF officer)

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Francis Ryan Smith
Born 23 July 1896
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died Unknown
Allegiance  Australia
Service/branch Australian Imperial Force
Australian Flying Corps
Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1915 – 1919
1941 – 1944
Rank Squadron Leader

First World War

Second World War
Awards Military Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross

Francis Ryan Smith, MC, DFC was an Australian flying ace of the First World War, credited with 16 aerial victories.[1]

Francis Ryan Smith worked as a clerk before joining the Australian Imperial Force on 20 July 1915. He served with distinction in the 31st Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment and winning the Military Cross in 1916, for bravery under fire. He transferred to the Australian Flying Corps for training, then joined No. 2 Squadron AFC as a pilot on 28 February 1918.[2]

Piloting a RAF SE.5a, he began his victory string by destroying a German Pfalz D.III fighter on 9 May 1918, and continued until he ended it with a quadruple victory on 14 October 1918, when he destroyed three Fokker D.VIIs and sent another one down out of control. His final tally amounted to eight enemy fighters sent down out of control, seven others destroyed, and an enemy observation plane shot down out of control.[1]

Along the way, Smith became a Flight Leader by mid September 1918; he also became his squadron's leading ace. Additionally, he became the squadron's final casualty, being shot down on 10 November 1918. Although downed behind enemy lines, he evaded capture by donning civilian clothing and covering 40 miles back to his squadron mess. He found his squadron-mates celebrating the Armistice ending the war.[2]

He returned to Australia on 6 May 1919.[2] By 18 June, he had been discharged.[3]

Francis Ryan Smith is known to have survived until at least 1951, when he is recorded as leasing out an auto service station in Willandra, Australia.[4]

Honors and awards[edit]

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Lieut. (A./Capt.) Francis Ryan Smith, M.C. (Australian F.C.). (FRANCE)

This officer combines high individual enterprise and determination with exceptionally able leadership. These qualities were conspicuous on 14 October, when, leading a patrol of five machines, he saw a formation of twelve Fokker biplanes above him. Relying on the co-operation of another higher formation of Bristol machines, he, deliberately manoeuvred his formation into a disadvantageous position in order that our higher patrol might be able to attack the enemy while the latter's attention was concentrated upon destroying his, Lt. Smith's, formation. The stratagem was entirely successful, with the result that two enemy machines were destroyed and two others were believed to crash. The Fokkers were then reinforced by eight more machines, and in the ensuing combat Lt. Smith shot down one in flames, his patrol destroying two others. We suffered no casualties.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Francis Ryan Smith". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Captain Francis R. Smith, Australian Flying Corps". Australian Flying Corps: A Complete History of the Australian Flying Corps. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "No. 2 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps". Digger History. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Willandra Conservation Management Plan Draft" (PDF). Ryde City Council. March 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "Honours". Flight International: 242. 20 February 1919. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 


  • Franks, Norman (2007). SE 5/5a Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781846031809.