The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. F R Walker-Smith
Francis Richard Walker-Smith, of Stanley Common, Derbyshire, was born on 29th January 1917, the son of Arthur Walker-Smith and Frances Walker-Smith (nee Maddocks).
He attended Derby Municipal Secondary School in 1929 before going on to Bemrose School 1930-34. He joined the RAFVR on 8th January 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot.
Called to full-time service on 1st September 1939, Walker-Smith was posted to 9 FTS, Hullavington on 6th December. He passed out on 11th April 1940 and after converting to Hurricanes at 5 OTU Aston Down he joined 85 Squadron in France on 15th May.
He had married Dorothy Burnham in April 1940.
Walker-Smith claimed two Me110s destroyed on 18th August, a Do17 on the 26th and a Me109 on the 28th. He was shot down in combat with Me109s off the Sussex Coast on the 29th. He baled out, wounded in the foot, landing at Hawkhurst. His Hurricane, V7350, crashed on Underwood Farm, near the River Dudwell, Etchingham.
In March 1941 Walker-Smith was commissioned. On the 13th he took off in a Havoc from Debden, flying as second pilot to Geoffrey Allard and with P/O WH Hodgson as passenger. Shortly afterwards the aircraft crashed at Mill Field Ley, just south of Wimbish. The three pilots were killed. It is believed that an insecurely-fastened nose panel flew off and jammed in the rudder, causing the aircraft to became uncontrollable.
Walker-Smith is buried in Saffron Walden Borough Cemetery.
Eight months after his death his wife gave birth to a baby girl who was christened Margo. Sadly Margo died of cancer whilst at Edinburgh University in her early 20's.
In St Werburgh's Church, Spondon, is a plaque in Frank's memory from his old colleagues from Rolls-Royce. This was unveiled in June 1943 by his old RAFVR commanding officer from Burnaston, Wing Commander N Roy Harben (DFC).
This acts as a constant reminder but he also remained in the thoughts of those who flew with him, including Wing Commander Peter Townsend.
In a letter to a family member in 1985 Townsend wrote: "Your Uncle Francis Walker-Smith first came into my life when, on 23rd May 1940, I took command of 85 Squadron. I have a clear and sympathetic memory of him. He was nice-looking with a smile on his lips and a subtle sense of humour.
"He was an excellent pilot too — which did not prevent his being shot down on 30th August 1940, near Hawkshurst, Kent. Back with the squadron that evening, he told us with, as usual, that smile: "If you have to be shot down, see that it happens over Hawkshurst. The people there are wonderfully friendly." Next day I myself was drifting down in my parachute over Hawkshurst only to find out, after several beers at the Royal Oak, that what he had said was true.