Veteran Stories:
Robert Smith

Air Force

  • Robert Smith (on right) standing in front of a Mosquito night fighter. The bulbous nose contains radar equipment.

  • This Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to Robert Smith by the No. 307 (City of Lwów) Polish Night Fighter Squadron, RAF. Smith was one of only two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) members to fly with this squadron

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"As we flew over all hell broke loose... We managed to get away from that aerodrome."


My name is Robert Smith. I served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. I trained as a navigator at Malton, Ontario, which is now Pearson International Airport. And, when I graduated, I went to England and did further training. And, when we were ready to join a squadron, my pilot who was of Polish origin, he had learned that we could join a Polish squadron, which was doing a particular type of work in which we were interested, and that was intruding work. And so we joined this Polish squadron and we were with them for a period of about 9 to 10 months. Intruding was an operation whereby we did what we called high- and low-level intruding. High-level intruding was offering support to the heavy bombers to ward off any German night fighters that might come up into their area. Low-level intruding was flying about German night flight or aerodromes, with the intent of either getting these aircraft as they were about to take off or as they were returning to land. We also performed what we described as ranger work. And that would involve just picking a target for the night and going, based on intelligence reports, to see what activity there may have been in the area in the form of road transport or rail transport, with the intent of destroying it. I was a navigator and that involved getting us to and from our base. And also operating the radar equipment, which we had on the aircraft. We had a lot of sophisticated equipment which we used, both for, navigating and also for the detection of any German night fighters that might be in the area. And it was my job to watch this radar equipment, and if we were fortunate enough to pick up any enemy activity on the radar to, hopefully, direct my pilot in that direction. But this was in the last months of the war in the Fall of 1944 and early 1945, and a lot of the German activity was certainly winding down. Winding down in the sense that, they knew that they were defeated and their resources were pretty badly depleted. Late in the war we were to meet up with another aircraft at an aerodrome in France. And the intention was that we were to fly down southeast of Munich towards the Austrian border and this other aircraft, which was equipped with flares, they were to drop the flares over an enemy aerodrome and we were to attack the aerodrome in the light of the flares. And, as a point of reference, they were to use a bend in a river which flows down through there, but, unfortunately they got the wrong bend. As we flew the course from the bend, we flew right over the aerodrome. And, naturally, because the other aircraft had gone ahead of us and dropped the flares, the Germans were sitting waiting for us. (laughing) And as we flew over all hell broke loose. Nothing, fortunately, happened to us. We managed to get away from that aerodrome. We were to cover 3 of them and because we had missed on the first one, and the navigator on the other aircraft took his bearings from the first aerodrome, we were also not in the right position for the second one. So when we went to the second aerodrome, we got the same reception as we had on the first, and because the reception was so hot, we decided to call the whole thing off. So we flew back home to England. And that's one of the more memorable nights that I had.
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