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DSO, DFC (May 28th 1914 - December 11th 1996)

Wilfred Duncan-Smith was born on May 28th 1914 at Madras in India where his father was serving in the British Army. He was educated at Nairn and Morrisons Academy, Crieff, Scotland before returning to India in 1933 to manage a tea plantation.

Duncan-Smith returned to Britain in 1936 and, after qualifying as a mechanical engineer, became a salesman for Great Western Motors in Reading. With war looking imminent Duncan-Smith joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer reserve. In October 1940 Duncan-Smithy was posted to the Spitfire equipped 611 Squadron and immediately demonstrated his mettle and aggression. During the early part of 1941 611 squadron was flying offensive sweeps over France from RAF Hornchurch.

In August 1941 Duncan-Smith was posted as a flight Commander to 603 Squadron but was soon off active duty due to an attack of Pneumonia. In January 1942 Duncan-Smith returned to active service, once again joining the already famous “Hornchurch Wing” which had recently been re-equipped with the Spitfire IX. On August 19th 1942, Duncan-Smith was shot down over the ill fated Dieppe landing and had to be rescued from the channel. Shortly after this Duncan-Smith was promoted to Wing Commander and spent much of the winter as an instructor at fighter Command’s School of Tactics.

In 1943 Duncan-Smith accepted the command of a fighter Wing based on Malta just in time to cover the Allied landings on Sicily. Duncan-Smith went on to command the 244th Wing before being promoted to Group Captain as commander of the 324th Wing covering the advance through Italy and the liberation of Southern France.

After the Second World War, Duncan-Smith took a permanent commission in the RAF and served in a variety of posts in the Far East. In 1950, during the Malayan emergency, he became the last RAF pilot to fly an operational sortie in a Spitfire.

After a series of staff appointments Duncan-Smith retired from the RAF in 1960 to take up a post with Triplex safety glass with whom he was involved in the Concorde project. Duncan-Smith retired in 1973 and wrote his memoirs of flying during World War II “Spitfire into Battle” in 1981. He died on December 11th 1996. His son Iain Duncan-Smith went on to be leader of the Consevative Party.

Bishop. E. 2002. The Daily Telegraph Book of Airmen’s Obituaries.

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