A South Shields-born fighter ace who flew with one of Britain’s greatest war heroes has died at the age of 95.
Sir Alan Smith, who was Douglas Bader’s wingman over Northern France during the Second World War, died in Perth Royal Infirmary on Friday.
He was born in South Shields on March 14, 1917, and left school at 14 to help his mother Lilian run the family’s ironmongery after his father, Captain Alfred Smith, had been lost at sea.
He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was called up when war broke out, going on to become a fighter ace flying Spitfires, destroying five enemy aircraft and earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.
Sir Alan flew with Bader – who kept flying despite losing both legs in a crash – in 1941 after being personally selected.
Sir Alan once said: “He came into the dispersal hut, got his eyes on me and said ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Smith, sir’, I said.
“‘Right, you’ll do. Fly as my number two and God help you if you let any Hun get on my tail’.”
Bader was shot down and captured on August 9, 1941, during his first mission without Sir Alan, who had been grounded with flu.
After his retirement from the RAF, Sir Alan settled in Kinross-shire, Scotland.
He met local woman Margaret Todd and the couple married in Kinross in 1943.
They went on to have two daughters and three sons.
He began working for his father-in-law Herbert Todd at the local woollen mill, Todd and Duncan Ltd.
Under Sir Alan’s management, the company evolved into Dawson International Ltd.
He was knighted in 1982.