Content by: Michael Smith
A number of years ago upon visiting the Australian War Memorial in Canberra I made enquiries as to the circumstances surrounding the death of my great-uncle Keith McRae Smith. All that they could tell me was that he was a Flight Sergeant in the RAAF and as a pilot was serving with 226 Squadron RAF. As to his death all they could say was that he was killed in an air battle over France on the 8th November 1943 and that was that.
Since then I have researched defence archives and after receiving immeasurable help from members of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and Medium Bombers Association I have been able to piece together this story of my late great-uncle.
On the 16th of November 1943 Colin Smith Jr of Coonamble, New South Wales, Australia received a telegram advising him that his brother, Flight Sergeant Keith McRae Smith RAAF then serving with 226 Squadron RAF was listed as ‘missing on air operations’.
Keith was born on the 21st of July 1922 the 13th child of Colin and Mary Smith at ‘Flodden Field’, a sheep station near Coonamble, New South Wales. Keith’s mother, Mary Isabella Smith nee Hall was the daughter of James Hall and Christina Mary McRae. Christina McRae was the daughter of Christopher and Catherine McRae and a member of the large McRae family of Merriwa, New South Wales.
After failing to complete his Intermediate examinations Keith left school at age 15 and lying about his age applied to join the RAAF. He was however rejected for service and soon found work as a general labourer and station hand in the local district. In the years preceding the outbreak of the war first Keith’s mother and later father died from illness and when war was declared in September 1939 he was working as a mechanic in a sawmill at Gwabegar, New South Wales.