Ashburton material in film on downed aviator

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Material supplied by Ashburton Museum senior curator Maryann Cowan on lost Ashburton airman Ron Smith features in a short film produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the downing of the plane in which he was a gunner.

A copy of the film has been sent to Mrs Cowan, and it and other material will be shown at a talk Mrs Cowan will give at the bi-monthly meeting of the Ashburton Museum and Historical Society. The talk is at 2pm at the Learning Centre at the Ashburton Art Gallery and Heritage Centre on Sunday, August 26. Anyone interested is welcome.

Mr Smith did not live to tell his life story; it has now been told on his behalf, here and in Belgium, where his plane crashed on April 15, 1943.

Mr Smith is from Lauriston. His father, David, lost a leg in World War One.

Ron Smith’s war ended when the bomber in which he was an air gunner was shot down in the forest of Nismes. All seven crew members died.

His story, and that of the other crew members, has been remembered in Belgium, thanks to research by Mrs Cowan.

She worked with Guy Lapaille, a researcher involved in organising the remembrance service to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash earlier this year.

Sergeant Ronald Alexander Smith was not quite 22 when he died. He was born on October 29, 1921, and went to Ashburton High School where he excelled at cricket, rugby, boxing, athletics and was in the school orchestra.

After leaving school he joined Atlantic Union Oil, and when he applied for aircrew training in 1941, he was a government clerk.

Mr Smith enlisted at Levin and trained in Canada and, in England, trained in Wellington bombers and, later, Stirlings.

He is buried at Florennes.

Mr Smith was the son of David and Agnes Smith, of Lauriston. He bought the Lauriston store in 1920, the same year he married.