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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Noteworthy naturalist

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Alexander (Alec) Knox Smith (1915-1942) Schoolboy Oologist and RAF Officer


Alexander Knox Smith was born in Ilford in 1915 and died on 14th September 1942.

He was the eldest child of Alexander Hastie Smith (25th April 1885-19th February 1948) and Sarah Caroline Knox (1887-6th February 1963), who married in Romford in the Spring of 1914. His father, who was born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, was an Officer of HM Customs of 28, Brisbane Road, Ilford in 1911 and by 1948 of 47, Marguerite Drive, Leigh on Sea, Essex, who died, aged 62, in Southend Municipal Hospital Rochford leaving an estate valued at £1,572.21p. His mother, who was born in West Ham, Essex was, listed in the 1911 census as a shorthand typist for a leather importer of 21 Airlie Gardens, Ilford. She died, aged 76, in Pinner, but was then living at 47, Bailey Road, Leigh on Sea. Probate of her £3625.55p estate was granted to her daughter Margaret Ailsa Chinery, wife of Gordon Chinery. He had two younger sisters, Margaret Ailsa Smith who was born in 1920 and Jeannie H. Smith who was born in 1924.

Alec’s collection of 30 neatly labelled birds’ eggs was donated to the Essex Field Club in July 2018 [25773] and is housed in a glass lidded wooden display case measuring 14 inches x 10 inches x 2 inches deep with a metal hanging loop. The case has wooden dividing strips creating 30 segments; 6 across and 5 down. Alec collected these eggs between 1929 and 1931, before the passing of Protection of Birds Act 1954. In 1929 he collected specimens from Ilford and Margate and in 1930 was gathering specimens from Belfairs, Dawes Heath, Eastwood and Leigh Marsh. Finally, in 1931 Alec’s specimens came from Belfairs Park, Hadleigh, Hadleigh Castle, Leigh and Leigh Cliffs.

Alec grew up in Ilford and Leigh on Sea, became a surveyor and joined the RAF as a navigator.

On 13th September 1942 Sergeant Alec Smith [656553] set off from RAF Wing, a bomber training station in Buckinghamshire, just before midnight in a Vickers 416 Wellington. He was a member of the 26th Operational Training Unit Crew, acting as an observer, who were on a bombing mission to Bremen, Germany. Alec’s plane accompanied 465 other aircraft which attacked the historic city and hit 848 houses; 6 schools; 2 hospitals; Lloyds Dynamo Works and Focke-Wulf. 70 people were killed and 371 injured by the raid. As their plane was returning it was shot down from behind and below by a German Messerchmitt fighter, piloted by Wilhelm Dormann, and crashed into 60cm deep water at 05.48 on Monday 14th September 1942, 2 kilometres west of Elburg, Netherlands. Four crew members, including Alec aged 27, were killed while a fifth bailed out and was taken as a POW. The aircraft was recovered by the Germans later that month. In the raid a total of 87 aircrew were killed and 28 taken POWS.

Alec was buried in a Commonwealth Graves Commission cemetery at Amsterdam, New Eastern Cemetery in Plot 85 Row B Grave 8. The epitaph on his gravestone reads ‘Until the daybreak and the shadows flee away’. Probate of his £116.90p will was granted to his mother.

Sources
Information kindly supplied by family and Alan Roscoe

Account provided by Mr William George
page last edited on Thu Jul 26th 2018 by site user 68