Group Captain Wilfrid George Gerald Duncan Smith DSO* DFC** AE (28 May 1914 – 11 December 1996) was a Royal Air Force flying ace of the Second World War. He was the father of Iain Duncan Smith, the former Leader of the Conservative Party.
Duncan Smith was born in Madras, India (now Chennai) on 28 May 1914, the son of an Indian Civil Service officer. He was educated at Nairn and Morrison's Academy, Crieff, in Scotland, where he joined his school's Officers' Training Corps. Returning to India in 1933, he became a coffee and tea planter, but in 1936 returned to the UK as a mechanical engineer, and then as a salesman for Great Western Motors in Reading. With war looming he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
World War II
A sergeant at the start of the war, Duncan Smith was commissioned as a pilot officer (on probation) on 29 September 1940. Serving with No. 7 Operational Training Unit at the outbreak of war, Smith was posted to the Spitfire-equipped No. 611 Squadron RAF at RAF Hornchurch in October 1940. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in June 1941, and went to No. 603 Squadron RAF in August 1941 as a Flight Commander. Smith was due for a rest but had to remain operational, leading his squadron while bringing their new squadron leader up to speed. He was promoted to flying officer (war-substantive) on 29 September. On 20 November he was taken ill, passing out after returning from a convoy patrol. Smith spent some time in hospital with double pneumonia, the symptoms of which he had assumed was only the result of exhaustion from a long operational tour.
Upon recovery in January 1942, Duncan Smith rejoined the "Hornchurch Wing", now flying the improved Spitfire Mk. IX. In March 1942 he was promoted to acting squadron leader and given command of No. 64 Squadron RAF. He was promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) on 27 June. During the ill-fated Dieppe Raid on 19 August, Duncan-Smith was shot down but rescued from the English Channel. In August he became an acting Wing Commander, flying at RAF North Weald. In November he was rested from operations with a posting to take charge of the Tactics Branch at Fighter Command, his input leading to the formation of the Fighter Command School of Tactics at RAF Charmy Down. He was promoted to squadron leader (war-substantive) on 30 November.
While Smith's non-operational tour was recognised as very productive, he began to seek a return to operations, and he was sent to Malta to command the 244th Fighter Wing. During this time his flew in support of the Allied landings on Sicily. In September 1943, engine failure forced him to bail out into the sea, being rescued after five hours adrift. As an acting Group Captain, he then took charge of 324 Wing, finally leaving in March 1945.
Duncan Smith was credited with 17 enemy aircraft shot down, two shared destroyed, six probables, two shared probables and eight damaged in aerial combat. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Bar and the DFC and two Bars in recognition of his bravery.
He was the author of Spitfire into Battle (1981), an account of aerial combat in the Supermarine Spitfire.
On 3 December 1946, Duncan Smith was promoted to the temporary rank of squadron leader in the RAFVR (seniority from 1 November 1946), receiving promotion to the substantive rank of flight lieutenant in the RAFVR on 1 November 1947 (seniority from 1 December 1942). On 22 March 1948, he was appointed to a permanent RAF commission in the rank of squadron leader, with seniority from the same date. He received a second Bar to his DFC for service in the Malayan Emergency in 1952, and was promoted to wing commander on 1 January 1953. He retired on 24 November 1960, retaining the rank of group captain.
His wife, Pamela Summers (whom he married in 1946) was a ballet dancer who was born in Nanking, China where her father was a commissioner in the Chinese Postal Service. Her maternal grandmother was Ellen Oshey Matsumuro, a Japanese woman whose father was a Japanese artist. Their son Iain Duncan Smith is a politician who was leader of the Conservative Party from September 2001 to November 2003 and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the Coalition government of 2010. In his office hangs a portrait of their ancestor Adam Duncan, the admiral who defeated the Dutch Navy at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.
Iain Duncan Smith alleged in a BBC radio interview in 2001 that, while living in America in the 1950s, his father was "propositioned" by actress Marilyn Monroe.
Honours and awards
- 22 July 1941 – Pilot Officer Wilfrid George Gerald Duncan Smith (85684), No. 611 Squadron is appointed a Distinguished Flying Cross:
This officer has participated in many operational flights over enemy territory and has always displayed the utmost keenness to engage the enemy. During recent operations, Pilot Officer Smith has destroyed at least three hostile aircraft.
- 26 December 1941 – Acting Flight Lieutenant W.G.G. Duncan Smith DFC (85684), No. 603 Squadron is awarded Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross:
During 1941, this officer has carried out 190 operational patrols, 98 of which have been over enemy territory. By his skill, coolness and strong sense of duty, Flight Lieutenant Smith has set a splendid example to all. He has always devoted himself unselfishly to the success of his squadron thereby contributing materially to its achievements. Flight Lieutenant Smith has destroyed at least 5 enemy aircraft.
- 11 September 1942 – Squadron Leader W.G.G. Duncan Smith DFC (85684), No. 64 Squadron is awarded the Distinguished Service Order:
Since being awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, this officer has completed a great number of sorties. He is a brilliant pilot and a fine leader whose skill has proved a source of inspiration to all. Squadron Leader Smith has destroyed 10 and probably destroyed several other enemy aircraft.
- 20 March 1945 – Acting Group Captain W.G.G. Duncan Smith DSO, DFC (85684) is awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order:
- The London Gazette: . 22 July 1941. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 26 December 1941. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 8 September 1942. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 20 March 1945. Retrieved 12 December 2014.