Norm George Smith video interview


Norm George Smith video interview


Norman George Smith completed his Australian training as a pilot before being posted to the UK. He was posted to 463 Squadron where he completed ten trips before the war ended. Although he was an officer Norman would borrow his navigator’s jacket to be able to join his crew in the Sergeant’s Mess. On one operation the crew were told the wrong windspeeds and direction which meant the journey home was longer than expected. When he landed he was told they were entirely out of fuel. He witnessed the German jet fighter speeding past his aircraft. He was then posted to 467 Squadron to bomb the Far East.


Temporal Coverage



Twenty nine minute colour video


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NS: Norman George Smith.
I: Beautiful.
Other: Great.
I: Yeah. And can you tell us a bit about your background? What was your position? Like, what were you doing in World War Two?
NS: Well, I went through training to be a pilot from Clontarf up to [unclear] and then up to Geraldton. I finally got my wings as a pilot after quite a while. I was training and then I hopped on to a plane, or a train and went over to Sydney. Boat to America and after a while we finally managed to get on a boat to go to England. And at Hednesford, England we went, eventually went to a squadron, 463 Squadron and started bombing Germany. I managed to get ten in before the Yanks [pause] and everybody else would have said well ok the Germans had enough of us so I switched from 463 to 467, got rid of all my five English crew and got another five Australians then. So I had an all Australian crew and we were waiting for our ground crew to go out to start on Japan. The Yanks dropped that silly little bomb and that finished the whole lot so I had to come home. And I still stuck in the Air Force until 1947 when I had a bit of an argument with the CO and he reckoned I was going to go on a Court Martial and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And I said, ‘Take my discharge.’ Which I did. Within a week I was out of the Air Force and from then I’ve just had quite a few different jobs. Farming and all the rest of the place. Hotel trade and I bought a pub and here I am. Retired here at Meadow Springs.
I: Beautiful. What aircraft were you flying?
NS: I started off on Tiger Moths, Ansons, Amberleys, Lincolns, Stirling and finished up on Lancasters.
I: So was that when the final —
NS: That was the final one in the Air Force. Yes. I’ve had a few flights since but not taken off. A friend of mine had his own little aircraft and I used to go with him and he’d take off and hand over to me and he’d start taking photographs everywhere. Coming back he’d say, ‘Ok. We’ll land.’ So I went down to Bunbury once and I started coming in, got within about fifty yards of landing and he said, ‘I suppose I’d better take over.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’d better.’
I: Yeah.
NS: But I’ve been, I went inland. They tried to get an aircraft flying from [Mandurah] I went up on that about three times. But they wouldn’t let him. They reckoned it was too dangerous with all those boats and that flying around, floating around in [Mandurah] so they stopped him from taking cruises. So that stopped that one.
I: That’s it. Just bring us back to World War Two and your deployment there. Could you like, could you, how would you describe your time there? It was obviously a very tense time.
NS: Well, did quite a few different tests and things like that before before I got on the squadron. But I thoroughly enjoyed it over in England and bombing the Germans. I think over, sort of Cologne which I bombed after the war finished in Europe, got a new aircraft and went up the river. I finished up in the mountains and managed to get back home alright with a new navigator but he wasn’t too good so I had to get another one. But by this time of course I was experienced and I could get rid of anybody that hadn’t come up to my standard.
I: Yeah. Ok.
NS: I managed to get ten. Ten trips over Germany. France and Germany. Dortmund. One of them was up the bowl of Norway. One was up really, pretty near in to Russia and the aircraft was turned for home after doing the bombing trip and after a while I said to the navigator, ‘You’d better find us a new place because we’re not getting home. We’re not going to get home on this course.’ And we, when we, after we landed we found out that the navigator, the aircrew had been told the wrong air speed and direction and that’s why it took us so long to get home. We just landed and the blooming navigator, no the engineer came up from the ground crew after a while and asked us how we got home. And I told him and he said, ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘Well, you couldn’t have flown any more. You had no more petrol left in the tank.’ So —
I: Lucky.
NS: Oh, we had quite a few days it was a bit dicey but most of the time we enjoyed it.
I: What was the most dangerous part of your, like obviously like bombing trips? Did you have to —
NS: Oh, over the Rhine. I suppose it would be around about the area south of Germany into France. More or less where they had all the aircraft making manufacturers and things like that and that was one of the target places except when the [pause] we were flying one night or one day, no. One night. We saw a plane come up, whizz past us. And the next morning we went over Germany in daylight and we spotted what it was. It was a German fighter plane that was going straight across us speeding. It was one of their new jets and that was a bit troublesome because everybody that saw it went like a beehive and were trying to get into the middle of all the others on the outside were trying to get into the middle again once this fella got. But they only had about a half an hour flying time so after a half an hour they disappeared which was quite exciting that we were still flying.
I: I couldn’t even imagine it. What [pause] how, how important do you think, you know your role was? You know, being the pilot and enabling this kind of thing.
NS: Well, I had to make sure that the crew behaved themselves of course and being an officer anybody beneath me had to salute me and all the rest of it. But every now and then I used to borrow my navigator, I used to borrow his jacket and go into the sergeant’s mess and have a few beers with him. So one day in the Officer’s Mess they, one of the officers brought a plane over from Canada with a big bar of cheese from Canada so we had a real cheesy night. But oh, I enjoyed it actually and the ladies were very nice too. A lot of young girls used to know as soon as they saw an Australian airman they tried and get on with him and we used to have quite a few pals having a drink with the girls. But oh no I finished up marrying a lass after the war finished in England and she came out and I had five daughters with her before I kicked her out one day. Oh well, she was a very, wasn’t [pause] she was more interested in other men then me. After five kids the best one of the lot, five daughters is the youngest one. She’s looking after me now. Doing all my blooming office work and looking after my money and what have I.
I: It’s good to have.
NS: So I’m having a good retirement.
I: Beautiful. Can I just ask again how, were there any close calls while you were up in the air?
NS: Oh.
I: Like other planes trying to take you down or —
NS: Just about every night we used to have to dodge the spotlights, the searchlights and every now and then the German planes would attack us and we had to dodge them by doing a corkscrew away from them. But well one day we did a daylight over Germany and we came back and landed and just as we landed a German pilot in his single engine aircraft shot up the aerodrome we landed at and he come to shoot up the plane I’d just got out of. And I was standing behind it with the driver, the bus driver that was picking us up to take us into the briefings and I knocked her over and jumped on top of her underneath the truck and the bullet came through between my navigator and the wireless operator sitting in the truck. They were sitting and the bullet came in behind them. And he got, I believe he got the, whatever it was, gold medal or some blooming thing from the Germans. And he, he deserved it because he shot up a flew planes and they hit our bomb dump and set a few bombs off in that, in the aerodrome and shot off home and oh no, he was a, as far as I was concerned he was a blooming nuisance. But he was a real pilot with a great deal of energy and guts.
I: That was the German one.
NS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
I: So did the plane, your plane actually get shot up then?
NS: Only once and that was a couple of bullets through the wing, one of the, starboard wing but it didn’t do a great deal of damage. It just played a bit of funny games with the slats and when we got home the navigator, the engineers on the ground looked at it. There wasn’t much damage.
I: That’s good.
NS: But they managed to be able patch it up and fly again the next day.
I: Beautiful. Not a close call then.
NS: But —
I: Yeah. Did you want to continue?
NS: Pardon?
I: Did you want to continue? Sorry, I interrupted.
NS: Oh, I could carry on for hours and hours but I suppose but —
I: It’s all good.
NS: I think it was a pretty good idea of what it was like. Everybody used to look up to the airmen. The ground crew used to whistle and whistle when they were around anywhere and, but over some German soldiers and English soldiers lining up each other in the trenches and our boys used to stand up and wave arms at us. But they reckon we were pretty good.
I: I’m sure you guys were. Can you go through again the last, the last mission I guess that you guys had before you got sent back home?
NS: Yeah. Well, you see I had to transfer to a different squadron to go out to have a go at Japan but of course while we were waiting for our ground crew the Yanks dropped that bomb and that finished the Japs off too. So we hadn’t much to do so we came, they sent us home. I arrived home on New Year’s Eve and my father shook hands with me and he said, ‘Hello Norm.’ And I said, ‘Hello Dad.’ He said, ‘The first thing you’ve got to do here is get rid of that bloody Pommie accent.’ So I said, ‘Oh, rightio. I’ll try my best.’ But I must have, the time I spent in England I must have learned how to talk English instead of Australian.
I: And how long was that? How many years?
NS: Where? In England?
I: England. Yeah.
NS: Well, I joined up in ’43 in the Air Force and started. Spent about five, six months in the Air Force in Australia getting to learn all about it and then the rest of the time I flew over, went over when I went to England. I managed to fly a few different aircraft in England and then I got, then I got on the squadron. But then I had time to do ten operations over Germany when they knew we were too good for them. They handed in their blooming battle powers to everybody. So that’s when we decided to come home. Aye, I had a good time in the Air Force. Obviously, we didn’t have much idea what was going on out there and when they told us that the Japs had given up the ghost I didn’t, for a while we didn’t know why. But then we were told by engineers. Blooming people that knew more about it than we did. Then we were told all about dropping the bombs on Japan and they turfed it in.
I: Was that Hiroshima?
NS: Yeah.
I: Was that Hiroshima? Yeah.
NS: That’s right. Yeah.
I: Ok.
NS: We didn’t know that the Yanks did it until about a week later. Then they finally told us what had happened but like all blooming big bods in whatever you are, wherever you are in any business all the big bosses don’t tell the young ones what they were doing or how they did it and we just had to guess what was going on mainly. That’s about all. But we had, I had a good time and enjoyed life until I got out of the Air Force and from then on I really had a good time.
I: That’s great.
NS: I’ve had a, just came back from three weeks holiday going flying at Darwin. On the Ghan from Darwin down to [pause] up the Murray River cruising back down to Adelaide on a boat there. A liner. Come home. It took six days to get home on the liner to Fremantle and it was a good trip.
I: Sounds beautiful.
NS: I’m looking for another one now.
I: Yeah. That’s what you have to do now don’t you? If I could just ask you quickly you had your photo taken a few weeks ago.
NS: Yeah.
I: As part of this for the National Archives. What do you think about something like that? I mean it’s —
NS: Well, I think that us survivors from the war should have a bit more say and a bit more kudos you might as well say and a lot more people should know about us than just the First World War. And I admire them because they put up with a lot of blooming trouble. More than we had to do. But most of, from what I can gather the Army and the Navy in the Second World War were a little bit better off than the First World War but at the same time there hasn’t been much said about the Second World War. It’s all about the First World War and I don’t agree with that but still —
I: Do you feel left out that all the focus is on the centenary of the ANZACS that’s coming up? You know this is the seventy fifth anniversary of World War Two but no one is really talking about that. It’s all the focus is on —
NS: Yeah. Yeah. I, I appreciate that and notice that most people nowadays they can’t go back to the First World War. They just say, ‘Oh yeah.’ And ignore it really but the Second World War, well they had a lot of sons and brothers and uncles and aunts and all the rest of them were in the Second World War and they come home and they told a lot of stories that a lot of people don’t know about. I think that’s the right thing to do. Get to know that the Second World War was just about as bad as the other wars. Although Vietnam and all those other wars they were the wars that shouldn’t be [pause] but I don’t know. I don’t like this present Australian government. Extra fellas going over to the East now. He just allowed another three hundred and eighty. Three hundred and eighty odd extra with the so called last lot.
I: Yeah.
NS: The old bosses, our bosses, the Prime Minister is not too good at that. When is he going to let some more go over?
I: I know. Yeah.
NS: Nobody knows but he will. I can guarantee you whatever the Yanks tell him he’ll do.
I: Could you tell us a bit about your medals?
NS: Well, a lot of medals I’ve got at the moment but there are another two that are missing. They’re trying to get them. My daughter particularly is being, and the lassie here she’s been telling my daughter about it and my daughter is ringing up everybody trying to get them to present me with the other two medals that supposedly might make an appearance someday. It’s like everything, the parliament, it takes people ages to get people to listen.
I: That’s it. Is there anything, is there anything you wanted to add at all?
NS: No. No. I don’t think so.
I: All done. You’ve covered everything.
Other: I’ll just get some [unclear]
I: Yeah. Right. So we’ll just keep chatting.
NS: Yes, give it away.
I: Yes. How old are you?
NS: Ninety one.
I: Ninety one.
NS: That was in March this year.
I: Oh, happy birthday for last month.
NS: 8th of March.
I: Happy birthday for then. We’ll keep talking for a little bit. It’s not, yeah it’s just to get different shots of you. So if you, what are you planning to do for the rest of the day?
NS: Pardon?
I: What are you planning for the rest of the day? Do you have any plans?
NS: I’m going to get out of these glad rags and get some washing —
[recording paused]
NS: And after that I met this lassie and went out to Tasmania together. And since then we’ve been together every, she’s in the caravan park. Tonight she’ll be here with me and have tea and all her meals and I usually do that for the weekend and she just sits back and watches television.
I: Oh, beautiful. That’s really cute. Yeah. It’s Friday today, isn’t it? I forgot. Yeah.
NS: Oh well. Anyway, it’s an interesting life and I reckon the next eight nine years until our seventy five I thought another twenty five years and I’ll be a hundred. And every time I knock a birthday off I think that’s one less, one more.
NS: Counting down.
I: Navigator, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner.
NS: Yeah.
I: Would, so, so you’re the pilot.
NS: That’s me there.
I: Would that be like, what was the operation called?
NS: So that, that was taken out of the unit. I’ve got a bigger one of the whole squadron.
Other: Which one you are? Captain.
I: Ok.
NS: That was the bomb aimer that made a mistake. It was one of our own planes and we both would have gone down.
I: Yeah.
NS: It was fortunate that we survived it. The navigator was very good. The rear gunner he spotted a plane coming up on our tail one day. No, once we, I used to borrow his coat and jacket and go into the Sergeant’s Mess. I was an officer.
[unclear] was one of them. Twice Berlin. A couple more down there.
I: Ok. Let’s find some —
NS: You can see whether you hit the target. Over in the unit over there I’ve got [unclear] they might drop it at, ok they might do it at about ten thousand feet.
I: Yeah.
NS: But at a hundred thousand feet if there was a mistake if you —
I: Yeah.
NS: Were suddenly going down.
I: Yeah. What, what height were you flying when you were dropping the bombs? Depends?
NS: Usually about ten thousand [pause] I’ve got another two yet.
I: Yeah.
NS: It had been mislaid.


N G Smith, “Norm George Smith video interview,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 15, 2024,

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