Riddle of missing Spitfire solved

For 66 years, pilot's final resting place a mystery

Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith was shot down by the Germans five days after D-Day. His last radio message to comrades was: “I’m going to put this thing down in a field.” But the Australian’s plane then nose-dived into the sea and he was designated “missing believed killed.”

For 66 years, the brave young Spitfire pilot’s final resting place had been a mystery. Now, however, the puzzle has been solved after locals spotted something sticking out of the mud in the Orne estuary near Caen at low tide and decided to investigate.

They could see only small parts of the legendary plane at the site, close to the D-Day landmarks of Sword Beach and Pegasus bridge. But after staging a remarkable rescue operation they were astonished at how well preserved its fuselage and wooden propeller were. The dials on the instrument panel were still recognizable.

After the wreckage was towed ashore, the remains of Flight Lieutenant Smith were found in the cockpit. They were placed in a coffin and will be handed to the Australian Embassy in France.

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