John Wentworth-Smith

Service number: 37214 | Rank: Flight Lieutenant | Regiment: Royal Air Force

Died, June 21, 1940.
Coll. grave 8. A. 10-13.

Aged 26.  Son of Henry and Rosa Mary Wentworth-Smith.  Stepson of Mrs H. Wentworth-Smith, of Brandon Park, Suffolk.


During the war John’s family lived at Brandon Park Estate and his parents were very active within the community, often allowing local groups the use of their home and grounds.  His mother led the town’s women detachment of the Red Cross and was a leading figure within the town’s Air Raid Precautions, heading up the First Aid.  His father held the rank of Major and in 1941 he became a Suffolk magistrate, often sitting on cases held at the Brandon police station.  He also served on the town’s parish council along with various other committees.  The family name has been recorded locally as ‘Wentworth-Smith’, however documents of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list his surname as ‘Smith’, with ‘Wentworth’ relegated to a middle name.

John’s flying career began long before the war and in October 1937 he was promoted from Flying Officer to Flight-Lieutenant, which was recorded in the London Gazette.  He was also recorded as being on active duty in October 1939.

During 1940, John was flying the Bristol Bombay aircraft.  This was a large plane that was used for transporting cargo, troops, or equally useful for dropping bombs.  However it was slow and woefully under armed, with a machine gun at the front and another in the rear.  Only 50 were produced throughout the whole war and it was retired from service in 1944.

John would have been piloting the aircraft when it went down en route to El Gubbi, near Tobruk, Libya.  Not much is known about the mission but the crew were:

  • Pilot – F/Lt John Basil Wentworth Smith (37214) RAF – killed.
  • Co-pilot – F/Sgt Benjamin Thomas Morgan Baker (563729) RAF – killed.
  • Wireless Operator/Air Gunner – Cpl William Charles Royle (518637) RAF – killed.
  • Leading Aircraftsman – Alfred Francis Crohill (518932) RAF – killed.
  • Temporary Warrant Officer – N P Donnelly – taken POW

All the dead were buried together in the same grave.  Initially, their identity was unknown, but on 20th March 1945, when war was far away, their bodies were exhumed and re-buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Tobruk.