Sergeant Andrew Smitton Darling


Battle of Britain fighter pilot Andrew Smitton Darling (740544) was the son of Peter and Mary Ann Greig Darling of 64 Feus, Auchterarder, the husband of Margaret Robertson Darling, Ayr. After taking a commercial course in Perth, he was employed on the clerical staff of Scottish Agricultural Industries Limited, Crieff. Later, he was a grain traveller with a company from Lanark. Darling was a member of his local dramatic society and the Scottish Horse Territorials. He had been keenly interested in flying and joined the RAFVR in August of 1937, training at RAF Perth with No 11 EFRTS. He gained his wings at RAF Prestwick with No 12 EFRTS.  

 Darling was called up on 1 September 1939. He completed his training as a recruit at RAF 12 Group Pool at Sutton Bridge, near King’s Lynn in Lincolnshire. On 3 February 1940, he joined RAF 611 Squadron at Digby, not far away, just south of Lincoln. 611 Squadron became fully operational in May 1940 just in time to help by flying ‘sweeps’ over the beaches at Dunkirk during the evacuation. During the Battle of Britain, the squadron was part of the Duxford Wing, 12 Group’s ‘Big Wing’ formations.

Darling shared in the destruction of two Dornier Do 17s off the Lincolnshire coast on 21 August 1940. He was flying Supermarine Spitfire P7305 that day. On landing after combat with Dornier Do 17s over Mablethorpe, the Spitfire hit a wheel chock that had been left on the runway and nosed over at 2.05 pm. Spitfire P7305 was back in action two days later. 

Darling was posted to 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron on 17 September 1940 at RAF Hornchurch, near Romford. Ten days later, he probably destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109. He damaged another Bf 109 on 5 October 1940 and on the 20 October 1940, he added another probable Bf 109 to his score. On 28 October 1941, he had another probable Bf 109 and a damaged Bf 109. Over the Straits of Dover, Darling destroyed two Italian Fiat Cr42s on 23 November 1940. On 29 November 1940, he shared in the destruction of a Dornier Do 17, east of Ramsgate.  

Darling was posted to RAF 91 (Nigeria) Squadron at RAF Hawkinge on 3 March 1941. Flying Spitfire P7615 on a shipping reconnaissance patrol, Darling was acting as ‘weaver’ to F/O Robert H. Holland on 26 April 1941. They were attacked by two Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Darling was able to warn and save his flight commander before being shot down by Oberleutnant Schumann of II/JG 51. His burnt-out Spitfire aircraft was found close to Reindene Wood, Hawkinge, with his body still in the cockpit.  

Darling had been flying Spitfires since February 1940 and was instrumental in bringing down seven enemy aircraft without having sustained so much as a single bullet hole damage to his own plane. Members of Auchterarder Home Guard, family and personal friends of Darling carried his remains to his final resting place at Auchterarder Cemetery. The committal service was perhaps strangely, punctuated temporarily by the noise of low flying aircraft overhead. He was 28 years old. 

The ‘Big Wing’ was commanded by Wing Commander Douglas Bader until he was shot down and captured on 9 August 1941. 

The Dornier Do 17 was referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift (Flying Pencil). It was a light bomber produced by Claudis Dornier’s company, the Dornier Flugzeugwerke.  

RAF 603 Squadron shot down the very first enemy aircraft during the war, a Junkers Ju88 over the Firth of Forth on 16 October 1939. 

It is not well known that the Corpo Aereo Italiano of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica Italiana) bombed Britain during the Second World War. Benito Mussolini insisted that his air force assist the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. They were based at Melsbroek, Ursel and Flugplattz in Belgium. Attacks by the Italians continued until 10 January 1941.

Some example raids: 

  • 24 October 1940, Harwich, 2 Squadrons deployed, 16 Fiat Br.20 medium bombers.
  • 29 October 1940, Ramsgate.
  • 11 November 1940, Harwich, 10 Fiat Br.20 escorted by 40 Fiat CR.42 Biplane Fighters attacked by Hawker Hurricanes, 7 BR.20’s and 3 CR.42 fighters shot down. 

The Fiat Cr.42DB single seat fighter aircraft held the distinction of being the fastest biplane to have ever flown (440+ km/h). It was a sesquiplane type of biplane, where the lower wing is smaller than the other, the word literally means, ‘one-and-a-half-wings’. It had an open cockpit and a fixed undercarriage. They were also painted inappropriately for this task, pale sand yellow with green and brown mottling. 

Andrew Smitton Darling, Perthshire Advertiser 30 April 1941

Perthshire Advertiser 3 May 1941

ROYAL AIR FORCE FIGHTER COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 5096) Captured Fiat CR.42, BT474, of the Air Fighting Development Unit, parked in a dispersal at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. The aircraft was salvaged following a forced landing at Orfordness, Suffolk, on 11 November 1940, and was kept by the AFDU through the war. It is currently preserved and displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum Hendon, as MM5701 ’13-95′. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210156

WITH AN R.A.F. BRITISH-BASED SPITFIRE SQUADRON (CH 9451) Original wartime caption: Awaiting a ‘scramble’ – two Spitfire pilots wait at the ready to dash from the dispersal hut to their aircraft. Supermarine Spitfire No.611 (West Lancs) Squadron, R.Aux.A.F. (Picture issued 1943) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205449242

ROYAL AIR FORCE FIGHTER COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 9985) Squadron Leader E F J Charles, Officer Commanding No. 611 Squadron RAF, recounts his experiences to other pilots of the Squadron at Biggin Hill, Kent, on the day after sharing the honour, with Commandant Rene Mouchotte, of shooting down Biggin Hill’s 1,000th enemy aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210360

ROYAL AIR FORCE FIGHTER COMMAND, 1939-1945. (CH 3056) Four pilots of No. 611 Squadron RAF walking away from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB at Hornchurch, Essex, after a daylight sweep over France. They are (left to right): Flight-Lieutenant E S Lock, Pilot Officer W G G Duncan-Smith, Flying Officer P G Dexter, and Sergeant W M Gilmour. Lock arrived at 611 Squadron as a flight commander, having already shot down 24 enemy aircraft. He was to add a furt… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210084