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Sgt. Vincent SMITH, MSM, 3rd Squadron AFC.
Service No.684. 
Died 18th March 1920.

“Meritorious Service Medal”

Red Baron funeral cortege, 22 April 1918: Vin Smith is 2nd from left, first of the Escort Party leading the 3AFC Crossley Tender carrying the Red Baron’s coffin.  [AWM K00039.]

It’s usually quite a laborious process to visit one of the War Graves of 3 Squadron Members.  The Squadron’s WW1 graves are scattered all over Southern England and Northern France.  Surprisingly however, there is a single 3AFC representative, who returned from all of those overseas battles, resting in a Commonwealth War Grave on Australian soil...
- In the eastern suburbs of Melbourne!

Vincent ("Vin") Smith was born in the Melbourne suburb of Middle Park in 1890.  He joined the Australian Flying Corps in March 1916 and was a 3AFC “original”, joining ‘B Flight’ as a mechanic on 26 August 1916 (well before 3AFCs official “birthday”).  Vincent was promoted to Corporal before 3AFC’s departure to Europe in October 1916.  After several training courses in England he was then promoted to Sergeant, in preparation for their move to the Western Front in August 1917.  Before leaving England Vin had been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for rescuing a pilot from a blazing crash (after three attempts, in which he himself was burned).  

Amongst his many other war experiences, on 21 April 1918 Vincent helped with the recovery of the body of the Red Baron, and on the 22nd he was the NCO in charge of the 3SQN party that fired rifles over the Red Baron's grave.

Vincent’s nickname in the Squadron was "Vin Blanc". (French for “white wine”!)  After returning to Australia he suffered from osteomyelitis and meningitis related to his war service (he had been struck on the head by a propeller) and he died at the Caulfield Military Hospital on 18 March 1920.

Grave Reference:  R.C. J.81 (GRM/3*) Brighton General Cemetery, Victoria.  (His grave does not have a CWGC headstone, but instead a bronze plaque.)

Funeral of Baron von Richthofen.  Australian soldiers from 3 Squadron AFC firing a volley over the grave.  An army chaplain stands with head bowed at left rear.
Vin Smith at rear of firing party, with baton,  giving the command.

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