Chapter 1 - Volunteer Service
At 11 a.m. on September 3rd 1939 Prime Minister Chamberlain declared war with Germany as from 5 p.m. that day.
Within twenty four hours the RAF bombed German warships at the entrance to the Kiel Canal. The war in Europe was to continue until May 8th 1945 while hostilities against Japan were to continue until VJ day on 2nd September. In those fateful six years an estimated 55 million lives were lost. RAF Bomber Command lost 55,573 crew members . In addition, bomber crews who flew from bases outside Britain also suffered significant losses. Just one of those who perished was Stephen Fraser Smith.
By 1940 Britain had experienced the "phoney war" and it was becoming increasingly obvious that the country might be invaded. There were calls for a defence force to be established (later to become known as the Local Defence Volunteers then the Home Guard). The Battle of France officially ended when Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in his famous "This was their finest hour" speech in June, went on to say that "I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin".
Like so many of his contemporaries and possibly inspired by a sense of national duty or perhaps hoping for adventure, Stephen volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force. Aged 23, he enlisted as an Aircrafthand/SP (Service number 991606) on the 4th April 1940 at Number 3 Recruitment Centre, Padgate near Warrington. Doubtless disappointed, but until his training could start, he was immediately placed on the reserve. His Statement of Service  shows that he attended Number 9 Recruitment Centre, Blackpool on 28th August.
He was then recorded as being sent on 21st September to Number 4 Radio servicing School and, just five months later, being posted as a ground tradesman to 73 Signals Wing on 17th February 1941. It now seems likely that the record was slightly inaccurate. Examination of other records  identifiesNo 4 Radio Servicing Unit which was formed on 1st July 1940.
This unit was subsequently renamed No 4 Radio Maintenance Unit and, on 6th February 1941 to No 73 Signals Wing. It would seem, then, that the two entries in Stephen's record referred in fact to just one posting. No 4 Signals Unit was established at RAF Church Fenton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire, to care for technical servicing of Chain Home and Chain Home Low radar sites at Danby Beacon (Yorks), Stenigot (Lincs), Staxton Wold (Yorks), Bempton (Flamborough, Yorks), Easington (probably Spurn Head), Skendleby (Lincs). It initially employed one officer and 31 'other ranks'. As its role grew it soon outlived its on-station accommodation and on 19th August 1940 took up residence in a large country house namely "the Towers" in the nearby village of Barkston Ash. Still growing, but now as 73 Signals Wing, Stephen's unit set up a new headquarters at Easthorpe Hall which was taken over from its then owner Lady Grimthorpe.
Stephen's Statement of Service lists him as RAF VR which means he had volunteered for aircrew service. On 21st July 1941 he was listed as Under Training as an Observer at Number 1 Aircrew Reception Centre . This was seemingly at Regents Park in London. He was then transferred to Number 2 Initial Training Wing on 23rd August. On 29th November he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman. No 2 Initial Training Wing (Renamed from No 1) was based at Cambridge. "Cadets" as the entrants were known for reasons of morale, were first processed through the Receiving Centre for 2 weeks before a further 8 weeks within Initial Training. They received instruction on such subjects as Discipline, General Service, and technical training in Mathematics, Navigation, Armaments and Signals.