Lt. John P. "Jake" Smith


On Tuesday 22nd May 1956 Jake Smith joined "HMS Eagle's" carrier circuit, and downwind at about 400ft and for some unknown reason ejected. There was no radio call and both he and his fighter were not recovered!
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  ". . . I have read recently that Jake's second accident in which he lost his life, may have been caused by fuel starvation. There may have been something wrong with the aircraft's fuel gauges, and it may not have been fully refueled, but nobody will never know because the aircraft crashed and sank into very deep waters in the Mediterranean. He had rejoined HMS EAGLE's carrier landing circuit and was 'downwind' when his a/c was seen to plunge steeply into the sea. Jake ejected, but too late or may have been caught on the canopy structure as the a/c struck the sea. Sadly he was also not recovered, and all evidence was lost."
M. D.

Royal Navy
Fleet Air Arm

HMS Eagle

830 Sqn

Westland Wyvern

Tuesday 22nd May 1956


From Phillip Smith
The FAA Museum gave me a copy of the Accident Summaries relating to our Dad's last two crashes, in Wyverns VZ791 and WP339.  The summary for the 22nd May 1956 crash (WP339) states as follows:
"Aircraft flew into sea on down wind leg with undercarriage down prior to recovery. Recovery of pilot by Helicopter was abandoned as it was not possible to remove open parachute which prevented successful netting. Pilot's body was recovered by Sea Boat."
. . . the plane wasn't recovered. It was sunk by ship's crew holing the wings with rifle fire because the floating plane posed a hazard to shipping.
The Commander-In-Chief, Mediterranean on 10th June 1956 (and Lords of the Admiralty at a later date) took issue with certain findings made by the Board of Inquiry dated 29th May, 1956, particularly as follows:
3. Ejection. The opinion of the Board (No. 2) that the pilot made no attempt to eject does not appear to be supported by the evidence. Medical opinion was that the pilot ejected (questions 86 and 87): the Chief Airman (S.E.)'s opinion was that the ejector seat operated (question 193) and the Air Ordnance Engineer Officer's opinion was that the seat could not operate itself (i.e. the pilot operated it) (question 186)..."
And greatly important was his comment "Recommendation No. 4 is agreed. Aircrewmen in S.A.R. aircraft should be equipped with a knife capable of cutting through parachute harness and other equipment: it is considered that a knife, quick release, pattern No. B.11/8061 is suitable for this purpose and should be provided forthwith to all S.A.R. Aircrew. I have issued instructions in the Aircraft Carrier Squadron to this effect."


I am grateful to members of Lt. John P. Smith's family for photographs and permission to include the details of his career and ejections on this web site and to Michael Doust for his additional information and remembrances of Lt. Smith.

page last updated Tuesday, 24 February 2009 11:27