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Thread: A Canadian in the WAAF who signed on in Brazil

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    Default A Canadian in the WAAF who signed on in Brazil

    After months of searching, I have found the lone woman on my Malvern Honour Roll. Her name was Jean (Armstrong) Smeaton, wife of P/O James M. Smeaton, RCAF. Now the tricky part... she apparently took their infant son to Brazil (Smeaton was originally from Rio) and signed on with the WAAF there, so she could be with her husband in England. Her ship was sunk when the convoy it was in was attacked sometime before November 1943, when he returned to Canada and told the story.

    She is not listed in the CWGC and didn't come up in a search of Flight, so does anyone have any idea how to find her? If she signed up in Rio de Janeiro, what nation's WAAF was she a part of?

    I have found the WAAF site and will contact them, but thought maybe the forum would like a challenge.
    David

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    Dave,

    Are you convinced the story that she enlisted as a WAAF in Brazil is correct? Looking at Peter's blocks of service numbers (http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27&highlight=service+numbers) there does not appear to be a block covering such an eventuality.

    Unless I've missed something the WAAF blocks only cover enlistments in the UK, Malta and the Middle East. The lack of a name on the CWGC rather supports this.

    Have you tried her Death Certificate?

    Brian

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    Hi Brian,

    That's why it has taken so long to find her, there doesn't seem to be a death certificate as there is for all of the men on my list - at least not one I have found yet. The report of her story,with picture, is from The Globe and Mail who interviewed her husband on his return to Canada after three and a half years as a radio technician. Is it possible that she could have arranged something through the consulate so she could get to England? I'd love to learn what convoy she could have been on and where it originated from.

    [Late edit...] and in fact, I have just found mention of another WAAF member who did just that:

    "At the outbreak of the war Lilian Rolfe, whilst working for the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, was asked to observe German shipping movements in the harbour. Having shown her ability in this work, she was then asked If she would volunteer to go to England and join the forces."

    http://www.64-baker-street.org/agents/agent_waaf_lilian_rolfe_biography.html

    I will try again to find her death registration.
    Last edited by dfuller52; 11th February 2009 at 23:32.
    David

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    Dave,

    Could this be her (note first name, however)?

    Name: SMEATON, MARGARET
    Initials: M
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Civilian
    Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
    Age: 27
    Date of Death: 05/04/1943
    Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead
    Reporting Authority: S.S. "VAALAREN"

    The SS "Vaalaren" was a Swedish Motor Vessel was torpedoed by U-229 of the South Coast of Greenland, 5 April 1943.

    Errol

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    Thanks Errol but no, I don't think that's her. Her name was Jean and she was Canadian. I have found a reference to her being lost in March 1943 so I am now looking at the sinking of the Empress of Canada, which was torpedoed by an Italian sub off the coast of Africa. It was used as a troop ship.
    David

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    I also found the one mentioned by Errol in post above but took an alternative tack and searched on her maiden name also and found this one:
    ARMSTRONG, JEAN
    Initials: J
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Leading Aircraftwoman
    Regiment/Service: Women's Auxiliary Air Force
    Age: 20
    Date of Death: 03/02/1943
    Service No: 431850
    Additional information: Daughter of Clarence Wesley Armstrong and Mary Esther Armstrong, of Penrith.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. Pink. Row F. Grave 406.
    Cemetery: PENRITH CEMETERY

    Regards
    Linzee

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    Nice try Linzee, thanks, but according to the newspaper, she was 28 and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.L. Armstrong of Toronto's very fashionable Rosedale neighbourhood. The story suggests she was lost in March 1943, so I am looking at reports of troop ship sinkings from that period. The Empress of Canada sunk with the loss of 44 Britons and 365 Italians... sunk by their own sub!

    The search continues...
    David

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    Quote Originally Posted by dfuller52 View Post
    Thanks Errol but no, I don't think that's her. Her name was Jean and she was Canadian. I have found a reference to her being lost in March 1943 so I am now looking at the sinking of the Empress of Canada, which was torpedoed by an Italian sub off the coast of Africa. It was used as a troop ship.
    Dave,

    I think I'd keep an open mind on this one. The coincidence factor is very strong.

    Note that the age (27) and date of death (April 43) are very close to the details you have (28 - so perhaps age 27 and in 28th year?; March 43), and that she was lost on a ship. Was Jean her birth name? People often use a different, non-birth name for a variety of reasons.

    Also she is the only female Smeaton listed on the CWGC for all of WWII (out of only 16 Smeatons all told)

    Errol

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    I have found a 1941 border crossing entry that looks like it's her. Jean R. Armstrong, father's name is Richard and they lived in Rosedale, which is spot on. But no other hits are coming yet, very odd. She was born 19 Dec 1914.

    Perhaps she wasn't officially in the WAAF yet and was going to be enlisted on arrival through some kind of arrangement with the consulate?
    David

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    The CWGC list for the Empress of Canada (of course, not including the Italian POWs killed)

    001 ARTHUR, RAM - 17/03/1943
    002 BEASLEY, BN - 14/03/1943
    003 BENNISON, RE - 14/03/1943
    004 BERRY, JE - 14/03/1943
    005 BOAKES, WH C/KX 132885 13/03/1943
    006 BROWN, GL - 14/03/1943
    007 BRYAN, DH C/SSX 33252 13/03/1943
    008 CAIN, WH - 14/03/1943
    009 COLLINS, J - 14/03/1943
    010 COX, RC - 14/03/1943
    011 CROWTHER, GA - 14/03/1943
    012 DAVIES, R - 14/03/1943
    013 DEATH, RJ C/MX 51298 13/03/1943
    014 FELLOWS, WE - 14/03/1943
    015 FERGUSON, A - 14/03/1943
    016 GOLLAGHER, AW C/JX 255354 13/03/1943
    017 GRAHAM, JG - 14/03/1943
    018 HALLOWELL, CG - 14/03/1943
    019 HANNAH, R C/KX 112369 13/03/1943
    020 HILL, WJF C/JX 219200 13/03/1943
    021 HUNTER, D - 14/03/1943
    022 JOHNSTON, DS - 14/03/1943
    023 LOOBY, ML - 06/02/1944
    024 LUCAS, A C/KX 96882 13/03/1943
    025 MANNING, HE - 14/03/1943
    026 MARTIN, NBW C/JX 238254 13/03/1943
    027 MATTHEWS, J - 14/03/1943
    028 MCBRYDE, F - 14/03/1943
    029 MCFATRIDGE, AR C/JX 246616 13/03/1943
    030 MCNEILANCE, JA - 14/03/1943
    031 MCTURK, J - 14/03/1943
    032 MOLLOY, E - 14/03/1943
    033 MOLONEY, JF - 14/03/1943
    034 MOUNTFORD, EJ C/JX 128375 13/03/1943
    035 NESBITT, WJ - 14/03/1943
    036 NICHOLAS, GA - 14/03/1943
    037 NORMAN, E - 14/03/1943
    038 OWENS, W - 14/03/1943
    039 PRITCHARD, HB - 14/03/1943
    040 ROBERTSON, JE - 14/03/1943
    041 ROWLATT, FW - 14/03/1943
    042 ROZA, S - 14/03/1943
    043 SAVAGE, WG - 14/03/1943
    044 SHAW, C - 14/03/1943
    045 SKEPELHORN, HD - 14/03/1943
    046 SOKOLOV, J - 14/03/1943
    047 STEVENSON, B - 14/03/1943
    048 STOTT, R - 14/03/1943
    049 TEARE, T - 14/03/1943
    050 UNSWORTH, F - 14/03/1943
    051 VICKERS, GH - 14/03/1943
    052 WALKER, JG - 14/03/1943
    053 WATSON, WE - 14/03/1943
    054 WEIR, JD - 14/03/1943
    055 WHITFIELD, RHF - 14/03/1943


    None fit the details for the missing lady. The Empress was sailing from South Africa to Ghana.

    A

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