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Tom Vincent Smith

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Major Tom Vincent Smith (1872-1927)


1927 Obituary [1]

MAJOR TOM VINCENT SMITH, M.C., R.A.F., was born in London in 1872, and received his technical education at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the Northampton Institute and the Birkbeck College.

From 1906 to 1908 he represented in Berlin the English interests of the Amalgamated Radio Telegraph Co. He was then for one year assistant to Mr. Charles Bright (now Sir Charles Bright).

In 1909 he founded the British Radio Telegraph Co., and acted as technical adviser to the board. Subsequently he was wireless consulting engineer to the British and Overseas Engineering Syndicate.

At the beginning of the War he joined the Royal Flying Corps, went to France in February 1915, and was one of the first to be commissioned to the Royal Flying Corps for specialist duties. He was posted to No. 3 squadron 1st Wing (then under the Command of Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Trenchard). This was the first appointment of a squadron technical wireless officer. In May 1915 all three squadrons of the 1st Wing were fitted with wireless, and very useful work was done during the battle of Aubers Ridge, for which Vincent Smith was specially thanked. This success led to the appointment of wireless officers for the other two Wings of the Royal Flying Corps. By the end of July great progress had been made and, now promoted Captain, he selected wireless officers for the four squadrons of the 1st Wing. During the battle of Loos 18 machines of the 1st Wing worked simultaneously on the battle front. Sir John French, in his despatch of the 15th October, 1915, referred to the important factor that the new method had become in directing artillery fire. Vincent Smith was mentioned in the despatch of the 30th November, 1915.

He was next appointed Officer-in-Charge of wireless at No. 1 Aircraft Depot, where he established a school for training wireless personnel, and devised methods for note-tuning for increasing the number of machines that could work together in a given area.

In March 1916 he was posted to G.H.Q. as technical adviser in all wireless matters to R.F.C. Headquarters, thus being able to standardize all aeroplane wireless on the whole front.

In May 1916 he was promoted Major and in June was awarded the Military Cross. During the Somme battle of 1916 there were nearly 1 000 stations in the battle area.

At the end of 1916 he was sent home to start a wireless branch at the Air Board, and was soon in general control of wireless work for the Royal Flying Corps at home. He greatly improved the methods of training operators in this work, and his kindly tact was of great service. About this time the Italian Government decorated him as a Cavalier of the Military Order of Savoy.

In May 1918 he was posted to the Experimental Establishment at Biggin Hill.

He next joined the Staff of Major-General Sir Hugh Trenchard with the Independent Air Force in France. With this Force he remained in charge of wireless until the Armistice. During his service with the Air Force the weight of equipment was reduced from 75 lb. to 18 lb. and its cost from £285 to £14, and the success of the work in which he showed such skill is proved by the fact that it became possible to use one wireless machine with continuous-wave transmission on every 400 yards of front, and that orders issued by the German Corps Staffs in 1918 instructed their personnel to salve British wireless apparatus because its superiority to their own was such that millions of money would be saved.

After the War, he became wireless expert on The Times staff.

He died very suddenly on the 5th September, 1927, while attending, on behalf of that newspaper, the opening of the wireless beam station to India.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1912, and a Member in 1917. He took great interest in the Association of Supervising Electrical Engineers, and served as President of the Association in 1921-22.


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