A SPITFIRE pilot who participated in supporting the troops after D-day celebrated his 100th birthday. 

Vincent 'Vinnie' Smith enjoyed his birthday with friends and family on Saturday, June 24. He was pleased to receive a letter from the King. Other than the war, Vinnie lived all his life in Kendal working as a tailor. 

Vinnie signed up for the RAF when he was underage. He was only 17 and was working as an apprentice after finishing at Kendal Grammar School when he went to enlist. He said: "My friend Ken Dixon called down to the shop where I was working as an apprentice and he said I'm thinking of joining up so I walked out with him. I joined up just like that.

The Westmorland Gazette: Vincent holding a picture of his younger self next to a plane during the warVincent holding a picture of his younger self next to a plane during the war (Image: Jon Granger)

"I was 17 and a half. I didn't lie I just told them I'd passed my medical and the academics, and they sent me home to be called up when I was 18.

"I wanted to fly, that was the main thing." 

In 2018, Vinnie told the Royal Air Force Association about his role in the war in the lead-up to RAF100. A letter from association member Brian Jefferson to the family described Vinnie's activities during the war. 

The letter says that he proved his flight ability initially in a Tiger Moth. He travelled to Canada and got his wings in Florida first in a Stearman, and then advanced flying in a Harvard. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Vinnie returned to the cockpit of a Spitfire for the first time in decades in 2018Vinnie returned to the cockpit of a Spitfire for the first time in decades in 2018 (Image: Mike Addison)

Tragically, Vinnie's brother died in a flying accident during training. He visited his grave in Canada at the request of his parents. 

After D-Day, he was posted to a Typhoon Wing (No 123) and moved forward to Belgium and Holland as the Germans fell back after the invasion. 

READ MORE: World War Two pilot, 95, returns to Spitfire cockpit

The letter states: "His role was ground attack pursuing tanks, heavy armour and enemy troop concentrations with rockets (this would be a very low level) and dive bombing with 250lb and 500lb bombs released at about 4000 feet then pulling out of the dive and turning for base."   

He also supported American forces at the Battle of Bulge in the Ardennes. All of his flying through 1944-45 was done without personal injury or significant damage to his aircraft. Reportedly, his discharge book indicated that he was a 'well above the average' pilot. 

Vinnie only had one flying accident after the war when his Typhoon tipped over on its nose during landing and he ended up upside down. 

Vinnie said of the Spitfire: "They're very easy airplanes to fly. The only thing was it had  a narrow undercarriage so you had to be careful when you were landing. 

"I'm glad I did it, I wouldn't have missed it really it was quite an experience. 

"It was something that I wanted to do, I enjoyed doing it in a way I know it’s wrong to say it in some ways but it was something I really wanted to do.”

After the war, he went into his family's tailoring business until he retired at 65. He was a past captain of Kendal Golf Club and was the club champion on 15 occasions. 

In 2018, he sat in a Spitfire for the first time since the war in what his daughter Penny Blamire called a 'very emotional' experience.