WONERSH
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HISTORY SOCIETY

CONSTANCE BABINGTON SMITH

(1912-2000) Constance   was   one   of   the   nine   children   of   Sir   Henry    and   Lady   Elizabeth    Babington   Smith.     The   Babington   Smiths   lived   at   Chinthurst   Hill,   Wonersh   for   some   years   and   this   is   where Constance spent most of her childhood. Undoubtedly   privileged,   during   the   1930s   Constance   led   a   busy   social   life   in   London   where she   worked   for   Vogue   magazine   and   the   fashionable   milliner   Aage   Thaarup.      She   returned home   for   a   while   to   look   after   her   mother   and   it   was   during   this   time,   following   visits   to Brooklands   to   watch   racing   and   flying,      that   she   became   interested   in   aviation   and   she   began writing a regular series of articles for The Aeroplane magazine. War in Europe In   1940,   Constance   joined   the   WAAF   where   she   was   involved   in   air   photo   intelligence.      By 1943   she   was   heading   the   photographic   reconnaissance   unit   (PRU)   in   Medmenham   with   a brief to look for 'anything queer'. Doodlebugs Perhaps    one    of    the    most    important    contributions    made    by    Constance    related    to    a photograph    taken    on    28    November    1943    by    an    RAF    de    Havilland    Mosquito    flying    over Peenemunde,   the   site   of   a   German   research   centre   on   the   Baltic.      She   identified   something   resembling   a   stunted   aircraft   on   a   launch   ramp and   that   something   turned   out   to   be   a   V-1   flying   bomb   (a   doodlebug).      Operation   Crossbow   flattened   launch   sites   in   France   but   less   obvious sites   were   built   and   in   June   1944   the   V-1   assault   on   London   and   the   South   East   had   begun.      Nearly   10,000   V-1s   were   launched   over   an   eighty day   period   and   at   its   peak,   more   than   100   were   hitting   Britain   every   day   resulting   in   22,000   casualties   and   more   than   6,000   fatalities.     Without   the   assault   on   Peenemunde,   the   factories   and   launch   sites   it   would   have   been   much   worse.      Constance   was   mentioned   in dispatches and awarded an MBE. The Invasion of Japan After   the   war   in   Europe   ended,   Constance   was   posted   to   Washington   D.C.   to   participate   in   the   preparations   for   the   invasion   of   Japan.   She was awarded the US Legion of Merit in 1945. Constance   stayed   in   America   until   1951,   working   as   a   researcher   on   Life   magazine.   Back   in   Britain,   her   writing   career   began   with   Evidence   In Camera   (1957),   on   wartime   photographic   intelligence.      A   book   on   test   flying   was   followed   by   five   biographies,   including   works   on   the   flyer Amy   Johnson,   her   own   cousin,   the   novelist   Rose   Macaulay,   and   the   poet,   John   Masefield.   She   became   a   fellow   of   the   Royal   Society   of Literature
Constance being presented with the US Legion of Merit in 1945 Photo from Life magazine, 28th October 1957