Story of the week #15 – Air Force Pilot

Story of the week - The airman from Sierra Leone who was shot down over Nazi Germany

Welcome back to our Story of the week publications. We had a small break in December. We hope you did too.

This week’s story of the week is a long, but interesting read.

It tells the life of John Henry Smythe from Sierra Leone, his adventures with the RAF (Royal Air Force) in World War II, and his life afterwards. The story is told via his son, Eddy.

The story of this man is very interesting: he was one of the first black men in the Air Force, he was captured by the Nazis during the war, he went on to meet John F Kennedy.

We recommend a B2 level or above to enjoy the story.

The story is here, via the BBC. If you enjoy the article, you can watch and listen to an interview with Eddy Smythe on the Museum of London website.

Vocabulary to look out for

Empire Windrush / Windrush – a ship well known for bringing West Indian migrants to the United Kingdom after WWII.

barrister (n) – a type of lawyer in the UK

in the clutches (n) – a hold on someone or something

groin (n) – the place where your legs meet the front of your body

strafe (v) – to attack an enemy by shooting from aircraft that are flying low in the sky

bluff (n in the article, v:) – to deceive someone by making them think either that you are going to do something when you really have no intention of doing it, or that you have knowledge that you do not really have, or that you are someone else

sap morale (v) – to make someone weaker or take away strength or an important quality from someone, especially over a long period of time

Colonial Office – a government department dealing with colonies of the British Empire

banner (n) – a long piece of cloth with words written on it, sometimes stretched between two poles

Inns of Court – professional associations for barristers in England and Wales


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