RAF News

Competition win for Krio culture and RAF navigator story

Sarah in a white dress holding the bedtime story's book.
Sarah wrote about the Smythe, the inspirations RAF Navigator of Krio culture, in her short story; which has been added to a collection of bedtime stories written by black people.

At just 7 years old, Sarah Mirkin has won a national writing competition for her story about her Krio culture and notable Krio and RAF navigator, John Henry Smythe. 

Being part Krio herself, Sarah wanted other people to learn about her heritage and other famous and inspiring Krios, who hail from Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa. 

Sarah first learnt about John Henry Smythe, one of the few West Africans to serve in the RAF during the Second World War, after visiting an exhibition on Krio culture at the Museum of London.

Portrait of John Henry Smythe. 
Notable Krio and RAF navigator, John Henry Smythe. 

By 1943, as a Navigator with 623 Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Smythe had already flown 26 missions as a Short Stirling bomber crew member.  The missions would take him over the English Channel, France and Germany, and were always high risk, but he earned a reputation for being lucky as he always managed to return safely despite his aircraft being hit on several occasions.

Sarah holding the bedtime story's book.

On the 18th November 1943, Smythe’s plane was struck down by enemy fire.  He was captured by the Nazis and spent 18 months in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany before he was liberated.

After the Second World War, Smythe was deployed as a Senior Officer on the Empire Windrush where his main role was to look after the welfare of demobilised airmen returning home to the Caribbean and Africa.  Smythe was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1951, for his services.  After retiring from the RAF, Smythe trained as a barrister and went on to become the Attorney General of Sierra Leone.

Sarah holding the bedtime story's book.

Sarah chose to write about Smythe for her short story because she saw him as an inspirational example of someone from the Krio culture.  Sarah's story was so good it has been included in a collection of bedtime stories written by black authors, making her a published author at just 7 years old. 

The RAF thank Sarah for highlighting the life of such an important Serviceman.