Meet Bomber Command men Ron, Arthur and Jack, fighter pilots Maurice, Max, Dave and Philip, Corsair pilot Bryan and airframe fitter Ron. Now in their 90s and even 100’s these humble men chat with Jude Dobson about the circumstances they found themselves faced with in wartime.
New Zealand’s aviators had a proud reputation in World War II across all aircraft types and theatres of war. These are men who came from the other side of the world, be it 12,000 miles away in England and Europe or fighting in the heat of the Pacific, to risk their lives winning a war for the allies.
The New Zealand aviators became well regarded. 127 New Zealanders flew in the Battle of Britain -the third highest number of people from any country. This is second only to Great Britain and Poland, who were both either under attack or had been invaded. And of course, Sir Keith Park, who led the significant part of the strategy, was a Kiwi. No. 485 (NZ) Squadron was one of seven dedicated New Zealand Squadrons in the RAF, and a top scorer in Fighter Command. No. 75 (NZ) Squadron, flying bombers, was so well regarded by the RAF that they gave the number away to New Zealand to become a NZ Squadron post war. No. 75 Squadron went on to fly fighters post war but was closed down in the early 2000s by the New Zealand Government of the day.
The cost of conflict was high. During the war the RNZAF trained 13,400 air crew and of those 4,300 were killed. That equates to one in three who trained during the war in the Air Force not surviving - a higher percentage than the Army or the Navy. From Bomber Command 150,000 served, with 55,000 killed, with some 20,000 of these men remaining missing with no known grave. By the end of World War II, 6,000 New Zealanders had volunteered to serve in Bomber Command and around 1,850 were killed.
Regardless of their role and where they served, when the survivors came back to New Zealand, they were different men, shaped by the harsh realities of conflict on their young lives. Perhaps post-war people didn’t want to hear about what really happened, and conveniently these men did not readily want to talk about it. The war was over, and the peace of the mid-century stretched ahead to be enjoyed.
With decades now passed, these men have become prized seniors of our country, and some (like these men) are now happy to share a little of their war time experiences. They have stories to tell which people need to hear – to understand the world of a young man at war, so far from home.
Lest we forget.
Thanks to Jude Dobson, producer and presenter at Homegrown TV, for this documentary