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485 A Number to Remember

By SQNLDR Les Matthews

The 485 Squadron pilots (with an interloper from 486 Sqn) with Association Patron Sir Tim Wallis, GPCAPT Poot and a couple of invited ancient maritimers at the back. AK-08-0094-47-tn.jpg.
The 485 Squadron pilots (with an interloper from 486 Sqn) with Association Patron Sir Tim Wallis, GPCAPT Poot and a couple of invited ancient maritimers at the back. AK-08-0094-47-tn.jpg.

What’s in a name? What’s in a number? The RNZAF’s operational Squadrons and associated support Squadrons and units form today’s No. 485 Wing. But why 485? The answer lies in a wartime Squadron with mainly New Zealand pilots and RAF ground crew, No 485 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force. The 485 Squadron crest (a Maori warrior holding a Taiaha) and motto Ka Whawhai Tonu (we will fight on) were adopted by RNZAF Strike Wing and subsequently, with the demise of that Wing, by the Wing that commands all operational units when No 485 Wing was established at Auckland on 1 July 2002.

No. 485 Squadron was formed at RAF Driffield in Yorkshire on 1 March 1941 with Spitfire Mk 1s and its history is well told in a number of books. The Squadron disbanded in 1945 having flown Spitfires of various marks, but so strong is the Squadron spirit that the remaining pilots still get together every year to renew old friendships and share a tale or two.

Ken Lee explains 'how it was' to GPCAPT Poot. AK-08-0094-44-tn.jpg.
Ken Lee explains 'how it was' to GPCAPT Poot. AK-08-0094-44-tn.jpg.

No 485 Wing is jealously proud of its heritage and keen to foster its close relationship with No 485 Squadron, so when approached to host the 2008 reunion it jumped at the chance. The reunion took its usual format with a ‘meet and greet’ on the Friday evening, a ‘formal’ lunch on the Saturday and an ‘informal’ lunch at a private residence on the Sunday. The number of Squadron members attending these reunions has of course reduced over the years, but with wives and sons and daughters swelling the numbers, over 30 were able to attend.

Guest of honour at every reunion is the Patron of the No 485 Squadron Association Sir Tim Wallis. Sir Tim is famous for, among other things, forming the Fighter Pilot Museum at Wanaka and is a very dedicated Patron, taking a very keen interest in the activities of 485 Squadron. Host for this year’s reunion was GPCAPT Edward Poot who has recently assumed command of 485 Wing. ‘The reunion was a wonderful opportunity for 485 Wing staff and I to meet the members of No 485 Squadron from which the Wing takes its name,’ GPCAPT Poot said. ‘I value highly the heritage we derive from No 485 Squadron and I am keen to reinforce this link.’

SQNLDR John Pattison, 485 Sqn CO in 1944 signs the print later presented to 485 Wing. AK-08-0094-23-tn.jpg.
SQNLDR John Pattison, 485 Sqn CO in 1944 signs the print later presented to 485 Wing. AK-08-0094-23-tn.jpg.

The lunch in the Officers Mess took place on 1 March exactly 67 years after the day the Squadron formed. Harvey Sweetman was one of the pilots there on that day and he was at the lunch to tell about the earliest days of the Squadron that were marked by some pretty intense training as many of the pilots were very inexperienced (Harvey had 14 hours on Spitfires when he joined the Squadron). To reinforce the relationship from the 485 Squadron perspective, No 485 Squadron Association presented No. 485 Wing with a painting of two Spitfires signed by all the pilots present at the reunion. The presentation was made by SQNLDR John Pattison DSO DFC (Rtd) the Commanding Officer of the Squadron in 1944. Following lunch the veterans were shown over an Orion by WGCDR Logan Cudby, CO No. 5 Squadron and a team from the Squadron. As single seat fighter pilots the veterans were impressed by the diversity of crew positions and roles. One remarked that he had flown once as a navigator in a Mosquito, the only time he had been airsick!

Lunch on the Sunday was hosted by Doug Brown at his lovely home in Auckland, another wonderful gathering and a fitting finale to a memorable weekend. No 485 Squadron intend to meet again next year in Taupo – Ka Whawhai Tonu.

Image Gallery - Issue 91