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Christchurch Bomber Command Veterans Return To Commemoration

Two Christchurch Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) veterans who served with Bomber Command leave for London next week to attend the dedication and unveiling of a Bomber Command memorial by Her Majesty the Queen.

The veterans are part of the official New Zealand delegation that will depart from Whenuapai on 21 June and attend the dedication and unveiling of the memorial on 28 June 2012.

During the Second World War Mr David Johnston, aged 88 from Papanui, was a Warrant Officer with the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) 195 Squadron at Wratting Common, where he was a Bomb Aimer on a Lancaster.

It was his job to line up the pilot on a bombing run and to release the bombs. He was also able to take over if the navigator got knocked out and could act as the front gunner.

He remembers, "During night operations you could see all the light and the explosions – it was scary at times".

Mr Maurice Wells, aged 93 from Burwood, was a Flight Lieutenant with 12 Squadron Wickenby, and the pilot of a Lancaster Bomber. He flew one tour of operations and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal in 1943, but says there were no major mishaps to the plane or crew.

For him, "This will be a time which will stir up memories after many years, including recollections of my crew, now all deceased".

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says, "This delegation honours the memory of ordinary men who have done extraordinary things for our country."

The New Zealand Defence Force and Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand are taking a delegation of 33 veterans aged between 87 and 94 years of age to the commemorative events. All international travel, accommodation, on-ground transport, and medical costs are being funded by Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.

Rick Ottaway, General Manager Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand says, "I am proud that we can support these veterans and their comrades to receive the recognition for their service and sacrifice which they so richly deserve."

Approximately 6000 RNZAF personnel served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command during the Second World War. The mission of Bomber Command was to bomb specific German targets considered critical to the German war effort.

The extremely dangerous nature of Bomber Command’s work meant that the casualty rate for the group was extremely high, with 44.4 per cent killed. Of the 125,000 aircrew who served in Bomber Command, about 55,573 were killed in action, 8,403 personnel were wounded and 9,838 became prisoners of war.

Overall, 1,851 New Zealanders died while serving in Bomber Command, three per cent of the total number killed.

The memorial in London’s Green Park has been designed by architect Liam O’Connor, who also designed the Commonwealth Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace. Sculptor Philip Jackson has crafted a bronze sculpture within the memorial depicting seven Bomber Command aircrew. His other work includes the HM Queen Elizabeth Memorial on The Mall in London, and the Bobby Moore Memorial at the new Wembley Stadium.

A commemorative service will be held in Wellington later this year for veterans who are not able to travel to London.

 

For more information contact Defence Communications Group, Hazel Dobbie, Communications Manager HQ NZDF, 021 745 288

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