15 June 2012
Two Bay of Plenty 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 June 21 2012, and attend the dedication and unveiling of the memorial on June 28 2012.
During the Second World War Mr Jack Meehan, aged 91, from Mt Maunganui, was a Flying Officer. He served as a wireless operator and, if required, as an air gunner. He also acted as a lookout in the astrodome for fighters or anything of interest to crew.
"The first two or three raids were upsetting but I soon overcame the different problems which occurred and looked forward to completing our first tour of 30 raids," Mr Meehan said.
Although he has been to a number of reunions in England, Canada and New Zealand he says attending the dedication and unveiling of the Bomber Command memorial, "will be the highlight of my Air Force years".
Mr Arnie Meyer, aged 89 of Papamoa Beach, served as a Flight Lieutenant and was a bomber pilot. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.
He remembers, "During night operations looking out the window and seeing flak coming up from the ACK ACK guns below. During daylight operations I could see a mass of other bombers above, below, behind and in front".
For him the trip will be very moving.
"A great bond was forged between aircrew and ground crew," Mr Meyer said.
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, 3 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 further information please contact: Defence Communications Group, Hazel Dobbie, Communications Manager HQ NZDF, 021 745 288