15 June 2012
Two Waikato 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 Nick Carter, aged 90 from Dinsdale, was a Flight Lieutenant and served as a wireless operator and air gunner for 60 operations.
He remembers, "It seemed to be a life of eternal darkness and danger – burning cities, flak and night fighters. I remember going to breakfast and seeing empty places at the table. The only thing that mattered was the closeness of the crew and the will to see the war through".
Mr Carter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace, and is looking forward to being in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the ceremony.
Mr Clive Estcourt, the oldest member of the delegation, aged 94, lives in Fairfield. He was a Flight Lieutenant and served as a bomber aimer and navigator.
He recalls, "On the last couple of days on a course doing local bombing the weather turned bad and the command to abandon was given. I was over the escape hatch so it was on with my parachute and away, still in cloud. The next day Police informed me I was the sole survivor from that plane and was granted the ‘Caterpillar Club’ badge.
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