Rex McGovern: War veteran was always smiling

By Obituary

The vibrant Rex "Mac" McGovern experienced many things in his life others would never dream of.
Mr McGovern was a Lancaster bomb aimer for the Number 57 Squadron during World War II - and found out the war was over by flying over a demolished Dresden city.
Mr McGovern lived almost until his 91st birthday. He was born on May 31, 1920, in Cambridge. He died on May 14, 2011, in Tauranga.
Mr McGovern grew up in Matahuru Valley - between Huntly and Maramarua.
Despite doing well in school, when Mr McGovern was 15 his father decided it was time for him to start work on the family farm.
After several years on the farm Mr McGovern enlisted and joined the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles - an armoured regiment of the New Zealand Army based in Waiouru. But it was not long before he was accepted for air force pilot training in 1942, flying Tiger Moths.
Wife Heather McGovern said her husband always had a sunny disposition.
His love of music and dancing led him to attend a local dance where he clapped eyes on his first wife and soulmate Valmai Kemp.
They married in 1943, but not before Mr McGovern boarded a boat that nearly claimed his life.
Mr McGovern and other members of Mounted Rifles left New Zealand on November 11, 1942, to arrive 16 days later in America.
In his own words shortly before he died Mr McGovern described the trip as "horrendous".
"Air-conditioning broke down two days into the voyage. The men unbolted their bunks and slept on deck. We were fed once daily. Consequently any person sick in the cue usually ended at the rear, often going hungry.


"I was one of them. Fortunately, one of the cooks noticed that I looked so ill and had not been able to eat for several days, so he hid the captain's leftover sandwiches to feed me and most likely saved my life."
It was believed at least two men threw themselves overboard in sheer despair.
From America, Mr McGovern travelled to Canada, Scotland and England training in aerial gunnery and bomb aiming.
While in Aylesbury, England, Mr McGovern trained on "heavies" and Oxfords (types of bomber aircraft) - where he honed his skill as a bomb aimer and became known as "Mac" to his crew of seven.
As part of Number 57 Squadron Mr McGovern learned to fly a Lancaster.
A memorable assignment involved Mr McGovern flying to check on Dresden, Germany, on belief it was a u-boat building facility.
As they arrived they saw Dresden was completely levelled with survivors camping in tents. This was their first sign that the war had ended.
Mr McGovern returned home to Valmai and young son Dennis to buy a farm next to his father's.
They had three more children, Gary, Wendy and Jeff, and all four grew to be married and have families of their own.
Valmai died of cancer in 1986.
About 10 years later he met Neva Bergeron and they married in 1997. Not long after, Neva was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2005.
Mr McGovern came to Tauranga, where he became reacquainted with Heather who worked as a nurse at Tauranga Hospital.
They knew each other from childhood and he wooed her for several months. The couple were married in 2007 "and had a very happy and fulfilled life until his death".Kiri Gillespie

- Bay of Plenty Times

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