Anzac Day: From teen ratbag to hero

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Phil Lamason was born in Napier and educated at Napier Boys' High School, where he admits he was "a bit of a ratbag".

Caned every day, he said his school days set him up to become the person he is.

After two years at Smedley Station and then Massey University, in 1938 he took a job as a livestock inspector in New Plymouth. It was there he grabbed the chance of free flying lessons, clocking up 100 hours.

After war broke out he joined the RNZAF and was sent to Britain to serve with the RAF.

Phil would spend up to eight uncomfortable hours sitting in the cockpit of his Avro Lancaster bomber on missions over Germany, attacking strategic targets.

One day after what he describes as "flying home on a wing and a prayer," he had to make an emergency landing at an American base, where he recognised a familiar face.

"I'd seen him at the movies when I'd taken Joan [his wife] to see Gone with the Wind," he said.

Phil was shaking hands and chatting with Clark Gable.

Family friend Glenys Scott said: "His is a remarkable story. His amazing bravery and heroic acts, especially at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, deserves the highest honour our country can give. I have been captivated by this man's incredible story."

Something of a daredevil and known to fly by the seat of his pants, Phil told Glenys just how low he could go.

"I saw a photo of his Lancaster bomber above the tree tops and said, 'wow, that's low'. But he said, 'no, no, I've flown lower than that. I've trimmed the top of the corn'."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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