Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Salute to veterans of bomber crews

World War II air veterans (from left) Ernest Davenport, Harry Furner, Wally Halliwell and Harry Cammish, pay their respects at Whenuapai. Below: An artist's impression of the London memorial. Photo  / Chris Gorman.
World War II air veterans (from left) Ernest Davenport, Harry Furner, Wally Halliwell and Harry Cammish, pay their respects at Whenuapai. Below: An artist's impression of the London memorial. Photo / Chris Gorman.

A brief ceremony in Auckland has recognised the role of World War II bomber crew members who were excluded from an official New Zealand veterans' memorial trip to London.

Seven veterans were special guests at a United Kingdom's Armed Forces Day reception at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base, Whenuapai.

Recognition of their service brought smiles to the faces of the men, now in their late 80s, as they stood and straightened their backs for the toast to the Queen.

Aucklanders Doug Williamson and Harry Cammish said they were disappointed when they were turned down for the official party of RNZAF veterans for the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial.

The unveiling was held in London at 11 o'clock last night New Zealand time and was attended by 35 RNZAF veterans.

Former RAF flight engineers Messrs Williamson and Cammish missed the New Zealand Government-sponsored trip because it was open only to RNZAF members of Bomber Command.

It cut no ice that because the RNZAF did not train flight engineers, RAF members were supplied to Kiwi bomber crews in the heavy Stirling and Lancaster aircraft.

"I was a bit browned off when I was told," said Mr Cammish. "We've been Kiwis for 50 years and I thought they could find room for half a dozen Poms in that big Air Force 757.

"But I thought, I'm 89 and have trouble sitting in a chair for some time let alone sitting in an aircraft for many hours."

Mr Williamson joined the RAF as a 19-year-old from Edinburgh and was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron for 32 missions over Germany. In 1974 he moved to New Zealand and over the years all the three New Zealanders in his crew passed away.

"I had hoped to represent them at the memorial but I'd rather be here."

Another Aucklander, Harry Furner, an air gunner who lost an eye three days before he turned 20, said he would pay his way to London in August to see the memorial.

Representatives of the British Ministry of Defence and British High Commission invited the men to the Whenuapai reception after the British Government refused requests for trip assistance to Commonwealth residents.

- NZ Herald

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