Rare plane stirs family memories

By Trevor Quinn of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
The legendary deHavilland Mosquito Fighter Bomber. Photo / Supplied
The legendary deHavilland Mosquito Fighter Bomber. Photo / Supplied

It will be an emotional moment for two Masterton women when they watch a Mosquito bomber aircraft flying at the Wings Over Wairarapa event this weekend.

The same type of rare aircraft flown by their uncle when he died when trying to fly from England to New Zealand in 1947 to say goodbye to his dying mother.

Squadron leader Bruce Berney, 31, was ferrying a DeHaviland Mosquito aircraft back to New Zealand from Britain after his involvement in World War II.

He was anxious to arrive back in New Zealand as quickly as possible as before his departure he was told that his mother was gravely ill.

Masterton's Helen Dashfield and Jenny Logan are nieces of the late Bruce Berney, whose body was never recovered.

It's believed he crashed while flying off the Gulf of Cutch in a monsoon storm.

The news of his death affected the family greatly and his twin sister, Barbara, never celebrated their shared birthday again.

Mr Berney and his navigator James Beadle, who also died, were tasked with ferrying one DeHaviland Mosquito back to New Zealand while another four Royal Air New Zealand colleagues brought back another two.

"When they came to get back to New Zealand they got as far as Karachi in Pakistan," Mrs Dashfield said.

"They learnt that from there on until the next leg [in Bombay, India] the weather was going to bad but my uncle said, 'My mother is ill,' and he went on while the others stayed behind."

Mrs Dashfield said the death of her uncle caused considerable pain and anguish to the family. She said there was so much grief over his tragic death that even the mention of his name was avoided when she was growing up.

"One of the things I most remember is my mother told us never to mention Bruce's name because my father couldn't bear it," she said.

Mrs Dashfield was 13 when her uncle died and she said she remembers him as someone who played rugby, joked around and was sociable and fun.

"He was obviously an extreme risk-taker.

"To survive the war in the air for six years was a huge thing and then to go missing soon after was so tragic."

Bruce Berney, who was highly decorated, flew more than 2220 hours and more than 90 solo missions in Mosquito aircraft. While in England, Bruce Berney became engaged to a New Zealand girl and planned to marry her on his return.

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