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Spitfire flyover to salute wartime air ace

By Kelli Hooks of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Alan Gawith (front left) and Bernard Brown (back left), who is also a veteran of the Battle of Britain. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age
Alan Gawith (front left) and Bernard Brown (back left), who is also a veteran of the Battle of Britain. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age

A Spitfire will fly over the funeral of Battle of Britain veteran Alan Antill Gawith in Masterton today.

Mr Gawith, who died on Friday aged 96, was one of New Zealand's last three veterans of the 1940 battle.

The other two are are Bernard Brown, who lives in Tauranga, and Keith Lawrence, a British resident.

Mr Gawith was born in Masterton on May 9, 1916, one of a family of seven.

He studied law at the Victoria University of Wellington as his father wanted him to enter his uncle's law firm.

In 1937, he applied for a Royal Air Force (RAF) short service commission and sailed for Britain to train as a pilot.

He was posted to 23 Squadron at Wittering, in Lincolnshire, April 1939, which at the outbreak of WWII took on a night-fighter role.

The squadron flew its first intruder sorties on December 21 with Mr Gawith captaining one of the six Blenheims taking part.

Soon after he led an all-New Zealand crew, which had their first success on March 8, 1941.

In May that year, Mr Gawith was behind the destruction of the entire telephone communication system of the German bomber group at Deurne near Eindhoven.

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Mr Gawith was posted in June 1941 to command 1451 Flight at Hunsdon, with the rank of Acting Squadron Leader.

He transferred to the RNZAF in 1944 and went as senior RAF liaison officer to the US 9th Air Defence Command, London, with the rank of Acting Wing Commander.

He continued on his liaison duties until December when he relinquished his acting rank and took command of the RAF, Cleave, where army co-operation training was carried out.

Mr Gawith arrived back in New Zealand in 1945 and continued his law studies. After qualifying in 1949, he joined the family firm of solicitors in Masterton.

In August 1949, he was awarded the US Bronze Star for meritorious services in 1944, which was presented to him in Wellington by the US ambassador.

After retiring from hsi law firm, Mr Gawith moved to Nelson where he died peacefully last Friday at Oakwoods Village.

His service will be held at St Matthews Anglican Church at 2pm.

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