Royal New Zealand Air Force Sergeant Hugh English of Puketitiri and RNZAF Sergeant David Allen of Napier, both released prisoners of war, awaited their turn nervously in November 1943 to record brief messages to their relatives from Cairo which would be aired on a Pacific edition of a BBC broadcast.
It must have seemed a world away from just four years ago when English left his position as a staff member of the Pangaroa Post office (when there was such a thing) and Allen as a car salesman for Anderson and Hansen in Napier.
Allen's entry into World War II was through the RNZAF in April 1940. As he was under 21, he needed permission from his widowed mother. He received character references from his employer and Napier mayor, T W Hercock.
His first preference was "pilot" and second "air gunner". He would be enlisted to train as an air gunner, and receive a "pressure cooker" course in it.
Allen spent 3.5 weeks at a ground training school at Levin; then three weeks to Ohakea for training in air-to-air firing from the rear of a cockpit in a Vickers Vincent biplane. That aeroplane – NZ311 was restored in the early 2000s.
Departure for England occurred in June 1940, arriving in England on July 21 – during the Battle of Britain.
Training commenced in August in a Vickers Wellington night bomber as a rear gunner.
Sergeant Allen was then posted to 149 Squadron at the Royal Air Force (RAF). He flew in sorties to Holland in Vickers Wellingtons, and then targets in France and Germany.
In July 1941 he transferred to 7 Squadron at the RAF in Oakington and would fly in the Short Stirling, the RAF's first four-engined bomber.
His first operation in a Stirling to Berlin on July 27, 1941 was his last.
Taking enemy fire, two engines were lost, and the pilot coaxed the aircraft towards home – but over a Dutch coast the engines were all lost and the crew parachuted onto a small coastal island where German soldiers rounded them up.
Communication ‒ in accordance with the Geneva convention - was made to British authorities (probably through the International Red Cross) who informed his mother.
Upon arriving at the Dulag-Luft camp (transit prisoner of war camp), the men were given a brandy issue and from Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, a radio set.
The airmen, however, were suspicious of the enemy's motives and remained tight-lipped, not letting the German's hospitality lead to "loose lips".
Allen would be transferred to various Stalag camps – life within them, he said, only made tolerable by Red Cross parcels.
Broadcasts at the camps in English were of "doctored" versions of the war.
Newly arrived POWs told news of the war which the prison guards were not aware of.
Allen was assessed for repatriation in Berlin and in November 1942 received this right under the Geneva Convention – the first airman from New Zealand to do so. He witnessed while in Berlin the effect of the raids from the RAF.
His route to freedom was to German-occupied Marseilles in France, then to Barcelona, before his long sea voyage back to New Zealand.
David Allen died in Napier in 1969, aged 50.
Hugh English had joined the 75 Squadron of the RAF Feltwell in 1940 as a sergeant navigator.
In December 1940, his Vickers Wellington Bomber with six crew captained by 23 year-old Pilot Officer C F Scott from Timaru, set off for Mannheim, Germany, to target an industrial area.
Returning home, the Wellington was hit, and with an engine gone, Scott looked for a place to land safely.
Reaching German-occupied France, Scott told his crew to prepare to bale out. But before this could happen the plane hit trees on the summit of a mountainous ridge. Hugh was thrown through the navigator's Perspex astrodome.
Miraculously, English, after being propelled into darkness, was later thought to have fallen 1500 feet (457m) without a parachute - into a hay bale.
German soldiers lifted him into a stretcher, and he was transferred to a French hospital.
The Germans – amazed at his good fortune and almost disbelief – treated him with great respect.
After English had been "ejected" from the Vickers Wellington, the aircraft ploughed through the trees and crash-landed in a field near Valmont.
The crew were all captured.
Scott, suffering injuries including a fractured skull, broken wrist, leg and ribs made one of the great escapes of the war.
He would receive medical care for his injuries in four hospitals over five months.
An escape was made to unoccupied France, but gendarmes (French paramilitary) near Marseilles arrested him.
Scott then escaped from the gendarmes and made his way through Spain to Gibraltar, where he was flown back to England. He arrived back in New Zealand in May 1942.
English, despite crashing into a hay bale, had also suffered serious injuries requiring hospital treatment.
Hugh English died in Hawke's Bay in 1963, with former members of the 75 Squadron acting as pallbearers.
Thanks to the Hawke's Bay Aviation Heritage Society.
Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher and commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history. Follow him on facebook.com/michaelfowlerhistory