Whanganui resident John Carson pays tribute to the Men of Brunswick, including his own uncles, who served and died in World Wars I and II.
Many local residents and others attend the Anzac service at Brunswick, to remember and honour the memory of those that gave their lives in the two World Wars.
It is a simple ceremony conducted by Brunswick stalwart Ross Jones, assisted by others in the community, RSA officials and Armed Force Cadets.
Most years a speaker, sometimes from the RSA, gives an address, although last year there was no speaker and Ross addressed us. It was my intention this year to ask Ross if I could speak about the men of Brunswick who lost their lives, especially those from WWII. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, there will be no service this year.
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The caption on the Brunswick Cenotaph is: To the memory of the Men of Brunswick who fell in The Great War 1914 - 1918. The Cenotaph has names of 12 men killed in WWI. The effect of all those lives lost on the small Brunswick community would have been traumatic, difficult for us to comprehend.
Three further names of men who lost their lives in WWII: Ross Francis Kitto's parents were Archibald and Hazel Kitto, from Tokomaru West Rd, Brunswick, Whanganui. Ross was 23 when he lost his life on January 19, 1942 during flying training at the Brandon Flying Training School, Manitoba, Canada. Forty other New Zealanders lost their lives in Canada while training to fly. He is buried at Brandon Cemetery.
Ross's brother Arthur survived the war, a legendary, skilled brave pilot, flying Lancaster Bombers from England into enemy territory. A plaque on the cenotaph gate commemorates Arthur's name.
The other two were Stanley Andrew and Adrian Lesley Bernard Carson - my father Harold's brothers. Their parents were William and Nellie Carson, 739 Brunswick Rd.
Stanley Carson entered Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch on October 3, 1940. He was posted to Egypt as part of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force and joined the 26 Battalion, stationed at Maadi Military Camp near Cairo. Embarked March 1941 to join the Lustre Force in Greece, an ultimately doomed campaign, aimed at defending Greece from invasion by Germany. Stanley was reported "safe in Egypt" on May 18, 1941, thus ending the campaign's 39 days in Greece, in which the men stayed in 18 different localities, and organised nine defensive positions, but each time the order came to withdraw.
The Battalion returned to Cairo and in May 1941 were posted to the Suez Canal to oppose enemy attacks on the canal. In the course of the war they travelled through Egypt and Libya. Stanley was present when on February 4, 1943 Winston Churchill (then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) took the salute at a very big parade of troops near Tripoli.
During the Battle of the Mareth Line in Tunisia, North Africa, on March 23, 1943, No 11 Platoon's commander Sgt Stanley Andrew Carson, an original member of the battalion, was mortally wounded by fire and died on 24 March 1943 from his wounds. He was almost 23. His grave is at Sfax War Cemetery, Tunisia.
Adrian Carson left the Chatham Islands where he managed a sheep station owned by Barker Brothers. Adrian enlisted in aircrew at Blenheim on February 24, 1941. Initial training was at Levin and Harewood before embarking to Canada on March 17, 1942 to train under the Empire Training Scheme initially as a pilot but transferred to become Bombardier and Air Observer obtaining the rank of Sergeant.
He arrived in England on November 5, 1942 and after further training on April 19, 1943 joined 75 New Zealand Squadron with the rank of Flight Sergeant, on four engined Stirling Bombers. Adrian, or Shorty as he was known, was the Air Bomber of the crew with three other New Zealanders, one Australian and two from the British Isles. They had an exceptional pilot, Hilton (Speedy) Williams who came from Woodville, made good decisions regardless of the weather, was calm and didn't panic and was a skilled airman, conversant with many types of aircraft. He insisted on discipline and making sure everyone knew their jobs backwards. The crew respected him, and they all became close friends.
After 27 operations to enemy territory, the crew transferred in November 1943 to No 7 Squadron of the Pathfinder Force based at Oakington, Cambridge, flying Lancaster Bombers.
They survived a serious crash when on the night of September 27, 1943 Speedy Williams and his crew in their new Stirling bomber arrived back at airbase after a bombing raid to Hanover. Because of a rainstorm, visibility was almost nil. They circled the airfield for about an hour and were almost out of fuel when they were told they could land. Unfortunately they were a bit close, but Speedy wasn't going to lose sight of the runway, so he put the nose down in a steep dive. They hit the ground hard, writing off the aircraft, but the crew escaped uninjured. On the night of February 24, 1944 over Schweinfurt, as their Lancaster bomber banked to port after dropping its load, two 30-pound incendiary bombs slammed into it from an aircraft above. One ripped a gaping jagged hole in the starboard fuselage behind the navigator Trevor Dill, smashing part of his seat, bursting open his parachute and destroying the flight engineer's panel. The other lodged in the starboard engine's nacelle.
Fortunately, although the wing was on fire because of the bomb lodged in the engine, the fuel tanks never caught fire. It was absolute chaos, but ever-cool Speedy Williams put the plane in a screaming dive, and the slipstream sucked the flames from the wing.
They then headed out over Lake Constance into Swiss territory with the inner starboard engine dead and the other one slowly fading. Speedy flew the bomber home, across Germany, occupied France and the North Sea, with only the two port engines. Five hours later, with aching arms from holding up the dead wing, they arrived at Woodbridge. He made a very fast diving landing to keep the plane straight, and they were safely home.
On the morning of May 5, 1944 Flight Sergeant Adrian Carson went up with a new crew in a Lancaster skippered by a New Zealander, Ian Bennington, 34, from Masterton, and Cecil Todd, 22, from Palmerston North, in the rear turret. He voluntarily went up to show them how to work the HS radar equipment, hadn't even taken a parachute. They got caught up in a big thunderstorm and iced up. At 10.40 the aircraft emerged from the clouds in a high-speed dive and plunged to earth near Rugby, Warwickshire. Eight dead, no survivors.
The three New Zealanders lie side by side at Botley Cemetery, Oxford. Adrian was 33.
Adrian's death devastated his friends, but they flew to Nantes in France two nights later to bomb an aircraft repair works. Trevor Dill said, "We had had enough and the senior officers knew, and after that op. our 20th with 7 squadron they said we had finished and put us on leave".
Flight Sergeant Adrian Carson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal with the following citation. "Flight Sergeant Carson has completed many successful operations against the enemy, in which he has displayed high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty."
As well as grieving parents and siblings, my uncles left grieving fiancées. Both those woman eventually married and had families. They never forgot my uncles. Their children told me their mothers often talked about them.
I am grateful to those in the Brunswick community and others all over New Zealand who organise and conduct the Anzac services, where we can pay tribute to the memory of those whose names are on the cenotaphs and memorials, who gave their lives in defence of our country.
Hopefully next year there will be an Anzac service at Brunswick.
• To make a donation to the RSA visit this Givealittle page
• Join us for the virtual Anzac Day Dawn Service from 6am on Saturday at nzherald.co.nz or Newstalk ZB
• Print out our special Anzac Day poster, pin it in your window and help us line the streets with poppies.