OK, we have the go-ahead from Doug to take the story to the media and I've spoken to Peter Wheeler to make sure we follow the correct channels, so let's see if we can get Doug and his wife Janet to the Bomber Command Memorial and the 75 Squadron UK reunion 2 days after that - wish us luck!
Loved reading your Anzac story. The pilot, John Wood, was my father. For many years he worked on a Lancaster restoration project in Auckland with a group of other war veterans. It was lovely seeing Dad in the crew photo looking so young and handsome. Unfortunately, he died in 1998, but he enjoyed his association with 75 squadron. He sometimes spoke of his crew members including Gerry.
Hi wood, fantastic to hear from you! We have now gathered up quite a bit of information, so if you like I can send you copies of what we have so far. I visited Douglas yesterday and now have another photo of C Flight that your Dad is in. I have sent you a Private Message (see top right of this page). Kind regards, Chris
This is a reduced-size version of the "C" Flight photo I mentioned; thank you to Douglas for letting me copy his original. I am now sure that it was taken on the same day as the full 75 (NZ) Squadron photo posted on here earlier (page 1), as Douglas had lost his hat that day and he is hat-less in both photos!:
March 1945 I believe but not confirmed.
Douglas is second from the right end, middle row (hat-less); my uncle Gerry is far left, middle row. wood's Dad is 6th from the right end, front row.
wood, I can send you a larger copy if you don't have this already. Cheers, Chris
Post by tranacz5372 on May 6, 2012 23:44:32 GMT 12
hi great story which i have been following on another site as you may know i am compiling some history to be displayed at the village of Mepal of the 75 Squadron is their a possibility that i can obtain a full copy of this piece for the collection i can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org regards phil
Thanks Dave, we have had a lot of support already. I am hoping that wood (Flying Officer John Wood's daughter) can be put in touch with Douglas, that would be really nice - wood, are you still out there?
So far no response to my letter to the Minister of Defence (the parent ministry to Veterans Affairs), and indications from the Veterans Affairs office that they are not going to bend the rules, for fear of setting a precedent for future commemorative trips and other expat veterans.
Douglas was turned down for the trip to London for the unveiling and dedication of the Bomber Command Memorial on June 28, on the basis that he served with the RAF, not RNZAF. Of course the RNZAF did not train Flight Engineers for heavy bombers, they received specialist aircraft-specific training in the UK by the RAF, assigned to and serving with 75 (NZ) Sqdn crews as RAF.
Effectively, because he was the F/E, he can't go to London and represent his crew.
In a letter to the Herald today, an ex-WAAF who moved to NZ in 1947 points out that her status as a veteran is still completely different to that of her husband who was RNZAF. The official NZ stance is that veterans should appeal to the "government under which they served" for any support. Seriously, would the UK govt feel obliged to support veterans who moved to NZ between 40 and 65 years ago?
Even if Douglas could afford the trip himself, he cannot join the official group, but would have to make his own way there and back!
I don't want to criticise Veterans Affairs too much as they are apparently doing a wonderful job for the vets on this trip, 60-odd of them apparently. But it seems mean-spirited of my government to draw a line through a Lancaster crew that relied on each other for their survival through 32 op's over Germany.
They were a Scot, two Canadians, an Englishman and 3 Kiwis, and they served and fought for each other, for each other's families, and for each others' countries. I'm sure that if the other six of the crew were still with us today, they would be bloody angry!
Well we've now had it confirmed that the UK government will not support RAF bomber veterans now resident in New Zealand in their application to travel to the June 28 Bomber Command Memorial dedication.
You could say, both governments have disowned these veterans, just as the politicians of the day disowned the bombing strategies of WW2 and left it to Harris and the veterans themselves to face the subsequent turning of public opinion.
If you served with the RAF 65 years ago, your New Zealand citizenship is somehow worth less. And you still do not warrant recognition for your efforts, even though that is exactly what this Memorial is supposed to be for.
British World War II veterans who have lived here for decades say they're being snubbed by the Government. They've been refused a place on a Government-paid trip to unveil a London memorial that’s dedicated to the men they flew beside and the victory they helped secure.
Douglas Williamson wrote about his World War II exploits with the RAF's 75th Squadron, the first Commonwealth squadron within Bomber Command.
He was surrounded by New Zealand Air Force men. Douglas Williamson was his crew's engineer, supplied by the RAF, because the New Zealand Air Force didn't train engineers for Lancaster.
“I think I am a bit special because I was in the 75th squadron,” says Mr Williamson.
But not special enough to qualify for the Government's all expenses paid, two and half week trip to the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in London next month, because he didn't serve in the New Zealand Air Force.
“I feel as though I deserve to go,” he says. “I consider myself a New Zealander. I think I should be treated like the rest of them.”
Ninety veterans asked to go on the trip. Around 12 were told they couldn't because they served in the wrong air force.
Harry Widdup is another disappointed RAF veteran. He, like Douglas Williamson, feels the Government is saying he's not a New Zealander.
“To find out I’m not a full-blown Kiwi after 54 years…” says Mr Widdup. “My home, my life, everything about me is here.”
“It has been a terribly short-sighted view of who they're taking to London,” says his son Andrew Widdup.
Over the next three years, the Government has set aside up to $2.8 million to make sure New Zealand veterans of World War II can attend commemorations in Italy, Egypt, France, New Caledonia and the United Kingdom.
“We really don't know how many people there could be out there who served in some of these other events and the numbers could just become too hard to sustain,” says Rick Ottaway of Veterans Affairs.
This trip will cost around half a million dollars. Mr Ottaway says they had to prioritise New Zealanders.
The Air Force's Boeing 757 can take 126 passengers to London. So far it is thought around 55 veterans will go.
Veterans Affairs suggest those who don't qualify for the trip should seek support from their own Governments to get to London, but the UK government told 3 News it is not providing any funding to get veterans to the unveiling.
Veterans Affairs says it's planning to have a New Zealand commemoration too, most likely after the unveiling so those who do get to go can share the experience with their grounded comrades.
Good to see the ongoing publicity, all being fairly balanced. I hope that Doug does get to London. The Ex RNZAF boys who registered are getting the results of their medicals and I hope half that applied (60) will get to go. Having been involved with this project since 2009 when we thought all the funds would need to be raised and which six veterans would be chosen, the new VA scheme was a real relief .Have you ever tried to get cheap fares from an airline for this type of event.? Great interest when they thought the Government was going to book 50 business class fares but just one free seat when it came to the crunch. Thank goodness the memorial has become a reality as given another five years or so , we wouldnt have any veterans left to send.
And thank you for all your help Peter, I know you have done a lot of work in the background.
We just hope that we can convince VA to squeeze one or two more veterans into the spare seats on that 757 ... somewhere between 30 and 50 of them?!
I understand that VA is wary of setting a precedent, however am I correct in believing that the heavy bomber veterans are a little different to the other branches in that they were effectively supplied by the RNZAF as individuals into crews of mixed nationalities? In other words their fighting unit (crew) was never RNZAF-only? That is the point I would like to push, that by having a RNZAF-only rule, you draw a line through every crew. And those crews are now represented by only a very few individuals left, some of whom became New Zealanders by choice.
Yes you are quite right. In the standard seven man crew , all Flight Engineers were RAF with very few exceptions , joining the other six at Heavy Conversion Units. There were some all Kiwi six man crews coming from OTU training onto the HCU but even this was a bit rare. 75 squadron had the most concentrated grouping of Kiwis naturally but Brits and Canadians were there in numbers too. Most of our RAF members are ex F/E who obviously enjoyed the Kiwi mix and decided to come over after the war, there are a dozen at most, still with us. Lets hope that Doug and the others who wish to go do make it..
PJW don't forget we had Aussies and Indians too. 75 were a very ecletic mix. It would be really great if Doug could come over and come to the reunion too. Is it worth appealing to one of the airlines? Cathay Pacific or Air NZ? It would be very good PR for them. The UK government are not helping the veterans to get to this in the UK let alone those who are from overseas climes. Just to let you know that Bomber Command Assn have stated in their letter notifying people who have tickets (yeeha I am one!) that the London Taxi Co (black cabs) will transport FOC any veteran, widow or sibling from any of the mainline stations to the memorial. Thumbs up to them! Dee
In remembrance of Sgt Edgar Harvey who died in December 1942 with the rest of the crew.