Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 28, 2014 12:59:42 GMT 12
War veteran sets sail Posted at 11:36am Saturday 19 Jul, 2014
By Letitia Atkinson firstname.lastname@example.org
A 94-year-old World War 2 veteran is heading out for a day on Tauranga Harbour today after his family surprised him with a yachting trip.
Ben Heffer and his wife Val were surprised this morning when their family picked them up for the outing.
Ben Heffer and his wife Val ready to set sail on Tauranga Harbour. Photo: Letitia Atkinson.
Ben Heffer getting ready to board the Limbo with the help of family. Photo: Supplied.
Speaking to SunLive on board Ben's son Graham's new yacht Limbo, Val says today is a chance for Ben to see his son's new yacht.
“Ben has always been interested in the water. It's such a fine day and he needs to get out.” Graham has owned the yacht for about a month and wanted to surprise his father with an outing on the harbour today.
Ben owned a southerly himself about 35 years ago and he used it a lot.
“During the war he was in the navy and was in the Fleet Air Arm branch.” Ben served on HMS Illustrious during WWII. During that time he flew corsairs off the deck of the Illustrious, says Val.
Ben was awarded a DSC [Distinguished Services Cross] for his actions during the war. The 94-year-old has lived in the Western Bay of Plenty area for about 58 years and used to farm in Omokoroa.
Val says he was last on the water about a year ago. “He now lives in long term care in Mount Maunganui.We're planning to do something like this again for his 95th birthday.”
Ben in a bosun's chair being hoisted onto the yacht.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 28, 2014 13:02:50 GMT 12
Ben was a Fleet Air Arm Corsair pilot, and he wrote the excellent autobiography "From Cow Bells To Bell Bottoms" about his Navy days. Ben and Val also attended the 2011 WONZ Forum Meet. Great people. It's nice to see Ben out and about as he's been poorly since suffering a stroke.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 31, 2014 0:36:39 GMT 12
By co-incidence while looking at something else I found this on Papers Past:
New Zealand Herald, 31 July 1944
NEW ZEALAND AIRMAN
Rec. 5.35 p.m.) KANDY, July 20
Sub-Lieutenant Francis Heffer. of Waikanae, flying a Corsair fleet fighter, shot down a Japanese Zero plane after the recent bombardment of Sin hang, Sumatra. It was his first encounter with the Japanese.
"While climbing to intercept enemy aircraft approaching the Fleet," he said. "I saw two Zeros above us. One attacked us, head on. and in the ensuing dogfight I was able to get in four bursts. On the third burst the Zero began smoking. After another burst it caught fire properly.
"During the fight I saw tracers appear past my port wing, apparently from another Zero."
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 31, 2014 0:38:33 GMT 12
I think from memory the tracers he saw were from an aircraft that nearly got him, but fellow Kiwi Ray Richards shot down just in time. I think this is the incident. I know Ray definitely saved Ben's skin like that on one occasion, Ben told me about it, and when I asked Ray he was very modest about it all.